The North Shore: Before And After

KoaRothman_Winter2015-16_BrentBielmann011Koa Rothman and a peak-season peak. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Every year, millions of Muslims embark on a journey to Mecca in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. This pilgrimage, or Hajj, is performed in order to satisfy the fifth pillar of Islam, as per the Holy Quran. Hajj results in an absolute shit-show, with unrelenting masses filling every crevice of the historic landmark, often resulting in death and destruction. During this year’s installment, a literal human stampede produced a death-count well over 2,000. Even with this knowledge, millions of Muslims will make the trek again in 2016, because that’s their tradition. That’s what they do.

If the North Shore is surfing’s Mecca, then the Van’s Triple Crown is our Hajj.

If you happen to be on Oahu’s North Shore between early November and mid-December, here are some of the things you will likely encounter:

Traffic– your fresh white stick will be a mellow yellow by the time you reach your destination. Hawaii’s notorious Kam Highway was not engineered with the Triple Crown in mind. The bike path is generally a quicker option of transport.
Parties– but you probably won’t be allowed in. Unless you’re a local, a highly esteemed pro, or have multiple X chromosomes.
Inexorable fans– with green, yellow, and blue flags
A divinely-crafted Hawaiian hand– that strikes you firmly across the head, because you really shouldn’t have stink-eyed that guy who burned you three waves in a row.

But don’t just take my word for it. Local standout Koa Rothman has a few thoughts on the Triple Crown coming to his hometown: “It’s good and bad. It’s good because we get to see our friends from all over the world, and it’s bad because it gets so fucking crowded.” Despite the rabid crowds, Rothman uses his local clout to nab some of the spookiest slabs winter after winter. “[The contest guys] are all my friends, I’m not gonna burn one of them, but I definitely try to position myself in a good spot to get around everybody.” That being said, even guys like Koa get fed up with all the stickers and shakas that accompany the VTC. “I like the offseason way more. It’s still pretty crowded, but it’s not as crowded with really good surfers.” Kooks of the world, rejoice! North Shore natives appreciate your lack of skill and general cowardice!

Alas, with the inauguration of Adriano de Souza as World Champion and Pipe Master, the 7 Mile Miracle takes on a new face. Kieren Perrow and his band of floral-shirted misfits have packed up their tents, computers and useless F4NNING memorabilia, and vigorously fled the islands. The WSL’s departure is followed closely by most pros and their entourages, and within a matter of days, the visiting talent pool goes from Super Bowl to WNBA semifinals. But what does this really look like?

JasonFrederico_winter2014-15_BrentBielmann066Jason Frederico, after the gold rush. Photo: Brent Bielmann

If you happen to be on Oahu’s North Shore between late December and early March, here are some of the things you will likely encounter:

Waves– the kind you get to ride by yourself, sometimes maybe!
Families– where all members surf, and all of them better than you.
Tourists– with perma-white skin, selfie sticks, and socks cozily encased in 2008 Adidas sandals.
A divinely-crafted Hawaiian hand– that strikes you firmly across the head, because you really shouldn’t have stink-eyed that guy who burned you three waves in a row (it’s nice to know some things never change).

From impenetrable lineups to catastrophic checkouts at Foodland, the Triple Crown is an undeniably hectic time on Oahu’s best coast. Nevertheless, the six-week surfathalon has become a staple in the surfing community for the simple reason that, above all else, it’s tradition. While the post-VTC period offers a slight respite from the lunacy that occurs between Halloween and Christmas, it is the Triple Crown that continues to draw us in like a mythical siren. Hoooooooooot she sings, as colored specks bob in the endless blue. Another heat has started.

We’re aware of the crowds, the traffic, the scary locals, and the scarier waves. Even with this knowledge, hundreds of surfers will make the trek again in 2016, because this is our tradition. This is what we do.