Psycho Wardo Interview by Matt Biolos

wardo_square34.jpg

The Chris Ward Interview by Matt Biolos. Wardo sat down with his shaper and good mate Matt Biolos to talk about boards, barrels and his time in Hawaii.

People are noticing that you are still showing up in Hawaii every year getting a lot of the best waves at Backdoor and Pipe…your performance at the Sunset event this year, etc. So when was the first season you went to Hawaii, and how old were you?
I was 11 or 12. I went with Andy Fomenko and met up with an older guy who used to live here, Fred Dishman. I stayed with him the first year…a month and a half. Right there behind John John’s house now, right there at Ehukai. Right next to Pipe. I always wanted to surf it when I got older. Waking up each morning next to Pipe and Backdoor, I would just dream about surfing there. I was just a little shit, just surfing Ehukai, thinking I was getting barreled out there (laughs), but I started going there and returning every season. All the years I rode for you guys and the Rusty years as well.

I remember early on that I knew you had gone over there before we worked with you, but it seems like that first winter that Timmy Patterson and I made quivers for you to go over there. It seemed like a breakthrough season for you.
That was probably my first winter when I stayed with Kasey Curtis and JD. My first full winter as a real grom…I was 14 or 15. I surfed huge log cabins with Kasey and some good OTW days with Cory (Lopez)…and V-Land. We got all that footage from the first or second movie “What’s really go wrong” with Dicko (David Dixon) and Cory. Briley was getting those huge Pipe pits. Just all those sessions and seasons back-to-back every year showed me a lot. Your boards have come a long way since those days when I was 14. Strider was riding your board at Pipe back then. You always had good boards for tube riding though; that was never a problem.

So how did growing up at T-Street and surfing the pier get you ready for Pipeline and Backdoor?

(long pause) It doesn’t. (laughs) Maybe the run down and up the hill.

**So what in your mind clicked and allowed you to transfer to surfing Pipe? A lot of guys learn to surf Pipe from ages 18-25, but what I remember is sending you over there at 14, maybe 15 and 16 years old, and getting video clips sent back of you air-dropping in to 8-10 footers at logs and getting spit out. What do you think allows you to do that at such a young age? **
Well, those years you guys sent me over there back-to-back years, and then being over there with the Irons brothers. Just all of us out there pushing ourselves. Cory, Bruce and Andy. It got to a point where we were just pushing each other every session. Tube riding or airs. Charging a big one at Backdoor or Pipe. We were learning off each other and the bar was rising when we were young. Having those guys to surf with when you’re growing up helped me progress. All of us had your boards. People noticed.

I remember the second year you called me from Hawaii saying you “wanted a fish.” I don’t think many people even used that word at the time. What was your inspiration for the phone call, and do you know why you called me asking for a fish and why that whole episode came to be?
I remember I saw Buttons or someone local riding one at V-Land, and Curren riding one at OTW. I just saw my heroes surfing on them and making it look so nice and fun to watch. It made me want to surf smooth. They can help you polish off the turns you wouldn’t normally be able to do on a short board. Just depending on the day or seeing and what type of surfing you want to do.
I saw (Tom) Curren ride them and look so smooth, so I wanted one. I just wanted to be able to ride a fish, and ride it in a tube. Have the shortness of a board and be able to re-adjust and pump easily, take a highline out of the tube with all that speed, and being able to do a turn because when you’re on a big board, you can’t really do a big gouge or grab rail cutback like you can when you’re on a fish.

It seems like back then, guys would be riding a 6’8” or a 7’0” at Pipe or small Backdoor, and you guys were out there on your tiny little fish, trying to make it happen. Twenty years later, most of the top surfers are riding boards significantly shorter than back then, like typical short-board length boards.
It’s because you can get deeper in the barrel and stay in it longer, versus when you have a 6’8” or 7’0” you draw only one or two lines. You can’t adjust or realign or pump as hard as you would on a 6’2” or 5’11” or 5’4” fish. Too small would be too small, but there’s that happy medium with a 5’7”, 5’11” or 6’2”. You can get really deep on a 6-8 foot day and have a blast on those size boards.

Were you initially surprised at how big the waves were that you and Cory could surf?
We weren’t doing it to impress anyone. That’s what we wanted to ride out there and it just felt good to drop in a little later, and underneath it. Get deeper in the tube. Watching Bruce…he was so small and riding tiny, tiny boards. Making it look easy. It helps your positioning and you’re not out running the tube. You stay in the right spot on a smaller chippier board. When you’re driving, it feels freer. Unless it’s 12 foot Pipe, then you want your 7’0”s and 8’0”s.

Speaking of being in the tube longer, you risk not coming out of a lot more tubes. How do you go through year after year, session after session, without seeming to get injured? How do you deal with getting repeatedly smashed in the barrel? What’s the secret behind the turmoil of the washing machine?
Just stay relaxed; be aware of what you’re getting yourself into.

I hear about a lot of different techniques. What’s yours? Is there a point where you eject? What’s your technique in a barrel that’s not going to end well?
Kicking out the back on a wave really low, and out of the bottom of the waves… sometimes you get pulled back over the falls. That’s not fun at any of those spots. Especially Sunset inside bowl. That happens a lot, because there’s so much water moving and there’s only one motion the wave is doing—it’s sucking up and out. You can become a part of the lip really easily in that situation.

Do you have a point where you eject when you’re in a deep tube and you don’t think you’re going to make it, or do you just ride it to the end?
Oh, you mean the compression chamber? When it just wants to compress you and you know it’s a closeout and you’re not making it? Usually I try to hold on as long as I can, but if you have to eject, usually the spit is stinging so hard and hitting your whole body, and in your eyes. You just can’t hang on anymore and the floor is dropping out, so there’s no water underneath you. Maybe at that point you want to penetrate into one of those pockets and get out the back, and hopefully the wave will spit you out the back. That’s the easiest exit you will get.

In the last couple of years, you’ve become quite a GoPro operator. I’ve watched people, and it seems like it would be easier to use it on a wave that’s long and down the line, but to watch people like you and Jaime (O’Brien) doing it on really short intense Backdoor and Pipe…What’s your favorite technique for GoPro? How did you learn how to use it properly?
Before, it was simple—just have it on your board and keep it pointed toward you, but that got boring and guys started exploring other angles. Handles came out. (Jaime) Sterling, Jaime O’Brien and Kalani Chapman were exploring with handles or a little pole. I’ve always found that a little hard, because you have to paddle with it in your mouth or something. I just like grabbing the back of it where the floaty part is and having that part in your mouth when you’re pulling in and sometimes grabbing it out of your mouth, so you can get the behind the scenes perceptive. The rider’s point of view, behind your head. Get the board and the backside of your body. See how deep you are in the tube. I like that angle. and I like the one that they’re doing now with a pole where they bring it around the body, turning it to get the back and the front in one ride.

What about the mouth mount, like the little snorkel?
I haven’t experimented with the snorkel thing yet. It just seems like I’d take in water and that wouldn’t be good, so maybe I just need to make my own mouthpiece to be comfortable.

After all the years of going to Hawaii, who is your favorite all-time North Shore surfer? What surfers are impressing you right now?
Without a question, Slater is the man at Pipe. He’s so gnarly out there. Slater, John John. Mason’s impressing me. He’s been getting slotted out there! I’m stoked for him to win the shootout. I wish I was there too, actually. Jaime O’Brien, of course. Derek and Michael Ho. Love watching them still getting barreled after all these years. And I love being out there with them when it’s big and perfect, and they’re always on the best ones.

Do you have any travel tips for the first-time North Shore surfer?
There’s so much advice you can give someone like that. Just stay out of the way. Let the locals catch their waves. Experiment from the shoulder a little. Ease your way into the lineup. Don’t go to hard into it for your first trip. Take it easy.

Have you had any problems with the locals there?
No, no. I’ve had my share of waves and run-ins, but you know you’re surfing a spot where everyone wants the same wave. Sometimes it’s your friend right next to you. We’re all friends, you know. We see the same guys out every session. You’re getting barreled with them, and they’re pushing you and you’re pushing them. It’s all just a learning experience.

People continually tell me, “How does that guy go over there and get so many waves?” What’s your secret of being out at Pipeline with all the locals, the hyped- up millionaires and new kids trying to make an impression every year? How do you slide through it all, stay motivated and continue to get your fair share of waves?
It’s just always new people going every year, so I don’t look at it like I’ll go over there and get a bunch of waves. I’ve been going there for 25 years, so I kind of learn…I pick the waves I want to go on and wait for them.

Do you have any advice to hitchhikers on the North Shore?
I’ve hitchhiked a few times before, haven’t you? If you’re at Lani’s and need a ride up to Pipe, or you’re at V-Land and need a ride to Logs. It’s just easy. There’s one road through the whole place. You’re either going that way or that way. It’s pretty easy. It’s not like here, where your throw your thumb out and people look at you all weird. It’s good vibes over there. Easy to ride in the back of the truck all wet in your trunks from surfing…like “Ya, I need a ride to pipe!”
One night 20 years ago, I had a rental car and pulled over to the side of the road and tried to sleep. I got rousted and sent away. Have you ever tried camping or any low-budget sneaky way of staying over there?
I went to Maui and camped out on the beach. Just slept in the car. Never got hassled. But if you’re on the North Shore though, you’re probably going to get your windows knocked out by some ice-head or something. There’s some gnarly homeless people there…you don’t want to camp on the beach. It’s not very safe. But if you’re in Maui or Kauai, there are tons of rad places to camp. But Oahu is just dangerous.

Your skills at typical Pipeline, Backdoor and Sunset are well-documented…finals in world tour events and all sorts of events out there. Have you ever had a desire to ride really big waves, like paddle Jaws? it seems like the best surfers, many of the best tube riders and best all-around competitive surfers don’t bother with huge waves. What’s your position on really big waves?
Well, Dorian makes it looks so easy. He’s so gnarly. He’s a good example. Watching him at Jaws is amazing. Some of his rides make me want to try too, because some of the waves they catch are so clean. Now paddling on 10’ and 11’ boards…shape me a board like that and we’ll see if I go.

What’s the biggest waves you’ve surfed over there?
Probably Waimea, 12-15 foot. Nothing too big like the outer reefs. I’d like to surf Jaws, or one of those places where you have good surroundings. You’ve got boats and jet skis and float equipment, you have people around. That would be fun to catch one of those bombs and get barreled for sure. I wouldn’t mind trying that one day, maybe this year or something.

It seems like it would be just so natural for you, if you wanted to do it. But it doesn’t seem like you’d be interested in many of the waves because you’re not getting barreled. Sometimes it’s just a big bouncy ride.
Ya, just a big drop, but Jaws has that whole section. Guys are just surfing and ripping it getting barrels. Maybe I can try that.

What’s the perfect Backdoor surfboard?
The perfect Backdoor surfboard, when Backdoor’s perfect, would be a 6’2” or 6’4”. No bigger than that. You want something to just get you into it. When you’re in the barrel, you want something short that you can maneuver. Roundpin, maybe even a quad. Quads work well out there. Knifey rails, more like a blade, a little narrower than an average short board to hold the wall. No fat rails. Knifey rails.

What are the benefits of having or not having a caddy at Sunset?
Well, if you don’t have a caddy, you can get a ski ride back to the beach and then paddle back out if you break your board. It’s just an extra minute or two, but it’s good to have a caddy.
I think it’s good to have a caddy.
This year, I was just trusting my board when I didn’t have a caddy. When I had a caddy, I switched boards. And I should have stayed on the 6’10”. I probably could have made the final. I was overthinking it. Rode too short of a board. I got pinched on a few in the quarters. If I had the bigger board, I would’ve drawn a different line. Got a better wave.

So you’re saying if you didn’t have a caddy you would have made the final?

(Laughs) I don’t know. (Chris’ 16-year-old daughter, Malia) helped because when I broke my board, I had Malia so close with my other board. She was on it.

It was pretty big. Was she scared?
Not scared. She was nervous, though.

That heat looked exhausting.
Dusty had a slow start then got two nines. I was waiting out the back. Waiting and waiting, with (Jonathan Gonzales). I took the first wave of the set and he got the second one and got a nine on it. A carve and a perfect inside tube. End of the party.

You had one that would’ve been an 11 if you came out of it.
I was deep in it, then it just collapsed on me.

What happens on a wave like that one underwater? A lot of us watch that kind of stuff but don’t really experience it. You guys just pop up and paddle back out.
It’s a big washing machine. Especially big inside bowl. You’re in the spin cycle for a while. It pushes you into deep water, though, so you just pop up and say “that was fun,” take a couple more on the head, get into the channel and get back out there.

When you’re going to take one on the head, what do you do with your board?
I don’t worry about my board too much. I try to have my board with me and duck dive, or just leave it right there on top and don’t go under the water too much. Just push the board aside and not go under too deep, unless it’s a big lip coming down. I’ll go under and try to get deeper than the lip will go.

You don’t do the bear hug?
I’ll try to duck dive first and then if it sucks me back, I’ll do the bear hug. Unless I’m going over the falls. But if it’s whitewash and I’m just doing cartwheels with my board underwater, then I’ll wrap my arms around it and hold it.
I’ve never done that.
I mean I’ll do that at Sunset, but not at Pipe. Maybe at like third reef Pipe if you have a small leash or something and you don’t want to lose your board. You just duck dive that 20 foot whitewash. Go down and hold on. Bear hug your board and go for a little ride. You’re only down for a few seconds. It’s a really intense few seconds, though…seems like it lasts longer.

What about no-hands backside tube riding vs. pig dog grab rail? What’s the biggest difference?
You can’t stall when you’re not grabbing because there’s nothing to slow you down, unless you’re just all the way on your back foot. I like the no-handers. Those are more fun…like in the more perfect waves. Long perfect ones that bend out and you don’t need to slow down. The grab rail is good because you can sit on your inside rail and really drag your arm and your butt to slow yourself down from going super-fast. Drop in, slow down and then regain speed in the barrel. Backside grab rail barrel, you can use more technique than when you’re not grabbing. Use the wave more.

Cory (Lopez) was the first one to tell me that at Teahupoo and Pipe, regular footers have it easier to get a score because they can stay in the tube longer without taking off as deep.
The way Slater positions his body, down low, waiting…He can be as deep as he can get and highline out of it somehow. Just stall and stall, then let go of your stall as late as you can and get spit out. You’ve got to be on it when you stall, because you can stall too much and not have enough speed to come out again. You don’t want that to happen, so you make these quick adjustments there…real subtle stuff. Throw your arm in the wave super hard and come out. Slater does it perfectly. He’ll throw his arm in, then pull it out, know that he’s too deep and start leaning on his front foot, and somehow just get blown out with the spit. You can watch in slow-mo and see it all.

I like hearing the details like that. Most people don’t really realize how much is going on, and most of you guys at that level don’t talk about it that much. Speaking of all those adjustments, when we watch the footage of you at Desert Point in the “Gone to Cabo” bonus segments, you’re in five different tube ride positions on one wave. You’re never standing still in the barrel. Do you take all those individual techniques and use them in a shorter, more intense wave like Pipeline?
I try. Everything at Pipe happens so fast. You don’t need that many adjustments. You just need those simple perfect lines out there. Rather than at Desert, where some waves are pinching at the top and then going square again so you want to be with momentum…sitting high at a certain point and then dropping all your speed to stop in the pit, then letting go and keep pumping and pumping, knowing that there’s another section coming while you’re still in the barrel and you’re just on the gas…and that section throws over you and you’re in a whole new section. You’re trying to come out of that first one, for the next section. It’s much different than Pipe. Pipe’s more like draw the line, get as deep as you can, and get out. Can you understand that?

I can understand, and I think our readers will as well…but I am not going to paddle out and try to execute it!

(Laughs) Ya, you can. You make the boards that do all that stuff.


Posted by: SkipSneadSkipSnead at: 12 Feb 2015 13:23




Here are some other articles you might be interested in.


Wiki Syntax Enabled: Complete All Fields


The Chris Ward Interview by Matt Biolos. Wardo sat down with his shaper and good mate Matt Biolos to talk about boards, barrels and his time in Hawaii.

People are noticing that you are still showing up in Hawaii every year getting a lot of the best waves at Backdoor and Pipe…your performance at the Sunset event this year, etc. So when was the first season you went to Hawaii, and how old were you?
I was 11 or 12. I went with Andy Fomenko and met up with an older guy who used to live here, Fred Dishman. I stayed with him the first year…a month and a half. Right there behind John John’s house now, right there at Ehukai. Right next to Pipe. I always wanted to surf it when I got older. Waking up each morning next to Pipe and Backdoor, I would just dream about surfing there. I was just a little shit, just surfing Ehukai, thinking I was getting barreled out there (laughs), but I started going there and returning every season. All the years I rode for you guys and the Rusty years as well.

I remember early on that I knew you had gone over there before we worked with you, but it seems like that first winter that Timmy Patterson and I made quivers for you to go over there. It seemed like a breakthrough season for you.
That was probably my first winter when I stayed with Kasey Curtis and JD. My first full winter as a real grom…I was 14 or 15. I surfed huge log cabins with Kasey and some good OTW days with Cory (Lopez)…and V-Land. We got all that footage from the first or second movie “What’s really go wrong” with Dicko (David Dixon) and Cory. Briley was getting those huge Pipe pits. Just all those sessions and seasons back-to-back every year showed me a lot. Your boards have come a long way since those days when I was 14. Strider was riding your board at Pipe back then. You always had good boards for tube riding though; that was never a problem.

So how did growing up at T-Street and surfing the pier get you ready for Pipeline and Backdoor?

(long pause) It doesn’t. (laughs) Maybe the run down and up the hill.

**So what in your mind clicked and allowed you to transfer to surfing Pipe? A lot of guys learn to surf Pipe from ages 18-25, but what I remember is sending you over there at 14, maybe 15 and 16 years old, and getting video clips sent back of you air-dropping in to 8-10 footers at logs and getting spit out. What do you think allows you to do that at such a young age? **
Well, those years you guys sent me over there back-to-back years, and then being over there with the Irons brothers. Just all of us out there pushing ourselves. Cory, Bruce and Andy. It got to a point where we were just pushing each other every session. Tube riding or airs. Charging a big one at Backdoor or Pipe. We were learning off each other and the bar was rising when we were young. Having those guys to surf with when you’re growing up helped me progress. All of us had your boards. People noticed.

I remember the second year you called me from Hawaii saying you “wanted a fish.” I don’t think many people even used that word at the time. What was your inspiration for the phone call, and do you know why you called me asking for a fish and why that whole episode came to be?
I remember I saw Buttons or someone local riding one at V-Land, and Curren riding one at OTW. I just saw my heroes surfing on them and making it look so nice and fun to watch. It made me want to surf smooth. They can help you polish off the turns you wouldn’t normally be able to do on a short board. Just depending on the day or seeing and what type of surfing you want to do.
I saw (Tom) Curren ride them and look so smooth, so I wanted one. I just wanted to be able to ride a fish, and ride it in a tube. Have the shortness of a board and be able to re-adjust and pump easily, take a highline out of the tube with all that speed, and being able to do a turn because when you’re on a big board, you can’t really do a big gouge or grab rail cutback like you can when you’re on a fish.

It seems like back then, guys would be riding a 6’8” or a 7’0” at Pipe or small Backdoor, and you guys were out there on your tiny little fish, trying to make it happen. Twenty years later, most of the top surfers are riding boards significantly shorter than back then, like typical short-board length boards.
It’s because you can get deeper in the barrel and stay in it longer, versus when you have a 6’8” or 7’0” you draw only one or two lines. You can’t adjust or realign or pump as hard as you would on a 6’2” or 5’11” or 5’4” fish. Too small would be too small, but there’s that happy medium with a 5’7”, 5’11” or 6’2”. You can get really deep on a 6-8 foot day and have a blast on those size boards.

Were you initially surprised at how big the waves were that you and Cory could surf?
We weren’t doing it to impress anyone. That’s what we wanted to ride out there and it just felt good to drop in a little later, and underneath it. Get deeper in the tube. Watching Bruce…he was so small and riding tiny, tiny boards. Making it look easy. It helps your positioning and you’re not out running the tube. You stay in the right spot on a smaller chippier board. When you’re driving, it feels freer. Unless it’s 12 foot Pipe, then you want your 7’0”s and 8’0”s.

Speaking of being in the tube longer, you risk not coming out of a lot more tubes. How do you go through year after year, session after session, without seeming to get injured? How do you deal with getting repeatedly smashed in the barrel? What’s the secret behind the turmoil of the washing machine?
Just stay relaxed; be aware of what you’re getting yourself into.

I hear about a lot of different techniques. What’s yours? Is there a point where you eject? What’s your technique in a barrel that’s not going to end well?
Kicking out the back on a wave really low, and out of the bottom of the waves… sometimes you get pulled back over the falls. That’s not fun at any of those spots. Especially Sunset inside bowl. That happens a lot, because there’s so much water moving and there’s only one motion the wave is doing—it’s sucking up and out. You can become a part of the lip really easily in that situation.

Do you have a point where you eject when you’re in a deep tube and you don’t think you’re going to make it, or do you just ride it to the end?
Oh, you mean the compression chamber? When it just wants to compress you and you know it’s a closeout and you’re not making it? Usually I try to hold on as long as I can, but if you have to eject, usually the spit is stinging so hard and hitting your whole body, and in your eyes. You just can’t hang on anymore and the floor is dropping out, so there’s no water underneath you. Maybe at that point you want to penetrate into one of those pockets and get out the back, and hopefully the wave will spit you out the back. That’s the easiest exit you will get.

In the last couple of years, you’ve become quite a GoPro operator. I’ve watched people, and it seems like it would be easier to use it on a wave that’s long and down the line, but to watch people like you and Jaime (O’Brien) doing it on really short intense Backdoor and Pipe…What’s your favorite technique for GoPro? How did you learn how to use it properly?
Before, it was simple—just have it on your board and keep it pointed toward you, but that got boring and guys started exploring other angles. Handles came out. (Jaime) Sterling, Jaime O’Brien and Kalani Chapman were exploring with handles or a little pole. I’ve always found that a little hard, because you have to paddle with it in your mouth or something. I just like grabbing the back of it where the floaty part is and having that part in your mouth when you’re pulling in and sometimes grabbing it out of your mouth, so you can get the behind the scenes perceptive. The rider’s point of view, behind your head. Get the board and the backside of your body. See how deep you are in the tube. I like that angle. and I like the one that they’re doing now with a pole where they bring it around the body, turning it to get the back and the front in one ride.

What about the mouth mount, like the little snorkel?
I haven’t experimented with the snorkel thing yet. It just seems like I’d take in water and that wouldn’t be good, so maybe I just need to make my own mouthpiece to be comfortable.

After all the years of going to Hawaii, who is your favorite all-time North Shore surfer? What surfers are impressing you right now?
Without a question, Slater is the man at Pipe. He’s so gnarly out there. Slater, John John. Mason’s impressing me. He’s been getting slotted out there! I’m stoked for him to win the shootout. I wish I was there too, actually. Jaime O’Brien, of course. Derek and Michael Ho. Love watching them still getting barreled after all these years. And I love being out there with them when it’s big and perfect, and they’re always on the best ones.

Do you have any travel tips for the first-time North Shore surfer?
There’s so much advice you can give someone like that. Just stay out of the way. Let the locals catch their waves. Experiment from the shoulder a little. Ease your way into the lineup. Don’t go to hard into it for your first trip. Take it easy.

Have you had any problems with the locals there?
No, no. I’ve had my share of waves and run-ins, but you know you’re surfing a spot where everyone wants the same wave. Sometimes it’s your friend right next to you. We’re all friends, you know. We see the same guys out every session. You’re getting barreled with them, and they’re pushing you and you’re pushing them. It’s all just a learning experience.

People continually tell me, “How does that guy go over there and get so many waves?” What’s your secret of being out at Pipeline with all the locals, the hyped- up millionaires and new kids trying to make an impression every year? How do you slide through it all, stay motivated and continue to get your fair share of waves?
It’s just always new people going every year, so I don’t look at it like I’ll go over there and get a bunch of waves. I’ve been going there for 25 years, so I kind of learn…I pick the waves I want to go on and wait for them.

Do you have any advice to hitchhikers on the North Shore?
I’ve hitchhiked a few times before, haven’t you? If you’re at Lani’s and need a ride up to Pipe, or you’re at V-Land and need a ride to Logs. It’s just easy. There’s one road through the whole place. You’re either going that way or that way. It’s pretty easy. It’s not like here, where your throw your thumb out and people look at you all weird. It’s good vibes over there. Easy to ride in the back of the truck all wet in your trunks from surfing…like “Ya, I need a ride to pipe!”
One night 20 years ago, I had a rental car and pulled over to the side of the road and tried to sleep. I got rousted and sent away. Have you ever tried camping or any low-budget sneaky way of staying over there?
I went to Maui and camped out on the beach. Just slept in the car. Never got hassled. But if you’re on the North Shore though, you’re probably going to get your windows knocked out by some ice-head or something. There’s some gnarly homeless people there…you don’t want to camp on the beach. It’s not very safe. But if you’re in Maui or Kauai, there are tons of rad places to camp. But Oahu is just dangerous.

Your skills at typical Pipeline, Backdoor and Sunset are well-documented…finals in world tour events and all sorts of events out there. Have you ever had a desire to ride really big waves, like paddle Jaws? it seems like the best surfers, many of the best tube riders and best all-around competitive surfers don’t bother with huge waves. What’s your position on really big waves?
Well, Dorian makes it looks so easy. He’s so gnarly. He’s a good example. Watching him at Jaws is amazing. Some of his rides make me want to try too, because some of the waves they catch are so clean. Now paddling on 10’ and 11’ boards…shape me a board like that and we’ll see if I go.

What’s the biggest waves you’ve surfed over there?
Probably Waimea, 12-15 foot. Nothing too big like the outer reefs. I’d like to surf Jaws, or one of those places where you have good surroundings. You’ve got boats and jet skis and float equipment, you have people around. That would be fun to catch one of those bombs and get barreled for sure. I wouldn’t mind trying that one day, maybe this year or something.

It seems like it would be just so natural for you, if you wanted to do it. But it doesn’t seem like you’d be interested in many of the waves because you’re not getting barreled. Sometimes it’s just a big bouncy ride.
Ya, just a big drop, but Jaws has that whole section. Guys are just surfing and ripping it getting barrels. Maybe I can try that.

What’s the perfect Backdoor surfboard?
The perfect Backdoor surfboard, when Backdoor’s perfect, would be a 6’2” or 6’4”. No bigger than that. You want something to just get you into it. When you’re in the barrel, you want something short that you can maneuver. Roundpin, maybe even a quad. Quads work well out there. Knifey rails, more like a blade, a little narrower than an average short board to hold the wall. No fat rails. Knifey rails.

What are the benefits of having or not having a caddy at Sunset?
Well, if you don’t have a caddy, you can get a ski ride back to the beach and then paddle back out if you break your board. It’s just an extra minute or two, but it’s good to have a caddy.
I think it’s good to have a caddy.
This year, I was just trusting my board when I didn’t have a caddy. When I had a caddy, I switched boards. And I should have stayed on the 6’10”. I probably could have made the final. I was overthinking it. Rode too short of a board. I got pinched on a few in the quarters. If I had the bigger board, I would’ve drawn a different line. Got a better wave.

So you’re saying if you didn’t have a caddy you would have made the final?

(Laughs) I don’t know. (Chris’ 16-year-old daughter, Malia) helped because when I broke my board, I had Malia so close with my other board. She was on it.

It was pretty big. Was she scared?
Not scared. She was nervous, though.

That heat looked exhausting.
Dusty had a slow start then got two nines. I was waiting out the back. Waiting and waiting, with (Jonathan Gonzales). I took the first wave of the set and he got the second one and got a nine on it. A carve and a perfect inside tube. End of the party.

You had one that would’ve been an 11 if you came out of it.
I was deep in it, then it just collapsed on me.

What happens on a wave like that one underwater? A lot of us watch that kind of stuff but don’t really experience it. You guys just pop up and paddle back out.
It’s a big washing machine. Especially big inside bowl. You’re in the spin cycle for a while. It pushes you into deep water, though, so you just pop up and say “that was fun,” take a couple more on the head, get into the channel and get back out there.

When you’re going to take one on the head, what do you do with your board?
I don’t worry about my board too much. I try to have my board with me and duck dive, or just leave it right there on top and don’t go under the water too much. Just push the board aside and not go under too deep, unless it’s a big lip coming down. I’ll go under and try to get deeper than the lip will go.

You don’t do the bear hug?
I’ll try to duck dive first and then if it sucks me back, I’ll do the bear hug. Unless I’m going over the falls. But if it’s whitewash and I’m just doing cartwheels with my board underwater, then I’ll wrap my arms around it and hold it.
I’ve never done that.
I mean I’ll do that at Sunset, but not at Pipe. Maybe at like third reef Pipe if you have a small leash or something and you don’t want to lose your board. You just duck dive that 20 foot whitewash. Go down and hold on. Bear hug your board and go for a little ride. You’re only down for a few seconds. It’s a really intense few seconds, though…seems like it lasts longer.

What about no-hands backside tube riding vs. pig dog grab rail? What’s the biggest difference?
You can’t stall when you’re not grabbing because there’s nothing to slow you down, unless you’re just all the way on your back foot. I like the no-handers. Those are more fun…like in the more perfect waves. Long perfect ones that bend out and you don’t need to slow down. The grab rail is good because you can sit on your inside rail and really drag your arm and your butt to slow yourself down from going super-fast. Drop in, slow down and then regain speed in the barrel. Backside grab rail barrel, you can use more technique than when you’re not grabbing. Use the wave more.

Cory (Lopez) was the first one to tell me that at Teahupoo and Pipe, regular footers have it easier to get a score because they can stay in the tube longer without taking off as deep.
The way Slater positions his body, down low, waiting…He can be as deep as he can get and highline out of it somehow. Just stall and stall, then let go of your stall as late as you can and get spit out. You’ve got to be on it when you stall, because you can stall too much and not have enough speed to come out again. You don’t want that to happen, so you make these quick adjustments there…real subtle stuff. Throw your arm in the wave super hard and come out. Slater does it perfectly. He’ll throw his arm in, then pull it out, know that he’s too deep and start leaning on his front foot, and somehow just get blown out with the spit. You can watch in slow-mo and see it all.

I like hearing the details like that. Most people don’t really realize how much is going on, and most of you guys at that level don’t talk about it that much. Speaking of all those adjustments, when we watch the footage of you at Desert Point in the “Gone to Cabo” bonus segments, you’re in five different tube ride positions on one wave. You’re never standing still in the barrel. Do you take all those individual techniques and use them in a shorter, more intense wave like Pipeline?
I try. Everything at Pipe happens so fast. You don’t need that many adjustments. You just need those simple perfect lines out there. Rather than at Desert, where some waves are pinching at the top and then going square again so you want to be with momentum…sitting high at a certain point and then dropping all your speed to stop in the pit, then letting go and keep pumping and pumping, knowing that there’s another section coming while you’re still in the barrel and you’re just on the gas…and that section throws over you and you’re in a whole new section. You’re trying to come out of that first one, for the next section. It’s much different than Pipe. Pipe’s more like draw the line, get as deep as you can, and get out. Can you understand that?

I can understand, and I think our readers will as well…but I am not going to paddle out and try to execute it!

(Laughs) Ya, you can. You make the boards that do all that stuff.

Image wardo_square34.jpg