When I started this journal entry I was on a flight back to the islands to spend forty eight hours at home before three weeks in Europe. I was completely exhausted running off of two hours of sleep from the previous nights festivities and the two most incredible days at the Surf Ranch. There was so much excitement, stoke and adrenaline running through my veins. I have to admit a week later, half way around the world in Portugal, I am still on such a high! I can't close my eyes without seeing it all replay over and over again in my mind.
Let's start from the beginning. I drove up to Lemoore with Brandon Guilmette and Lei Hookano. They both work for Hurley but are two of my dearest friends. It was mellow. Took us about three and a half hours from LA. Most of the drive was dry and barren. Rolling hills of rock and dead grass. We drove through flat crop lands and saw lots of cows. The scenery definitely put things in perspective of how lucky I am to live by the ocean and chase waves for a living. Made me wonder how my life would be different if I lived land locked…
The pool is literally in the middle of nowhere. There is not much happening in that little town. When I googled "things to do in Lemoore," only four things popped up. Two parks, a memorial museum and a Transformer statue. I got a lot of strange looks when I dragged my board bag through the lobby of the hotel. I don't think many people know what is going on behind the giant wooden wall or can really even grasp the concept of a wave pool when explained. Can't blame them. It still baffles me completely.
Rewind… Transformer statue? Rated 5 stars?! Of course we had to check it out. Bumblebee didn't quite live up to expectations. We found him hidden off the beaten path in someone's backyard. I had this grand image of a giant Transformer towering over the trees from the pictures I saw on google. Still, I found myself mesmerized for a few seconds, looking up at the yellow metal machine standing so stoic in the sunset. The colors in the sky were some of the most breathtaking I have ever seen. That combined with great company and belly aching laughs made the experience more than worth it.
We had a practice day before the contest. I was first up sharing an hour session with Adriano De Souza. Usually it is a fight for the first wave of the day because the pool is the stillest from the night before and that one wave is the most perfect. I was happy to let Adriano go first but he insisted on a coin flip to be fair. With luck on my side, I was first up! As cool as it is to catch that first wave, it's also a bit nerve racking. There is a lot of pressure to not mess up. "Breathe, buddy, breathe..." I kept telling myself as I waited for the machine to start. "You got this. This is awesome. Let it all go."
"One minute!" from the man in the control tower. This was it. Raimana sent his love from the ski and reminded me one last time to breathe and have fun. A wave of adrenaline came over me as the metal wire tightened and the sound of the machine began to crank. Slow and then faster. Out of nowhere a little mound of water started growing towards me. "Wait. Wait! Ok. Go babe. Go!" Raimana screamed.
The momentum of the wave picked me up and the rest of the world disappeared. The first section allowed for two to three turns then the wave steepened and hollowed out into a barrel. After that, there was room to do a few more turns and then there was one last barrel section. Can't believe I made it to the end! Legs burning, heart racing. Forty five seconds of perfect bliss!
After my session was over, we stayed around the pool for awhile and watched the others warm up. I really enjoyed watching how everyone approached the wave and seeing their stoke after each ride. I don't think I have ever seen my peers smile so much and be genuinely happy for the next person. The day came to a close with an epic dinner for everyone who came for the event. Legends of our sport, people of the industry, competitors, coaches, family, friends... The coolest part was sitting across from Shaun Thompson, Rabbit Bartholomew and Mark Richards! Are you kidding me?!
Next day was contest day. I loved all the attention to detail. The jerseys, the locker rooms, the teepees set up around the pool, the flowers, the cool places to sit and relax. The food was also absolutely amazing! I ate my way through the day. I couldn't help myself. Eggs, bacon, dried mango, trail mix, salads, fish, vibrant fruit platters. There was even an ice cream truck! Seriously?! The broadcast and the replays, commentating, everything flowed so well. There was a fun t-shirt press and a flag station where you could personalize something to take home to remember the day. One of the highlights was getting to meet Chris Martin from Coldplay. He was so nice!!
There were two qualifying rounds. In each round we got a right and a left and our best scores were tallied up for the finals. Top four that qualified for the finals got to surf two more rights and two more lefts and the best right and left were scored to decide a winner. After my last run, I jumped into the lead with an 8.7 on the right and a 5.67 on the left. All I could do was wait and watch Steph finish her turn to decide the winner of the day. Steph was a stand out for both the men and women all day on the right. Her timing with the wave, barrel read and style was hard to match. She had a 9.7 on the right but needed a 4.6 on the left to take the lead. The result really didn't matter. I was just so grateful to for opportunity to be apart of such a historic day. Still the competitive side of me couldn't help but feel a little nervous as Steph stood up on her last wave. I didn't watch. Silence. Somehow she fell halfway through her ride and didn't get the score she needed.
I couldn't believe it. It has been so long since I have won anything! The feeling felt foreign but so sweet. That day it worked out in my favor and I am so thankful. Crazy thing was I already felt like I was winning at life before I actually won the event. Getting to experience such a special few days with my good friends, the laughs, smiles, perfect waves, good food. I was just trying to soak in every minute of it. That's probably why it all worked out. I didn't need the result to make me happy but it sure was the cherry on top of a fantastic day. I will cherish it forever!
Pictures by Brandon Guilmette