|The Making of a Pipe Dream
A Personal Memoir by Lane Davey
Pipeline was one of the very first places I surfed on the Northshore and I had always wished for a women's surfing contest there, but in the early 90s even top pro women were against the idea. They felt there was not enough money in women's surfing to risk their lives at a place like Pipeline. Professional or otherwise women were told they could and should not surf Pipe which kept many of them from ever experiencing the beauty of this incredible place.
(Classic Pipe Beauty)
It wasn't until 1997 when I moved into the Pipe house that I became a dedicated Pipe Soldier surfing it every day, more and more, bigger and bigger, inspired by women bodyboarders who lead the way. There were very few women who ever paddled out to Pipe then, almost none, but in 2002 things changed. Blue Crush came on the scene and assisted three of the worlds best known women barrell riders to surf the Pipeline and unfortunately I wasn't one of them. I then had to watch, as these girls surfed my local surf break all to themselves or with the assistance of the heaviest locals at Pipe who were paid to block for them and even give them a push if need be. This went on for about three months, and in my deepest despair I began praying that God would at some point give me the same opportunity.
(another Pipe soldier who is elated to see women surf the break to themselves March 11.2005)
After the movie, more girls ventured out to Pipe. On 1-3 foot days you would almost always see some kind of Blue Crush wannabe and Pro Bodyboarder Emilia Perry began working her way out to the break on a shortboard that year, but a whole new pack of extreme women began to emerge on the northshore as well, not necessarlily at Pipe, but just in general. With a movie, a revolutionary era of women's surfing and a handful of international underground women who were starting to make an impact on the Northshore, Banzai Betty felt like it might be a good time to try and apply for the event permit. It was no surprise to the former pro surfer and big wave pioneer, when the northshore community pretty much laughed at her for even trying. Though I had been the one encouraging her for so many years, I have to edmit I had strong doubts that it would ever happen, but in September 2004 Betty called me saying that her application had been accepted. .
We waited skeptically for another month until Betty got the final confirmation, considering that it might have been some kind of mistake. In our celebration of the approval, we suddenly came to the realization that just because we had a permit to run the event didn't mean anyone would show up and compete. We could think of about 10 girls from around the world who might want to surf at Pipe, but decided that we would have to make a wave height restriction of 6 ft maxium to get a good turn out. Then, just as we had a pretty solid list of entrants we were informed that a recent schedule change on the ASP tour would prevent any of the traveling pros from attending our event. Personally I knew there was a pretty long list of underground women who would love to compete at Pipe, the problem was that we had no way of contacting a good majority of them. This convinced me to build the website and try to put the word out in every way I knew how. Sure enough the global network of women surfers spread the message in several languages and girls from around world began to turn up on the Northshore right until the very last day before the event.
(WCT surfer Melanie Bartels managed to make it back just in time to surf the Pipeline)
(Jamilah Star aka Jam Star from Santa Cruz)
Amongst them were Jamilah Star from Santa Cruz who holds the record for biggest wave ever paddled into by a women and her new up and coming protege Jenny Useldinger, then there was a whole crew of kamikaze Japanese women, two Puerto Ricans chargers, a girl from Argentina, Mellisa Proud from Maui who came with this Jaws tow girl named Andrea and Kim Hamrock aka Danger Women from Orange County. It wasn't until I looked over a this chick who was charging right in the middle of my heat that I stopped and said Mileala is that you, and it was, a girl (from Brazil) who came out and surfed some huge 12 ft Pipe days with me, still probably the narliest days I have ever seen another girl in the water. I was so stoked to see she had made it, even though she was the last person I wanted in my heat. The girl I was most excited to see however, also from Brazil was my friend Alici. Alici and her surfing partner Deborah Farah were the first women (stand up surfers) I had ever surfed with at Waimea several years back and Deborah died that same summer in a surfing accident near her home. Distraught by the loss of her partner, Alici barely made it back to Hawaii the next season, but when she saw me I remember her saying that she really wanted to surf Pipe because thats what her and Deborah had been training for. Each year after that we surfed many sessions at Pipe together in light of Deborah. This year when I saw Alici, I was so excited to tell her about our Pipe contest and proud that we would be giving an award in memory of her late surfing partner..
(Japanese kamikaze Kumiko Ishisuka)
An international band of beautiful women surfers and bodyboarders began packing the line up at Pipe for about a month prior to the event. The men seemed to stop and watch with their jaws hanging out and I wondered if this confused reaction meant that they wanted to send these girls in or ask them out. I don't think they knew either. Some days we were encouraged, other days we were mocked and certain people and organizations whom I won't mention even tryed to boycott our contest, but we continued.
(Pipe on March 10th, just one day before the contest. You know Pipe is really bad when nobody's out)
On the day of check in, we all started to feel as if even God was against us. Not only had it been the biggest stormiest March I had ever seen in my 16 years of Northshore experience, but there were two high surf warnings (above 25 ft face) and 3 huge storm systems forecasted in our narrow 6 day waiting period. After praying for a perfect day for 6 months, with church members the Sunday before and reminding each competitor to ask for help from above, I really had my doubts if any contest much less ours, could be ran within the upcoming waiting period, but once again we continued.
(Girls proceede to check in even though conditions don't look to promising for the contest)
To put things in perspective; 8 winters of turning up at Pipe every day is equal to about 1,680 days total, and and estimated 504 of those days are contest venues which is probably more than any surf spot on earth. As any other day, I pulled into the parking lot at dark, and as with every other contest, the red cones were set up and the local security crew were there, but it wasn't until I saw my friend Caron pounding the last nail into the contest structure that I became overwhelmed with emotion. This contest was really going to happen. It was for me, it was for Caron and it was for the hoards of women who began pulling up in their cars.
(The Contest is ON!!!)
I rushed out to the line up as I had done on all 504 of the other contest days hoping to get a few waves before the start of the event, but on March 11, 2005, my estimated 505th time of being chased in by water patrol at Pipe, it would finally be for a contest that myself and 100 other women would participate in. Knowing that this moment had finally come was probably the highlight of my whole experience because just having this opportunity was my dream come true. It was hard to hold back the tears as I walked down that Pipe path and paddled out with just 5 other women and I was thanking God all the way until the moment that the horn blew..
(My Dream Come True)
It was at that point however that my dream started becoming a reality. The surf as blessed as we were to have anything, was far from good Pipe. The best I could describe conditions that day is with a term used in that weeks forecast by Pat Caldwell, "Quasi Windswell" As soon as I hit the water I knew my dream of being able to get a 6 foot tube out there by myself was pretty much out of the picture, literally, but I still managed to win my first heat. As I came in my husband and all the women bodyboarders were so stoked for me. It was truly a magnificent feeling to have their support because after 14 years of watching them compete in their event at Pipe, I was finally indulging in the experience with them
(Bodyboarder Monica Del Amour)
In the last heat, of the first round, of the first ever women's event at Pipeline, Nonah said gracefully and officially over the loud speaker what we must have all been thinking which was that the girls were making a strong statement here at Pipe in these waves that we weren't suppose to surf. It was still small Pipe, but it sure wasn't easy Pipe. The fearless Bethany Hamilton expressed how difficutt the wind made it for her to catch waves with just one arm and I reiterated that it made it difficult for me with two. The 30+ mph wind gusts along with the north direction in the swell made it extremely hard to get down the face of the famously steep drops. If you were somehow able to make that drop, the wind was blowing the usually rewarding barrell rides right off the back of the wave. I think we all watched in awe of each other somewhat; we took heavy drops, wipe outs or sets on the head and we popped up each time, just like the guys do
(Alici from Brazil handles an ocassional set on the head)
As I prepared for my quarterfinal heat, I could see the swell droping and was seriously considering a smaller board, but since that wind had kicked up yet another notch, I stuck with the 6'11 and my strategy of going for bigger waves and less turns because I thought that would be criteria for the highest scoring waves at Pipeline.Unfortunately the waves did not come to me as I would have liked and though the whole beach was said to have been screaming for me everytime I stood up, it was still not enough to convince three out of the four judges that had me beat by .5
(Maui's Paige Alms conquering the "Quasi Windswell" and advancing)
(Puerto Rico's Maria Amador gets blown back up the face in our heat by this "quasi" wind gust )
After 15 years of waiting for a women's Pipe event so I could surf the break to myself, my total of 36 minutes sure did go by quick and with less than average conditions at Pipeline I didn't get any waves I couldn't have caught on a normal day. As with most contests, you try to be a good sport, but it sucks to lose no matter how you look at it especially when its at your own local spot and everyone expects you to win. Sure enough it was my Brazilian charger friend who advanced instead of me so I had no problem accepting the judges decision or the defeat to such a strong surfer. Everyone in my heat was charging and it was very inspiring to me.
(Melanie Haas did not make it through the quarters either, but did make it through some critical drops)
(West Side's Pake Salmon takes off while Bethany Hamilton and Brenda Freid remain on stand by)
Other experienced surfers such as Melissa Proud, Pake, Alici, Jam Star, Jenny and Karen Gallagher went down in their heats right along with me that day. Ironically, our push and promotion lowering wave heights for a good turnout had drawn so many girls that we had to change our original format. The scehduled 25-30 minute heats with just four girls was reduced to18 minute heats and 6 girls. Commited competitors who were there from the start felt that this new structure favored more of an amateur small wave venue rather than a professional extreme event, but everyone was shocked and elated that so many women were up for the challenge..
(Honolulu's Helena Suehiro)
The next day, I was anxious as I walked up in the pouring down rain to check the surf from the hole at Ehukai. My heart sunk to see that conditions were perfect, the quasi windswell had come to a complete halt and there was now enough west in the swell to make for little barrels on the rights and lefts. The only thing that saved me from having a complete breakdown was that the swell had dropped so I wasn't missing out on epic waves, just really fun ones. No girl in the world wanted to be out there competing as much as I did, but being so involved in the promotion of the event, I knew I couldn't just leave. I would have to be a good sport and help out that day, watching as others got to live my dream which was starting to feel more like a nightmare.
(Big Island's Mahealani Hauanio, making the drop)
n the semis stand outs like Honolulu's Helena Suehiro, Big Island's Mehealani Haunanio, and Maui's Paige Alms took risks making some of the most critical drops in the contest, but were not able to rack up as many points as Brenda Fried, Ashley Hunter and Alana Blanchard who rode smaller boards on the inside shoulder executing several turns into the sandbar. Mileala pulled into a beautiful backdoor barrel, but didn't make it out and neither did her board. With only 18 minutes and no back up board on the beach Mileala was not able to make it back out in time to claim another ride. Melanie Bartels dominated through the whole contest and the semi final. Melanie choose medium sized waves from the peak and as others stalled for tubes that didn't materialize Melanie had no quams about doing a radical turn right over the top of it.
(Brenda Freid racking up enough points to make the final)
There was a glimpse of happiness for me that day. The whole idea of the longboard expression session came about in light of a girl named Alex Flourence who I met surfing V-land 15 years ago. Since then. she has been very busy raising 3 little boys. Some think of her as the Mama goose leading her siblings out to the line up at Pipe, but in the last few years I am not sure who is leading who. As Alex paddled out into her longboard final, she dominated the lineup carefully selecting her waves. Every time Mom paddled for a wave, John John, Nathan and Ivan cheered. "Go Mom" Finally Alex got one of the best waves of the day grabbed rail and rode it all the way through. I think I must have lived vicariously through Alex that day, because hearing the joy in their childlike voices made it all seem worthwhile once again.
(Kim Hamrock aka Danger Women dominates)
Unfortunately for Alex, her knowledge of the break and a cheering squad were not enough to take first place from Kim Hamrock who was willing to suffer a broken nose and dislocated jaw for the title. After just losing her nostrils in the longboard division, she had to paddle straight back out for the shortboard final and pretty much gave it away to the other girls who were still breathing normally. Kim was such an inspiration to me who at 44 years old, was the standout of the whole event, charging the hardest and taking the most beatings. After being harrassed by doctors, family and friends that my 35 year old bones would not handle these types of beatings at Pipe anymore, Kim had convince, they were all wrong.
(Crystal Dzigas finding one of the best rides of the day)
On the other hand young up and coming local favorite Crystal Dzigas also surfed back to back shortboard and longboard heats placing second in both divisions. Crystal surfed strong throughout the competition showing that she could make the critical drops on some of the larger sets and then find a section to crank a turn. She probably would have won the shortboard final if she could have inched her way out of a nice long backdoor tube. In the end, however it was 14 year old Alana Blanchard from Kauai, who hot dogged her way into the history books as the first ever women's Pipeline champion.
(Alana and Bethany from Kauai'i) (Orange County's Kim Hamrock)
The awards ceremony included several speciality awards dedicated to women surfers who are not with us any more. I presented two awards sponsored by my company Us Girls. First, I gave out an award to Lilly Pollard for best bodyboarding wave which was dedicated to Fujiko, then I choose Fesi Klink as the Rookie of the Year honoring Deborah Farah. Town and Country teamrider Brenda Freid presented an award dedicated to Courtney Marcher for bravery which was won by Kim Hamrock and Betty granted the Aloha award to Claudia Ferrari remembering her friend Avriel..
(Australian Bodyboarder Kira Llewelyn takes her second Pipe title)
When it all came to an end, I could finally let my lower lip hang back out where it belonged. but nothing could stop me from walking down that Pipe path to check the surf. It was quite comforting to find my friend Adrianna already sitting there with the same lower lip. We were the regulars, we both lost in our heats and there we were right back at Pipeline. The surf was already on the rise as predicted, the surfer girls were leaving as fast as they came and just a pack of hardcore bodyboarders prevailed in the line up as usual. "Its just us again," I said to Adrianna. She nodded and replied "are you out there Lane?" We both got up, smiled and sucked in our fat lips, as we went to get our boards. It was in that very moment I realized that I never needed any contest or movie stunt to live my Pipe Dream because my dream was my life. My blessing was to surf Pipe every day as I had for the past 8 years and the heavy crowds or occasional insults were all just a part of the challenge. Sharing my experiences with girls like Adrianna is what makes the dream come alive and at the end of the day this Pipe contest would be another vibrant memory for all of us girls to cherish forever.
(me & extreme bodyboarder Adrianna)
Mahalo to Banzai, Guin Allen, Caron Farnham Claudia Ferrari, Karin Helm, Sean Davey and everyone wh who helped make this event possible.