The final weekend of the contest is at hand, and thanks to his decent showing in round three, Hakman now needs only a second-place finish in the last heat to make it through to the quarterfinals. The flowing, powerful Bobby Owens takes the early lead, as he has all week. Then Reno Abellira, who's been floundering at the back of the pack alongside Hakman,
suddenly comes alive with a couple of nifty tube rides. But Hakman's first few waves look pretty good, too. In the spectator enclosure, the Quiksilver crew follows Hakman closely. "If he's not careful," says Hodge sarcastically, "he could wind up in the main event."
Abellira and Owens each get another wave, and Hakman slips into third place. Then, with two minutes left in the heat, a final set rolls in. Hakman almost takes off on the first wave, but it starts to break around him and then closes out entirely. He pulls back and spins to grab the second wave, but it's breaking too far to the left, and he can't quite
paddle into it. The buzzer sounds, and that's it—he's out of the contest.
For Hakman, it's a victory nonetheless—one more step in the rehabbing of a legend. First, there was his job, which he describes as "sort of being Mr. Quiksilver, internationally," and which amounts to telling surfing stories at sales meetings, hanging out at trade shows, and offering an occasional design critique. Then there was the biography,
which Hodge talked him into cooperating with as an act of therapy and as a way to recover his story.
Since its publication, the book has become something else—a strangely effective piece of marketing. (Though it has yet to find a U.S. distributor, Mr. Sunset has done surprisingly well, selling more than 20,000 copies overseas and over the Internet, and the Hollywood production company October Films has optioned it for
the screen.) Just as Nike is quick to lap up anything that seems remotely cool about the NBA and The North Face leaps to outfit the next wave of mountain daredevils, Quiksilver can't help but stake out its territory. That means signing up obvious stars, like Kelly Slater, and hosting events like the Silver Edition Masters. But it also means reaching out to
subversive heroes and prodigal sons like Jeff Hakman, because there's something authentic about them that no amount of white bread can match.
"We're not just some guy who looks like Jimmy Buffet with a parrot on his shoulder," says McKnight. "You get our guys together, Jeff and the other Hawaiians, and it's really real, man."
The next day, with Hakman looking on from the beach, the contest wraps up. Cheyne Horan edges out his old nemesis Tom Carroll in the under-40 finals, thereby claiming his first-ever world masters championship. (Later the same afternoon, he proposes to his girlfriend in a scene that he calls "way heavier than the final.") In the over-40 final, Rabbit
Bartholomew manages to catch the wave of the tournament, a perfect, near-closeout tube ride. After what seems like ten seconds, he bursts out of the far end, pumping both fists, making the claim. The judges do what they must—they give him a perfect ten, and the victory.
The awards ceremony is held at Lafitenia, and afterward there's a pretty good party that doesn't end until past midnight. It's an idyllic scene: Hawaiian guitars, cold Buds (a delicacy in France), and the sun dipping low over the sea, just like in Southern California. One might expect Hakman to skip out on the party, especially as it gets loud, but he
winds up staying, hanging out with Hodge and the Hawaiians on the deck. He even has a beer. Though Hakman never had a real problem with alcohol, you can almost hear 12-step people everywhere gnashing their teeth. A beer! It's tantamount to starting up the heroin again! To the Aussies, though, it's just funny. "Hakman's having a beer!" Hodge yells. "Someone
get a camera!"
Hakman has another beer, or two. He laughs at the jokes and tells a few of his own, but it's hard to figure out if he's truly having a good time. Maybe he is. But I have my doubts. Between jokes he gets a faraway look in his eyes, and soon he's backing out of the party. It's ironic, really. The guy who started the party is the first one to leave.
Correspondent Rob Buchanan wrote about backcountry skiing in the January 1998 issue. He lives in Greenport, New York.