Troncones, a sleepy surf town 40 minutes north of the Zihuatanejo airport, sports an un-crowded intermediate spot called Troncones Point, which can be huge in the summer when it catches the southern swell, but is moderate and consistent later in the fall. Twenty minutes further north is La Saladita, a very long left, perfect for longboards, with a great beach for sitting under a palapa with a cold beer.
WHEN TO GO: Waves taper in size the closer you get to winter. Breaks are more crowded and accommodations harder to come by around U.S. Holidays.
ROUTE: Rent a car at the airport (ZIH) as there’s little in the way of lodging and dining at La Saladita.
SUNDOWNER: Café Sol is a safe bet even for those with less adventuresome intestinal tracts. The wood-oven pizza is top-notch, and the Pacifico in bottles a perfect chaser.
MAUI'S DAVE KALAMA has a reputation for understatement that is as legendary as his fearless approach to riding monster waves. But don’t let him fool you: at 48, the five-foot-eleven, 200-pound former high school ski racer, windsurfing world champion, tow-in-surfing pioneer, and James Bond stuntman (he rode a 40-foot wave in the opening scene of Die Another Day) is at the top of his game. He’s currently in talks to surf a huge swell somewhere on the planet for the National Geographic 3-D film version of Susan Casey’s bestselling The Wave. And though he didn’t start stand-up-paddleboard racing until his late thirties, he’s dominating younger competition a decade later.
“I still want to win,” says Kalama, who took second at the 32-mile Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships in 2012, bested only by 16-year-old Connor Baxter, who beat him by 24 seconds. “I’m almost getting excited to be 50. Who else at 50 is still competing with twentysomethings?”
More impressive: though Kalama descends from waterman royalty—his grandfather helped introduce outrigger canoeing in California during the 1950s, and his father, Ilima, was the 1962 U.S. amateur surfing champion—he is also a busy husband and father of four. “Finding time to exercise is really a chore,” he says. “Between family obligations and work, I’m like the average guy.”
Well, kind of. Unlike the average guy, Kalama rises at 4:45 a.m. and heads to the beach for his 75-minute peak-fitness workout, which includes 500 crunches, 400 lunges, and sprinting backward up a 50-yard dune. He’s been perfecting this routine for the past 15 years, and it’s how he maintains the complete body strength to compete with kids a third his age. Add in Kalama’s aloha personality and intuitive knack for teaching, and he’s the ultimate guru for weekend warriors who think turning 40 means a long, slow slide into athletic mediocrity. In 2009, Kalama packaged his fitness expertise and created four annual, multiday Kalama Kamps around the globe, schooling participants in paddling technique, wave dynamics, and the coveted fitness wisdom that can keep middle age at bay.
“When I started stand-up paddling, I was 230 pounds of couch potato,” says 48-year-old Kurt Forster, a consultant from Florida and one of nine Maui campers I joined in May to get steeped in the Kalama gospel. “I’ve lost 40 pounds because Dave has motivated me.” It was Forster’s fifth Kalama Kamp. “He taught me how to reach goals by taking tangible steps, and that small changes can make a huge difference.”
A typical day at Kamp includes a 6:30 a.m. start on the beach with a kinder 6-minute version of Kalama’s peak-fitness workout, followed by a session in Kahului Harbor to practice paddling technique and an eight-mile downwind paddle off the North Shore or surfing at Thousand Peaks on Maui’s south side. Throughout the day, Kalama and his co-instructors, Brody Welte and John Denney, film their students’ technique and offer one-on-one coaching.
By the last day, I’m sunburned and humbled by the relentless pounding of the Pacific. But I’m walking away reinvigorated, with a solid grasp on a new sport and the teachings of Kalama. It’s not just about burning muscles; Kalama takes a whole-lifestyle approach to fitness that factors in career, family, and other obligations in your forties. Besides training your body, he trains your mind and your will. “Will is the domain of those who succeed,” he says. “And be patient. The process will evolve once you improve your fitness naturally.” Want to believe your best years are still ahead of you? Just follow the nine rules Kalama lives by.
1. Use It or Lose It
Kalama Says: “Age is only how many times I’ve been around the sun. I’m not going to let a number dictate how I deteriorate.” But being in his forties has forced him to “take fitness more seriously,” he says. “I used to get away with more. Now I have to be consistent.” Kalama practices complete-body-strength training techniques, like his peak-fitness workout, and pursues low-impact sports, like cycling and yoga, to help prevent injury. “I don’t do anything silly. At my age, I need to ease into stressing out my body. I’ll build up to it rather than blow myself out on the first day.”
Your Rx: First the good news. Recent studies report that for fit athletes who maintain muscle mass, there is no direct correlation between aging and increased risk of injury. (The one exception is an Achilles tear.) The bad news is that as we age, sarcopenia, the degenerative loss of skeletal-muscle mass, begins. After age 40, people lose 8 percent or more of their muscle mass each decade. Aging also reduces your body’s resiliency, which means recovering from a workout or injury takes longer. To avoid chronic stints on injured reserve, “use it or lose it,” says Dr. William O. Roberts, a sports-medicine specialist at the University of Minnesota. “Muscle mass is better maintained in people who are active.” Active in your forties means roughly 150 to 300 minutes of exercise per week. Roberts says it’s also essential to rest one day a week to allow your body to recover.
2. Get Goal Oriented
Kalama Says: Having a goal focuses you. His next mission is to paddle 250 miles nonstop from the Big Island to Kauai. “I don’t care if it’s shuffleboard, you’ve gotta do something. If it’s a local 5K race, work your way up to a 10K next year. A competition is good because it happens on a specific date, and there’s camaraderie that goes along with it.”
Your Rx: In your forties, you can fall into a training rut. Your brain and body need change and motivation to operate at peak levels, says Greg Chertok, who is the director of sport and exercise psychology at the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Center in Englewood, New Jersey, and works with athletes in the NBA, NFL, and NHL. “Attaining goals is accompanied by a hormonal rush of serotonin, dopamine, and feel-good hormones that activate the pleasure system in the brain.” To keep it fresh, your forties is also a good decade to pick up a totally new sport, like snowboarding, surfing, or skate-skiing. Kalama started stand-up racing at 39.
3. Do the Right Thing
Kalama Says: “I always want to give you the why. There’s got to be a purpose to the action.” Whether it’s juggling two pieces of coral while jogging (for hand coordination and body awareness) or doing intensive breath-hold exercises onshore (to calm his mind while taking an underwater pounding), Kalama has calculated reasons behind every physical action.
Your Rx: “When you’re in your twenties, you can throw all the volume and intensity you want into a workout and it isn’t likely to hurt you,” says Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist who has worked with Olympic athletes. “But when you get older, you have to do what is going to reap benefits without overdoing it.” Pire recommends three sets of 10 to 15 reps of the following exercises three days a week:
Road cyclists: Squats and single-leg squats. Why: Squats control your hips and balance your pelvis, which helps produce downward force on the pedals.
Mountain bikers: High plank. Hold a push-up position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Why: Mountain bikers need a strong shoulder girdle to control the bike while riding aggressive obstacles.
Runners: Forward and lateral lunges, adjusting the weight load by holding dumbbells or kettlebells. Why: Running terrain is often irregular, which impacts your hips. Lunges help strengthen and stabilize the pelvic girdle.
Downhill skiers and snowboarders: Hop squats. Add a vertical jump at the end of a regular squat. Why: Skiing involves eccentric loading, meaning muscles are lengthened while under tension. To prepare for unexpected bumps and ice patches, explosive movements like hop squats strengthen your entire body.
4. Outwork Everybody
Kalama Says: “My high school ski coach at Mammoth rewarded hard work and punished laziness. He would pit us against each other, and if you didn’t win, you had to do the run again.” Kalama’s father was no pushover, either. Before he’d allow Kalama to ski on weekends, Ilima would give him a list of chores, like shoveling ten feet of snow until the sidewalk was visible. “Life was very boot-campish, but that’s how I learned to outwork everybody.”
Your Rx: “As you get older, you need to work even harder to keep up and excel,” Pire says. But in your forties, there’s a fine line between outpreparing your competition and overtraining. “Knowing your own body by now is paramount,” he says. “It’s what guides you to work harder, but also to stop and rest.” In your forties, do more “prehab” than rehab, he says. That means instead of playing your sport 90 percent of the time and conditioning only 10 percent, change that ratio to 70:30.
5. Mix It Up
Kalama Says: “Being a multisport athlete keeps every sport interesting and keeps you motivated.” Kalama cross-trains on his road bike, because cycling doesn’t require the same focus as paddling or surfing. “When I’m on a big wave, I don’t even hear it. I’m so focused on my balance and all the little clues that the wave is giving me. With cycling, I can turn my brain off and just grind or design boards in my head.”
Your Rx: “If you cross-train, you’re doing less to the same stress areas,” Pire says. “And the more varied your experiences are, the more tools in your toolbox.” He advises soccer for runners (to develop anaerobic threshold), swimming for climbers (to build core and shoulder strength), and basketball for mountain bikers (for the anaerobic benefit).
6. Find a Bro
Kalama Says: “When you have someone to pace you, you’re sharing the experience and your morale is higher. Find a play buddy who has the same priorities.”
Your Rx: In your forties, busy schedules, kids, and work chip away at your time and resolve. “Having a workout partner is about increased accountability and social support, which improves adherence to your goals,” says Chertok.
7. Know Your Poisons
Kalama Says: Eat well but know which foods slow you down. “Before a race, I’ll eat a bowl of Cheerios with a banana on top and almond milk. After that, I’ll have some eggs and bacon, but not too much,” he says. “I like to eat right up to that line where I’m not stuffed but I’ve got energy to work with in a race for the first hour or two.” He doesn’t drink alcohol or coffee. “I stopped drinking four or five beers a week a few years ago, because I realized I wasn’t able to maintain my fitness,” he says. “And coffee just makes me jittery. My days are limited when I can perform at a really high level, and I don’t want to waste any. But if you make a good chocolate-chip cookie, I’m doomed.”
Your Rx: “As you age, it’s important for each meal to have protein-rich foods that help maintain muscle mass,” says sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Clark recommends a constant supply of protein throughout the day, in combination with quality carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, to fuel your muscles. A high-performance breakfast might be oatmeal topped by a handful of walnuts and berries, with Greek yogurt and a boiled egg on the side. For lunch, a turkey wrap or almond-butter sandwich. For dinner, grilled chicken or fish on a salad or lentil soup. Nuts are an excellent source of protein as a snack. As for what to cut out, heed Clark’s advice: sugar should make up only 10 percent of your daily diet.
8. Slow It Down
Kalama Says: Breathing calms your mind during a wipeout or extreme exertion of energy, like riding a long wave. “When I’m able to breathe efficiently,” he says, “I can keep my body calm, recover quickly, and use oxygen better. Breath, combined with mental calming techniques like visualization, allows me to control my mind, think more spontaneously, and make better decisions.”
Your Rx: Studies suggest that breath work and meditation may slow or reverse cellular aging and protect against cognitive decline. “When we deep-breathe, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over and lowers the heart rate and respiratory response,” says Paula Pullen, an exercise physiologist and yoga instructor at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. She recommends a four-part deep-breathing exercise a few minutes each day: Sit in a comfortable seated position, lift your breastbone, and pull your arms back so your shoulders don’t roll forward. (1) Take a long, deliberate breath, filling up from the bottom of your belly to your shoulders. (2) Hold the breath as long as is comfortable. (3) Exhale the breath as long as the inhalation. (4) Hold the exhalation for a few seconds before taking another deep breath.
9. Be Selfish
Kalama Says: “It comes down to a little bit of selfishness. You’ve got to take some time for yourself to work out, because it makes you a better person. You come back to your relationships and responsibilities in a much more productive frame of mind.”
Your Rx: In your forties, life is too busy not to schedule workouts. Hands down, the best time of day for training, Pire says, is first thing in the morning, when you have the least number of distractions and can control your time. If you can’t fit your entire workout into a morning, get up earlier or commit to at least 30 minutes of morning conditioning two to three times per week, then run, ride, climb, or surf later in the day. “You don’t have to complete your entire workout in one sitting.”
“It’s essential that you make your workout something you don’t dread,” Kalama says. One way to do that: use your surroundings. “When you go to a gym, it’s one-dimensional. But when you go to a mountain or a park or a beach, the workout is being drawn more from your will. Use the trees, use the park benches, use logs lying on the ground, use curbs, use whatever you’ve got. My whole life has been dictated by fun.”
Kalama’s peak-fitness beach workout would crush the average athlete. But add in the five exercises below three times a week and you’ll notice a marked improvement in strength. Increase the number of reps by 1 to 2 percent as you get stronger.
LUNGES: Do 30, taking ten normal steps between each set of ten. Why? “Lunges build power, strength, and a solid foundation.” (See a demonstration video here)
MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS: Do 20 to 30, with each alternation counting as one. Start in a peaked push-up position with your glutes in the air, hands flat on the ground shoulder width apart, and stomach drawn in. Then hop your right and left legs back and forth as quickly as you can—your feet should come between your hands—without raising your butt too high. Why? “These work the whole ball of wax,” Kalama says. “They activate from your upper thigh all the way to your shoulder, connecting the power from your lower body to your upper body.” (See a demonstration video here)
PULL-UPS: Do three sets of three to six. Why? “These are for arms and shoulders, which are important for paddling, climbing, rowing, and any sport that requires upper-body strength.” (See a demonstration video here)
PUSH-UPS: Do 55 (five sets of 15, 10, 10, 10, and 10), with five minutes of jogging in between. Why? “They provide shoulder, core, and hip strength.” (See a demonstration video here)
BICYCLE CRUNCHES: Start with 50. Lying in a sit-up position, bring your left elbow to your right knee, straighten your left leg, then alternate to the other side, touching right elbow to left knee and straightening your right leg. Keep your neck flat, looking straight up. Build up to 450 more in other variations. Why? “To strengthen the core, which is essential in paddling and all sports. Most of your power comes from your core.” (See a demonstration video here)
Photographer Zak Noyle spends most of his time chasing a wave’s eye view of the world. He’ll fly halfway around the globe at a moment’s notice to photograph surfers dropping into monster swells. Take, for example, a trip he made last year. He had just returned to Honolulu from Los Angeles when he got word a big swell was going to pass over an offshore reef in Indonesia. He grabbed his packed bag and hopped on a flight back to Los Angeles to meet up with surfers. They flew 13 hours to Taiwan, where they caught a flight to Indonesia. Then they drove for 14 hours. Then they hopped on a boat, which they rode for ten hours. “This was not a luxury yacht,” he said. “This was a fishing boat. It was so tiny.”
When they arrived at the forecasted spot, the wind switched. They sat and waited for three days. There was no electricity. There was no cell phone coverage. In the end, they got two hours of good waves. “Which was very worth it to me,” said Noyle. Then, he made the same trip back home.
Noyle grew up the son of photographer Ric Noyle, but his father didn’t push him towards the craft. In high school, Zak brought home a B+ in photography. “My dad wasn’t mad,” said Noyle. “He was just like, ‘Well it’s not for you. Do whatever you want to do.’” The ocean brought Noyle back to his dad's art. A state champion swimmer who spent a lot of time in the breaks, he started taking a disposable camera into the water at Sandy Beach. When he brought home images to show his mom, she couldn’t believe them. He went into bigger and bigger waves with his dad’s borrowed film cameras to see what he could get. Having only 36 exposures each trip out made him a selective shooter. Now Noyle swims into monster waves with a 32 GB card and a digital camera, sometimes shooting for up to eight hours at a time. Each time, he has one thing on his mind. “I mean, 99.9 percent of people won’t go into the water where I do,” he said. “To be able to capture what I see and bring it back and share it is my goal. It pushes me. It drives me.”
That he now has a career as a surf photographer really came down to one moment, which is where we drop into our conversation with Noyle—right before he hopped on a flight to Tahiti.
So you went off to college and left after a year. Can you explain the transition from school to photography? Did you take photography at school? No, I didn’t. The last thing on my mind was photography as a career. But I went to school and I found I was like, “Oh, the swell is up. I gotta’ go shoot the swell.” Or, “I want to go on this trip with these guys and shoot.” So I started to see college as something where… I had to pick one or the other. Luckily, my parents didn’t force me to stay in college. They said that now could be the time where I would travel and live my life, and that that could be much more valuable than college. They wanted me to learn, and grow, and do what I loved. They saw the value of travel, my dad having done that himself. That was a very lucky thing. Some other parents might have been like, “You gotta stay in college. Maybe after that you can go and play and travel.” They saw the opportunities I had been given and my abilities growing. So, I was very lucky.
When did you get your first photo published? I would say 20 or 21 maybe. It was just a local surf magazine in Hawaii, and, even at that point, I was never really even dreaming that I could get in the big surf magazines. But I just kept at it. I sent some photos off and got a great response from one photo editor. I still remember getting the call from that photo editor and just being completely blown away. Everything at that moment was just like, Whoaa. He wanted to run a bunch of my photos, wanted to help me, wanted to teach me more. He just saw the potential in me. I owe him a lot.
What photo did you send that photo editor, and what happened? It was Pipeline, and it was fisheye in the water shots. It was just something that they hadn’t seen, I guess. Just the colors I had and my position in the water. I still remember the photos and where I was and everything. It really changed my life.
What was that magazine? It was Transworld Surf, which sadly went out of business. The photo editor was Peter Taras. He would send me old skate magazines and point out portrait shots and say, “Look at the lighting in these.” He totally brought me in and got me more jobs with them.
How did you get to the point where you started traveling and shooting? Just working closely with that magazine really opened all those doors to travel. I was invited on work trips by professional surfers. The magazine started paying for trips here and there. I started paying for some out of my pocket, but it all totally came together. Once you get something in a magazine, it gives you credit in the eyes of other photographers and surfers. Surfers know that you’re capable of getting the right shots that they need, for the right exposure.
What are you looking to capture in your shots? I don’t shoot it very technical. A lot of photographers will shoot the action very tight and get that power look to it. Or they’ll look to get the wave crashing. I like to put the viewer in the photo. I want them to feel like they’re in the place that I shot it I want to give them a sense of the land, of the lighting. Something they can really identify and say, “Oh, that’s Zak’s photo.” That’s my style, I guess. I want to show them something that will make them stop on the page. There are so many photos in a magazine that if I can have even one or two per issue for Surfer, I want something that people will be surfing through the pages and then stop and go, “Whoaa.” That wow factor that puts them in that place and makes them go, “I wish I was there. I wish I felt this one.” I want to give them something they almost don’t comprehend, but the photo is there.
There are two photos that stand out to me: One is that vertical shot of that guy coming down the face of a wave— —those are some angles that aren’t easy at all to get. With the fisheye, you’re inches away from the guy’s rail as he’s coming up. You’re just ducking under. I’m watching his line of where he’s going, where he’s coming from, how the wave’s breaking. It’s a little bit of a calculation in your head to see where you can be without getting hit. Yes, you will have those accident times where he moves or you miscalculate, but luckily nothing like that has happened. You’re getting right underneath the guy’s rail and trying to give a perspective that’s not normally seen. It’s one of those things where, when you look at it, you kind of have to pull back because you think you’re going to get run over by him.
The other one is from Teahupoo, where you can see the reef and how close it is to the wave. You can see the details of the reef. I think Danny Fuller is surfing in that photo. Oh, yeah, you can see the guy ducking under as well. So there’s this special port that I’ve been using for several years now, and it’s been blowing up. It’s actually a giant film port. You’re shooting above and below the water. It’s beautiful lens for shooting small waves, flat land, and all of that stuff. But what people don’t understand is that shooting in waves like this, it is difficult because the port is so buoyant. You’re having difficulty diving under the waves. You’re getting tossed over the falls. That is one of my all-time favorite shots, because it shows a guy duck diving underneath the water, and the clarity of Tahiti is just so special that you can get that with that lens and camera.
And the reef’s right there? It is so shallow there. It kind of stays that depth, no matter how big the waves are. They come from such deep water and it’s a shallow reef. It sucks all the water, like a tsunami almost, sucking the water to build the wave—and then it breaks.
What has been your toughest shot? Pipeline. Pipeline is definitely my toughest. It’s just a dangerous wave. I have one shot in my mind and it’s very similar to the vertical one you mentioned earlier. I haven’t put it on my Web site, yet. It’s a vertical shot of Jamie O’Brien, and he’s standing up backside, which is already difficult. It’s when your back is to the wave and you’re facing land. I’m underneath him, and we’re looking out of the barrel together. It’s the greenest glow. Just the positioning of him, the way the other guys are all down the line, it’s one of the other tougher shots I’ve gotten.
What shape do you have to be in physically to do this? I treat fitness and working out as my job, because if I’m unable to swim and stay out in the surf, I’m unable to do my job. I work out everyday. I do three days of swimming in a pool, lap swimming. I’ll swim with fins so my feet are conditioned to that. Sometimes I stay out in the water for six to eight hours when it’s good, because you never know when it’s going to be good. It could be junk the next day, or three hours later. You don’t want to be exhausted, because that could increase your chances of getting hurt. I also do power yoga. It helps me to calm myself and stretch. I’ll do that once or twice a week. I’ll do the exercise bike every day for about 30 minutes, just for my cardio. I also eat healthy. My body is what helps me get my shot. If I didn’t take care of it, I wouldn’t be taking care of my equipment. It’s like taking care of my camera or my housing. It’s a tool that I rely on heavily
Describe what you are doing as an athlete when a wave is coming in. This isn’t any shore break. You’re not standing on the sand. The majority of the waves I’m shooting are over a hard reef. It’s definitely not something I take lightly. That reef break has killed people before. You can get injured in a multitude of ways. You’re constantly treading water. You’re heading out into these waves with a ten-pound camera and just fins on. There’s no board. You’re just in the water, constantly treading water, watching what the other surfers are doing, and watching the horizon to see what the next wave is doing.
And, there’s almost a pecking order for surf photography. You’re not just going to paddle to a place and go in front of the guys you don’t know, guys who have been out there before or are locals. It’s kind of just like surfing, where you wait your turn. You have to prove yourself. Having your stuff published, or being known, is really helpful. For the first few years that I shot Pipeline, I sat behind guys and never really got any good shots. I put in my dues. I don’t know if it’s still like that today, but I sat behind the other guys. I looked up to them. I knew their photography, and, little by little, they started to see my stuff. But I always respected them, and that really went a long way, and they gave me my spot to show what I could do.
Have you been injured or had any close calls? I’ve had some close calls. I wear a helmet, which is a smart thing, because the camera’s very dangerous. The reef? Photographers have passed away from hitting the reef. I’ve bounced off the reef. I wear a wetsuit, which definitely helps. I’ve had cuts in my wetsuit and ended up with a bruise, but it could have been much worse. I’ve cut up my knees and legs pretty bad from bouncing off the reef, but luckily, nothing really bad.
What usually happens that an injury occurs? It’s getting caught inside. You’ll be shooting and a bigger wave will come and you’ll be a little bit in too much. Being that we’re just swimming with fins, we can only swim so fast to get out of that area. It’s very shallow and very dangerous, to the point where, when the wave breaks, you can’t even go underneath because it’s so shallow. It’s like a truck flying into you. It can push you back maybe thirty, forty, fifty yards underwater. Once you get in it, things calm down. But if you’re in the zone where it’s breaking, it’s very dangerous. There are sharp rocks. It’s definitely not a place where you want to be on the inside, but you do get pushed and you have to swim right back out.
Do you have a favorite shot? I really love a rainbow shot, The Perfect Day. That’s not a traditional shot of mine. I used a fisheye lens, and normally I would be a lot closer. But I just saw that moment and kind of moved back to capture it. It all kind of came together. It’s one of my favorite images. It’s really calming. You see the mountains and the perfect wave and the rainbow and it’s more about the scene there, and the beauty, rather than the power of surfing. Some people would have probably shot it tight with the barrel, but it’s more about just putting the viewer there to see the beauty of being there.
It was an odd finish to an event that is as famous in the surfing world for non-stop action as it is for its music festival-like atmosphere. At about 12:30 on Sunday afternoon, the final day of the eight-day Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, Kolohe Andino and Alejo Muniz floated next to each other in the ocean on the Southside of the Huntington Beach pier. There were thirteen minutes left in their 35-minute finals’ heat, and $100,000 on the line. They each surfed seven heats to get there, knocking out one hundred twenty-two other surfers from around the world. In the twenty-two minutes that had already elapsed, the 23-year-old Muniz of Santa Catarina, Brazil, had carved his way to a solid lead, and Andino, a 19-year-old from San Clemente, needed an 8.46 out of a possible 10 points, no small task in the three-foot waves on offer. And then something strange happened: nothing. The ocean went flat for the final thirteen minutes of the contest and Muniz was crowned the 2013 U.S. Open champion.
It was strange for the simple fact that “nothing” never seems to happen at the U.S. Open. Besides Men’s, Women’s and Junior’s competitions, the event features skateboarding, BMX and multiple concerts (this year, Modest Mouse headlined). So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that, a few hours after the final, something did happen. A large fight broke out on Main Street that quickly spread through the still-swollen downtown crowd. Rioters flipped a row of portable toilets and used street signs as battering rams to shatter storefront windows. It took eight arrests and a number of hours before police in riot gear were able to use tear gas and non-lethal bullets to restore order.
Huntington Beach is no stranger to chaos at surf competitions. In 1986, during the final heat of the OP Pro, a riot erupted behind the bleachers that ended with flipped police cars on fire and a destroyed lifeguard headquarters. The event allegedly began when a woman flashed her breasts at a group of drunk men who then tried to grab her.
In the aftermath, the sale of alcohol at the event was banned and the date was changed from Labor Day weekend.
It’s hard to say why this year’s much smaller-scale rioting happened. But the sheer size of the crowds can’t have helped.
Nowhere are professional surfers closer to rock stars than each July when the U.S. Open steamrolls through town. After all, major surf events are usually held on far-flung islands like Hawaii, Tahiti, and Fiji, forcing fans to watch the online webcast or pony up a few grand in travel and expenses. But each day of the US Open, up to 150,000 sun-baked, bikinied, Red-Bull-fueled surf fans parade along the beach, snag free shwag and watch the best surfers in the world go at it in the peaky beach break waves. “This is the biggest win of my career,” said Muniz “and it’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever surfed in front of.”
It was a shame that the rioters detracted from what was otherwise a well-contested and thrilling event. On the women’s side, Hawaiian Carissa Moore, 20, beat Courtney Conlogue, 20, despite a last-minute attempt at heroics by the hometown favorite. At the buzzer, Conlogue caught a long wave that allowed her to get in a crisp series of back-hand turns. But the score wasn’t enough. “I thought Courtney won when the crowd erupted on that last wave,” said Moore. “But I’m stoked it worked out in my favor.” The win moved Moore up into the number one spot in the women’s World Title race, a trophy she last won in 2010. Hopefully in the future it will be the theatrics in the water that continue to make headlines, and not the hooligans on the streets.