SHOREPOUND

hawaii wakeboarding
SHOREPOUNDBryan Soderlind

"The North Shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu is just over 2,400 miles from the West Coast of North America. The ocean floor rises 5 miles to what people call the Seven Mile Miracle …" John C. Reilly's sonorous voice drifted across the living room of our beach house as the opening segment of John John Florence's masterpiece film View from a Blue Moon played from one of several silver MacBooks sitting on the table. Salt air and coffee were the mingled morning scents at our V-Land perch when the sun started to peek over the Paumalu cliffs. Brian Grubb checked the swell reports while Parks Bonifay made sure all the GoPros and drones were charged. This was our second annual trip to the North Shore together, on top of different journeys we'd made out here on our own. It's easy to want to attribute the draw here to something as simple as world-class surf, unbelievably beautiful landscapes, or the carefree lifestyle that comes with immersing yourself in true paradise, but none of these come close to capturing the true magic of Hawaii. For that job, we all agreed we should enlist the skills of Bryan "Golden Bear" Soderlind.

hawaii wakeboarding
SHOREPOUNDBryan Soderlind

Calling Bear a photographer would be as base and callous as calling Hunter S. Thompson a journalist; he's as much a part of the story as he is the one telling it through his craft. Bear indulges in every opportunity to fully experience and capture the moments he finds himself in, and we all knew he would take to the Spirit of Aloha with a fiery joy, finger on the trigger. Rounding out our crew was California skimboard/wakesurf maestro Austin Keen. Before they arrived, we had a few days to scout spots to wakeskate and surf a bit, and when it got really big, we were invited over to Jamie O'Brien's back porch to watch the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout with the boys. We'd been surfing daily, but now that the waves looked more like two-story buildings vortexing over the shallow reef, we were content to stoke out from the porch and hoot our boys into the gaping blue pits rolling in.

hawaii wakeboarding
SHOREPOUNDBryan Soderlind

Growing up on the sleepy Gulf coast of Florida, surf days were a rare but heavily celebrated event when all my little beach-rat friends and I would pull out our boards caked with dirty wax, run into the emerald-green water, and playfully jostle over little waist-high reelers. It was my original connection to board riding and, to this day, remains a driving force of what keeps me stoked and inspired on the water. There are still dozens of stray staples stuck in the walls of my childhood bedroom, remnants of the countless ripped-out pages from Surfer magazine and WBM that coated every square inch in a near-psychotic display of obsessive love for all to see. This ­hybrid surf/wake nostalgia was bubbling beneath the surface as I tried to imagine just how 13-year-old me would react to seeing 27-year-old me sitting on Jamie O'Brien's porch with Parks and Grubb, calmly watching Bruce Irons thread massive barrels at Pipeline. It's safe to say I would've had an aneurysm. When it was time to go, Jamie sent us off with one of his winches, which he often uses in his Web series "Who is J.O.B.?" to whip him and his friends into all kinds of ridiculousness. For our crew, the idea of using the winch to pull each other into perfect barreling waves on our wakeskates and wakeboards was the one idea that made this trip impossible to stop talking about when it came time to make plans.

hawaii wakeboarding
SHOREPOUNDBryan Soderlind

When Bear and Austin finally arrived and got settled, we were still doing a bit of mechanics on the salty old winch, but with our combined winch-fixing experience and some help from a skim girl Austin met on the beach, we eventually learned all of her kinks and got her purring at last. We all agreed that our best chance of scoring was the strangely named Keiki Beach. Keiki means children in Hawaiian, but the beach is known for some of the heaviest shorepound in the world — somewhere you'd never want to take the kids. Local surfer Barron Mamiya calls it a good place to break your board and your neck. Shorepound is a special kind of surf where the waves break super close to shore, sometimes even unloading straight onto the sand itself. Keiki has become best known in the last few years as photographer Clark Little's playground, where most of his jaw-dropping images featuring thick blue caverns are taken. Just like any new spot, winching here took some dialing in, but Keiki threw new circumstances at us too: duck-diving under bombs on the swim out, timing the sets to get the best wave, and then deciding whether to carve it up, boost an air or pull into the barrel.

hawaii wakeboarding
SHOREPOUNDBryan Soderlind

I grew up beach winching in knee-high to waist-high nuggets, but out here on this volcanic rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we were on another dimension of fluid mechanics. Once we got our flow, we were pulling each other into barrels big enough to stand tall in, with enough power to throw all the water under your feet over your head in a split second before detonating on the beach with a roaring crash and a momentary gust of misty, squalling winds. Pulling in was equal parts fun and terrifying, knowing that getting the best tunnel vision also meant taking a thorough beating. Parks emboldened us all with his fearless approach and sharp rail work in the pocket. Grubb kept warping my perception of reality by casually applying regular wakeskate tricks to irregular and often critical parts of these thumping waves. And I lost myself in the ecstasy of blurring that very same boundary in my own fashion — ­especially in the beautiful absurdity of pig-dogging backside barrels on my 38.5-inch wakeskate. Then Austin showed us why shorepound truly belongs to the skimmers and blew our minds with his skills.

hawaii wakeboarding
SHOREPOUNDBryan Soderlind

At day's end, we all walked away from Keiki with reef scrapes, grip burns, bruised ribs, burned skin, and sand in every crevice, but, more importantly, huge smiles and some of the coolest wake imagery I've ever seen in my life. After a couple of magic days of winching at Keiki, the swell maxed out again, leading us to pursue other adventures. Hiking ridge trails above Pupukea, eating salad at Joel Tudor's perch, and enjoying açaí bowls with some beautiful wahine on the beach ­watching Pipe barrel, I'm inclined to say life doesn't get much better for an island boy. When it was time to "get back to work," we found a neglected section of guardrail to make an incline rail for our last day on the North Shore. The river mouth at Waimea Bay was full, and the sandbars gave us a beautiful point to set up our temporary jib. It felt suddenly strange not to have big waves chasing after us every go.

hawaii wakeboarding
SHOREPOUNDBryan Soderlind

We washed it all down with a fun evening swim, but nothing could quell the impending sense of finality that came with watching the sun go down. It was greedy of me, but all I wanted was a couple more weeks of doing exactly this: poke bowls, beach fires, long days winching in the waves, salt-encrusted portraits, footy parties, bluewater surf sessions, riding in the back of a pickup truck down Ke Nui Road, and jamming out to the endless symphony of waves crashing all around me. This little North Shore adventure among friends and titans was the epitome of the life I want to live, and no amount of words could ever convey the gratitude I feel at being able to do so. Aloha and mahalo nui loa!

hawaii wakeboarding
SHOREPOUNDBryan Soderlind

EDITOR'S NOTE

For years, we at ­Wakeboarding have taken a strong stance on promoting proper ­life-jacket usage in the sport — to the point where we don't run ­photography featuring riders without them. It's why you see the "Vest ­Verified" tag throughout each issue. For this ­story, though, life jackets weren't used, and that is because it actually would have been more dangerous for the athletes to do so. The North Shore lifeguards and water patrol (some of the best in the world) who were on hand helping the riders advised against wearing them when riding in the shorepound. In that kind of water with that kind of force and riptides, it is safer to be more mobile and agile because you often need to duck-dive and swim under the waves. Whatever situation you are riding in, please always be safe. More often than not, you should always wear a life jacket.

hawaii wakeboarding
SHOREPOUNDBryan Soderlind