Our first day here in Rapa Nui got off to a rough start. Mostly, because we were fighting the effects of serious jet lag and an acute hangover. Being that it took us over 30 hours to get to this isolated speck of volcanic rock, we felt that we had earned the right to celebrate. So, after we drank our way through our third 12-pack of Escudos we tapped into Marcus’ duty free stash, a jumbo bottle of Vodka that was intended to last him the duration of the trip. It didn’t make it through half of the first night.
Safe to say we were hammered drunk. And, in the process we scared the shit out of the two German foreign exchange students that are staying at the same guesthouse.
While completely inebriated, Freddy P, Marcus Hickman, Jesse Merle Jones, and Sean Moody decided to have an intense debate over who is more Hawaiian. Keep in mind, none of them have any Hawaiian blood and they are all as Haole as Nordic elfin. Yet, they decided to shout it out over their respective Hawaiianess based on the locations of their births. As it turns out, Merle and Moody, who are both as white as paper, were actually born in the islands. Meanwhile, Marcus and Freddy P, the two who could easily be mistaken as natives were born on the Mainland.
News Flash, North Shore super local Marcus Hickman and “Hawaiian” WCT Veteran Freddy P ARE BOTH HAOLE! Merle and Moody in their twisted drunken logic somehow felt they won the argument. And, you can only imagine the heckling that ensued. So, I’m sure our new friends, Zee Germans, after witnessing this debacle are going to return to Deutschland spreading the word that everyone from Hawaii is completely out of their minds.
Anyway, we we’re all a bit groggy on our first morning. But, we rallied and got ourselves a sick little rental 4×4 truck and we we’re off to explore the island. In the weeks leading to the trip, we had all been scouring the internet for information about the waves in Rapa Nui, trying to calculate the swell forecast with the limited information we found. Even though it was an educated guess at best, we were all in agreement that it looked like it was going to be pretty small the first day here. So, you can imagine our surprise when we drove to the southern side of the island and saw perfectly groomed corduroy lines and offshore plumes peppering the coast. The entire length of coastline that was pulling in the south swell was approximately the same length as the North Shore and amazingly there wasn’t another soul around. There wasn’t a single person surfing, there wasn’t anyone else checking the waves, there wasn’t anyone, anywhere.
We drove the length of the coast trying to get a feel for this new terrain. And, one of the first things we noticed is that even with a solid five feet of groundswell running, it looked as though the majority of the spots were just beginning to break. We all looked at each other with a nervous curiosity, and collectively asked, “Just how big does it need to be to break here?”
On our first pass of the coastline, we missed a little dirt turn-off. We took the unknown road, and as we crept over the hill our eyes became entranced by the six-foot right unloading in the distance. Could it be true? The last place we find just happens to be the diamond in the rough. This tucked away corner of the coast was pulling in every ounce of the swell. While the other breaks were burgering out, this right slab was jacking up and double in size.
However, on closer inspection, what seemed to be a blessing from the gods looked to be a cursed death trap from hell. For starters, the slab-right peeled over razor sharp sea-urchin reef that rapidly became exposed as the wave thundered in. And, there were occasional closeouts ready to slingshot you over the death-reef. Secondly, there was no plausible way to enter or exit the water in the near vicinity. Any right-minded person would have written the wave off as a mirage but Marcus, Freddy P, and Moody were fired up and gave it a go. Merle who hasn’t surfed in a month due to an ankle injury decided to sit this one out. It probably wouldn’t have been a good idea to have his first surf back in a death-slab right.
After negotiating the craggy coastline for nearly a half-hour, Freddy P and Marcus were able to sneak out. Meanwhile, Moody lagged in getting his board ready found himself on his own at the shore’s edge searching for an entrance.
Freddy P and Marcus soon found that the waves were a lot bigger and heavier than they first thought. They caught a handful of waves, Marcus got a pretty good barrel, and that was all they were willing to risk. They were quickly out of there before Moody was able to find a way in.
“Ho, like grind?” Photo: Noyle/SPL
We we’re all a bit overwhelmed by the maiden session. It was only halfway into our first day and Freddy P and Marcus’ hearts were already racing at a maximum. And, it was supposed to get bigger in the afternoon.
We regrouped, and watched the right detonate on the shelf for another half-hour and it became clear that the swell had definitely picked up. With the jump in swell, we had a feeling that the spots that weren’t quite working in the morning were probably firing. We headed back down the road and had our first encounter with other surfers on the island. We bumped into a jeep full of locals, who couldn’t have been nicer, and they had us follow them to their “Pipeline.”
Upon pulling up, we saw a solid eight-foot left lurch up and swallow itself in its own spit a 150 yards offshore.
Marcus, without a second of hesitation, was suited up and out there. Moody, who was shortchanged a session in the morning was quick to follow. Freddy P and Merle sat on the bench, as they both were seriously under-gunned. Not much of an excuse, considering the only local who did paddle out was on a 6?0?.
Marcus who has an uncanny ability in waves of consequence was able to get a few rides under his belt in no time. But, he was clearly frustrated as the barrel eluded him on all his waves. He told Moody they needed to be sitting deeper. As they repositioned themselves, a 10-foot set rolled in and had them scratching for safety on the right. This set had more waves in it than any other we’d seen all day. Marcus sprinted into position, swung around, and took an impossible drop on the fifth wave. Marcus’ split-second bravado proved to be disastrous. He hoped to put himself deep enough to find one of the caverns on offer, but, instead found himself straightening out trying to outrun a triple-overhead closeout Niagara Falls lookalike.
Marcus, the seasoned waterman that he is, later admitted that he was counting the sets. He figured, by taking off on the fifth wave of the set he wouldn’t run the risk of getting caught inside if he fell. As luck would have it, this set had 10 waves in it. After being absolutely steamrolled on the wave he took off on, Marcus was battered by five triple-overhead bombs. Each set pushed him in ever closer to disaster. Straight in from the peak was a little cove surrounded by 20-foot cliffs of razor sharp lava. At this point, the cove became a boiling cauldron of whitewater. Marcus was trapped with no relief in sight. We all watched from the cliffs, stunned in a helpless stupor. Our friend was a few waves away from being obliterated on the rocks and there was nothing we could do.
The set finally subsided and Marcus darted for the sanctuary of the channel. Once on the safety of land, Marcus admitted he would have been up shit creek if there were a couple of more waves in the set. Spent from an adrenaline filled first day, we made our way back to town and rejoiced that the forecast calls for a couple of days of smaller surf. So the boys will have a chance to regain their bearings and be firing on all cylinders by the time the next swell rolls in.
There was high drama on day one of the Rapa Nui Assault. We nearly lost a soldier but we’re plugging along. So, stay tuned to see what happens next.—Andrew Oliver