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A North Shore Thing

Don’t bother reading this issue just buy a ticket and find out for yourself.

The North Shore looms large in the imaginations of surfers who have never been there but truth be told it’s just a small town where everyone seems connected to surfing in some way. A day before writing this I went to get my hair trimmed in Haleiwa, the cosy, pseudo-bohemian village that sits on the western fringe of the North Shore.

‘Kenny’s’ was a typical, old-school barber shop with a rickety ceiling fan, a dog-eared calendar on the wall and a single leather chair. Kenny’s only luxury was a small, flatscreen TV that let him keep an eye on the NFL games while he was adding the finishing touches to the Beckham quiffs.

While the clippers gently hummed through my now standard all over number one cut, Kenny and I got talking. “I cut Kelly Slater’s hair before you know,” offered Kenny in his slightly camp, Hawaiian Chinese twang. Apparently Kenny’s professional encounter with Kelly had taken place back in the era when Kelly had a full head of hair and maybe only a handful of world titles. “I didn’t even know it was Kelly Slater,” explains Kenny. “I just cut his hair and that was it … then a while later three Japanese surfers came in with a magazine and pointed to a photo and said they wanted Kelly Slater cuts. That’s when I tweaked that it had been Kelly Slater in my barber’s chair.”

As I stared at my all over buzz cut in the mirror I couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact I wasn’t far off the modern Kelly cut.

Encounters like this are inescapable on The North Shore. While watching the drama unfold at the Pipe Masters, I bumped into a friend from back home. Struggling to suppress the excitement, he explained how he’d wound up talking to Larry Bertlemann. Bertlemann was telling my friend how he had revolutionised the way surfers approached a wave. Now if almost anyone else was telling you this you might be inclined to call bullshit, but this was Larry Bertlemann – the man who won a can of spam in the first contest he ever entered. If he wanted to brag about changing the course of surfing while watching groms on million dollar contracts then he seemed entitled to a little claiming.

Just before flipping the lid on the lap top I was surfing Rocky Point where right on dark Jack Johnson paddled out in front of his place and slid effortlessly into a couple of glassy barrels. Meanwhile, a hundred yards down at Pupukea Kelly was doing his usual on dusk paddle out. I know this because my girlfriend couldn’t help but hustle him for a selfie as he slunk down the beach in the half-light.

The point is that there is no place in the world that eats, sleeps and breathes surfing like the North Shore. The waves might get really heavy, the locals can be intimidating and you sure as hell can’t get a decent cup of coffee, but it’s undeniably a surfing reality worth experiencing for yourself.

– Luke Kennedy

 

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