Bearded Benji 


I’m sad I didn’t get a picture of the man himself but this was the North Shore at Pipeline last Saturday. This story is about a bearded haole on a wave storm without a leash whom I found to be very amusing. There were a few people on the Costco wave storms. Having one of these boards seems to detract from the street credit of a surfer based on how contemptuously other surfers talk about that one person out there on a wave storm who dropped in on them. It’s a conversation I’ve heard a lot since I’ve lived in Hawaii. There were also a few surfers without leashes who seemed to be constantly swimming back to shore to retrieve their board. 

There were a lot of people out surfing that evening. A surf competition was being held over that weekend. My friend Jon who chatted with us after he got out of the water told me there were a bunch of pros out there at the same time. There were the pros, and then there was this man who I refer to as Bearded Benji. 

Bearded Benji would catch a lot of waves with ease which was surprising because of the number of people who were out. Sometimes a wave would carry his board back to shore and he’d use it as an opportunity to bodysurf his way back in. Instead of reaching out his arm in front of him and lifting his head up to guide him like the regular body surfer, he would burry his face in the water and keep it there for the duration of his ride on the wave. I couldn’t tell what he was doing with his arms. To me, it was so far outside the norm of bodysurfing, but it worked for him. It looked strange and hilarious and amusing. When he washed ashore, he would jump out and run over to grab his board. After grabbing his board he ran down the beach until he could jump in with a receding wave to make his way back out into the surf. The bounciness in his stride and posture reflected pure enthrallment in what he was doing. Amusing. 

A beautiful surfable wave builds and builds until its highest point breaks and the rest of the wave takes its turn falling in behind it. A surfer wants to be right beside this initial breaking point as they take off so they can get a clean smooth ride in front of them with the wave breaking right behind them. If they time it right, the wave might form a barrel and the surfer gets to experience the magical moment of being inside the tube. Remember, the surfer is surfing out the tube. 

The weekend before last I went to the premiere of “The Distance Between Dreams,” a film similar to the Warren Miller Ski movie in style. Serious surfers training hard, having near death experiences, working to ride the biggest waves they can. Also, my article about a big wave professional photographer was published last week. He drowned after hitting his head on the reef. He died 12 years ago and his family just produced a documentary of his life called “Transcend.” Needless to say, I respect the ocean, especially Pipeline in December. 

Between conversations with Nelson, I looked up to see Bearded Benji charging hard on a wave…right into a barrel without even the slightest attempt to bail. I hope you can understand this. Regular people surf out of the tube. On this ride at least, Bearded Benji was surfing into it. He shot right into that tube and a moment later the wave spat his board out the top. Once again, strange and hilarious and amusing. Was he okay? Did he hit the reef? I have no idea but a few moments later, back came bodysurfing Bearded Benji to retrieve his board. 

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