You’ve probably seen most of our dvds or the pictures in the mags, maybe even read some of the stories from surf journalist about our (Laird and I) exploits at Peahi, but I can almost guarantee that you didn’t see or hear about this one yet. I don’t have any photographic evidence to prove it but it’s burned into my memory for ever.
Approximately seven years ago Laird was on an absolute tear with his barrel riding out at Peahi, so much so that it almost seemed to his closest friends that he had a death wish, but looking back in retrospect I can now see that he very much valued his life. it was just his time to blow away the beaten path and reestablish the group consciousness of what big wave tube riding limits were. Every once and a while a talent comes along that has that ability to go beyond incredible skill, because lots of people have that, and go to a level of performance that is unencumbered by nerves or mental restriction, where for a little while in their mind absolutely anything is possible. Of course in most cases luck has nothing to do with it, those special few usually practice and out work everybody else to create their own luck. Names like Jordan, Woods, Gretzky, Slater are just a few that come to mind when you think of people with that ability to go beyond skill and pressure and play at a level that Greek gods would consider their own. I’ve been fortunate to experience a glimpse of that feeling myself with a couple of rides I’ve had but never at a consistent level like Laird.
Anyway back to the story, so on this particular day the waves were what we would call 18′ to 20′( 35 to 40′ faces). Sunny, with a few other tow teams out and a scattering of boats and skis in the channel watching. Keep in mind Laird had just ridden his famous Tahiti wave the previous summer, so his perspective was slightly askew. At this point in the day I had towed him into plenty of good waves that resulted in some beautiful tube rides but nothing outside of his normal fare. At Peahi, while driving the ski, I I usually position myself on the shoulder of the wave so that I can watch the ride and be aware of any rescue efforts that may need to be made. The problem is from that perspective the rider looks to be so deep that it doesn’t look like they will make it and even though I’ve seen him do it a hundred times I still question whether he’ll make it or not. In any case, I dropped him on the wave like I always do and let him take it from there. This wave was a solid twenty footer with a very visible bowl setting up at the boil.
Laird and I have been doing this so long together that I can tell what he’s thinking just by reading his body language while he’s turning. In the middle of his bottom turn I could just tell that he was confident, maybe a little over confident, because of his slightly relaxed posture, sort of like a matador that is a little over confident with the bull and takes one in the gut. It was a beautiful bottom turn, like only someone of total mastery of their craft could make. His eyes were keyed in on the section ahead with that look of anticipation, like a lion about to devour lamb. As he pulled himself up under the lip and he got the rail set into the face so that he could relax just for a moment and bathe in the glory of his calculations we made eye contact for a split second. I could see the joy and satisfaction on his face from being and doing exactly what he was meant to do. Perhaps he enjoyed it for a split second to long because in his casualness amongst the chaos, he allowed himself to start getting sucked up the face. As I watched very intently I never saw for a split second any look of concern. He just went with it, he didn’t try to correct as most of us would, he didn’t panic, he just allowed himself to get pulled up the face with the same relaxed demeanor he always rides with.
Keep in mind now that I’m the only one out there that can see all of this transpire because he’s to far back in the barrel for anybody else to see what he’s doing. Just at the moment I was about to go into rescue mode he pulled the rabbit out of his hat, at the moment that he was about to be pitched over the falls he jumps out of the face of the wave, free falls about fifteen feet with his wings spread wide in usual Laird style , lands just inside of where the lip is unloading it’s bone crushing load of liquid death, and goes right into a bottom turn to project himself forward. Within two seconds of certain annihilation he came surfing out of this tube like it was a walk in the park. I was completely dumbfounded not believing what I just saw. We just looked at each other and started to laugh. Just like in the Charlie Daniels song where he challenges the devil for a fiddle of gold, Laird kicked out of that wave with his gold fiddle in hand and I was the only one that saw it.
After being out at Peahi for the last eighteen years, I’ve seen the best rides, the heaviest wipeouts, the craziest rescues and just about every other amazing thing that’s ever happened out there, but I have never seen anyone but Laird do that before or since for that matter. Laird and I are good friends, so as a friend it’s my job to deflate his ego now and again to keep him balanced, even on his Tahiti wave all he really had to do was stand there and not screw it up (just doing my duty as a friend), but with this wave , he rose to a level that only the sports god’s get to play at. I’m just stoked I was there to see it.