Maui Surfer Billy Kemper Takes Home His Fourth Win at Jaws

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Maui Surfer Billy Kemper Takes Home His Fourth Win at Jaws


This text initially appeared on Surfer.com and was republished with permission.

You knew {that a} WSL Huge Wave occasion was about to be underway when the published workforce began utilizing phrases like “dedication,” “bravery,” and “Herculean” to explain the what we have been about to witness. The WSL has by no means shied away from hyperbole, however in terms of Jaws, you kinda can’t blame ‘em. Phrases actually do fail to convey the ability, the drama, the gravity of the entire scene when the circumstances align on a 30-foot day, and possibly WSL commentary clichés are literally as shut as we will get.

Over the previous few years, the Jaws occasion has basically develop into a sort of horrifying XXL tube shootout, with the expectation that opponents should thread train-tunnel-sized barrels in the event that they need to advance—or no less than go down making an attempt. It’s a heavy proposition, and it was clear within the first warmth that not everybody had the abdomen for it on Thursday.

Within the first warmth of the day, Australia’s Russell Bierke appeared greater than eager, almost getting a haircut by a 60,000-gallon guillotine as he backside become the cavern. Anybody who noticed his current edit “Stream State” is aware of that Bierke has is a grasp of the darkish artwork of heavy water browsing, however he appeared to have notably unholy power this morning. Lots of his mates name him The Day Walker—a reference to a “South Park” episode the place Cartman posits redheads don’t have any soul—and his barrel journey was scored an 8.33. With highest scores being doubled, the wave ended up a 16.66, kind of the variety of the beast. Someplace on the cliff above Jaws, the stereo in a lifted Tacoma spontaneously turned on and began enjoying Slayer. Most likely.

jaws contest
Day Walker Russell Bierke, unintimidated be hellacious Jaws. Photograph: Cait Miers/WSL by way of Getty Photos/SURFER Journal

Whereas Bierke’s opener was definitely the wave of the warmth, it was first-time Jaws competitor Eli Olson who would declare the warmth win. Olson has lengthy been seen as one of the vital fearless chargers out at Pipeline on any given day, however this yr he’s been steadily including to his listing of heavy water bona fides. It was his monster wave at Outdoors Log Cabins final season that allegedly tipped the scales and bought him an invitation to this occasion, and clearly Olson was going to make good use of the chance. One large pocket journey adopted by a tube that noticed him engulfed in a “carwash” of spray was greater than sufficient to place him within the lead and maintain him there.

Warmth 2 was a comparatively gradual affair, nevertheless it supplied a partial reply to the query that everybody got here into this contest with. Final yr, Maui charger and social media provocateur Albee Layer sparked a debate over the scoring of the occasion after surfers like Grant “Twiggy” Baker and Billy Kemper earned greater marks for pulling into dramatic closeouts than others bought for finishing rides. One may make for a extra gripping broadcast, positive, however does it really reveal higher browsing? And may the WSL be incentivizing individuals to take greater, dumber dangers by packing terrifying, unmakeable waves? Kai Lenny could have suffered probably the most from these judging calls within the remaining final yr, however he benefited in his first warmth this morning, successful with a single closeout tube journey. To be truthful, the judges didn’t go wherever close to the wonderful vary with it, however they nonetheless deemed it higher than accomplished rides in the identical warmth.

Sooner or later within the morning, Kaipo Guerrero and Pete Mel welcomed Tour commissioner Pat O’Connell to the sales space, who was positively beaming concerning the WSL’s good luck with the circumstances. “We’ve actually outdone ourselves,” he advised the gang. Hmmm. Though I’m positive there’s lots that goes into placing on an elite browsing occasion, except it’s being held at Kelly’s pool, I’m not so positive that the WSL can take credit score for the standard of the surf.

Mom Nature could have been listening. The trades shortly kicked into full pressure and the beforehand easy entries into the bowl have been changed by large liquid moguls sending opponents airborne on almost each takeoff. The wind at Jaws definitely has a method of sorting the sector, rising the concern felt in that remaining second earlier than attending to your ft, making the wave of the day and a possible brutal wipeout look nearly indistinguishable from the purpose of entry. Lucas Chumbo didn’t appear to thoughts a lot, and even advised Dave Wassel that he prefers air drops in his post-heat interview. That is likely to be learn as a bizarre type of flex, however his penchant for mid-face ollies on blustery partitions made it really feel fairly honest.

It’s at all times a special sort of commentary at Jaws. There’s one thing somewhat extra house cooked about the entire thing. Rather less of the standard WSL sheen. You’ve bought Enjoyable Uncle Dave Kalama within the sales space, for one, who sounds extra like he’s bought a beer in his hand at a yard barbecue than on a globally streamed webcast—and that’s factor. He dropped some informal historical past concerning the wave’s many earlier names, together with “The Atom Blaster”, and made positive to let viewers know that “Albee Layer’s Instagram sport is absolutely tight.” For his half, Dave Wassel was dropping “Star Wars” references and calling Ian Walsh “The Oprah of browsing.” It wasn’t at all times easy, however the crew sounded relaxed, like they have been having enjoyable—like actual human surfers, principally, which is weirdly not at all times the case with WSL occasions.

One awkward second within the webcast got here through the girls’s first semi, after Felicity Palmateer charged down the face of a wave and rocked as much as the ski afterward seeming unable to deflate her vest. She spent a number of minutes struggling out of her busted vest and right into a working one, however with a scarcity of motion within the water, the published workforce stored the cameras on her altering for a really uncomfortable period of time. I by no means thought I’d say this, however is there a large shot of a bunch of bobbing surfers that we will throw to?

On one other set, Palmateer wrangled her massive pink gun within the wind and held on lengthy sufficient to lock in a backup and keep in first place. It was a troublesome pair of semis for the ladies, with winds raging and airdrops just about assured. Not everybody had the abdomen for it, however Keala Kennelly, Emi Erickson and younger native Annie Reichard all hucked themselves over that nauseating ledge, whether or not that meant a clear line down the face or drifting sideways within the breeze towards annihilation. Both method they discovered themselves on the appropriate aspect of the ultimate cutoff.

Billy Kemper provided few phrases in his post-heat interview with Dave Wassel after his semi. He appeared impatient, eyes like laser sights locked onto the waves whereas he bobbed within the boat, mentally sticking airdrops and threading barrels from the channel. He’d have to attend a number of hours to get again on the market, however as soon as he did, he didn’t waste a lot time manifesting in actuality the browsing he’d been doing in his head. He set the tone for the ultimate by scratching right into a jaw-dropping wall, his board chattering down the wind-torn face earlier than backside turning to arrange one of many greatest tubes of the occasion for a 7.83.

When you may make a case for any one of many Maui boys—be it Kemper, Ian Walsh, Kai Lenny or Albee Layer (who was sadly badly concussed throughout a horrific wipeout in his first warmth and was unable to proceed browsing)—being the most effective surfer on the wave on any given swell, Kemper is singularly expert in terms of really competing on the place—his three Jaws trophies say as a lot. Which is why Kemper appeared like he most likely had this factor chilly earlier than he even paddled out, there have been only a few hours of browsing for him to get by way of first. His opening barrel within the remaining confirmed it, and his backup rating made it official.

That’s to not say the others went down with no struggle. Walsh stroked into some mountainous waves, Nathan Florence double-arm dragged within the pocket of a hulking wall and Lenny laid into some honest-to-god face carves on a number of ungodly giant waves. However the day was Kemper’s, simply because it was at all times going to be. It’s sort of beginning to really feel just like the Jaws occasion is definitely only a contest for second place.

3x Jaws Champion and Maui native, Paige Alms. Photograph: Keoki Saguibo/WSL by way of Getty Photos/SURFER Journal

The ladies’s remaining wrapped up the day, through which Paige Alms continued her personal dominant streak. She caught only one wave within the remaining, and whereas technically an incomplete journey, it was an even bigger set, she made it to the underside and earned a 6.17 from the judges within the course of. There was a valiant effort to catch her by Reichard, who’s trying very very similar to the longer term face of girls’s browsing at Jaws, however that’s for an additional yr. Thursday marked three Jaws wins for Alms, whose trophy cupboard is beginning to look lots like Kemper’s.


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