The backstory on “Highline.”
We filmed Highline in what I believe was August of 2012.... Taylor Knox and I had been talking about putting together a trip for a while and finally we decided to spend two weeks down in South Africa based at Jbay. Obviously, as a 19 year old regular footer I was ecstatic. I had been to J bay one time before for a WQS event and had absolutely fallen in love with the wave and the place. Taylor had been a surfer that I had looked up to ever since I was a kid and I was so fired up to surf Jbay with him.
During this time Parker, Ryan, and I were traveling all the time together working on Youngwisetails and my wheels were churning on how sick it would be if we could all go and produce a short film around our trip to Jbay. Luckily Taylor agreed that the three of us could go and Grant Ellis of Surfer Magazine orchestrated the trip. Tanner Gudauskas also ended up jumping on board and arrived a few days after us. Taylor and his filmer Paul Daniel stayed down the point at his friend Brandon Kerzner’s house while the rest of us were in a house up the point.
I remember the first morning we were there and waking up in the dark due to the crazy jet lag and the pure excitement that was pumping through my veins. Parker, Ryan, and I walked down to the lookout at supers and watched the waves in the dawn. As it began to get light an insane Sunset erupted over the horizon and we watched some little offshore screamers run down the point. We ran back, changed, and surfed for a few hours just the two of us. It was only small, but safe to say we were in heaven. The trip just got better.
Usually when you plan a surf trip far in advance the chances of scoring waves are fairly low. Especially a wave like J bay that requires quite a bit of swell to do its thing. The forecast was lining up to absolutely pump. The first day of the swell Parker and I paddled out at supers in the dark. The waves absolutely fired all morning. We surfed until we could barely paddle anymore. I remember thinking at the time that it was one of the most fun surf sessions I’d ever had. It’s actually a little bit rare that Jbay is really good early in the morning as there is often a “devil wind” blowing up the face creating lots of small bumps on the wave. This day was perfectly clean and flawless.
After a late breakfast and a quick rest, we checked the waves again. It was mental. The south west wind had filled in grooming the wave faces to perfection and there wasn’t a drop of water out of place at super tubes. I decided it was a perfect session to try out the black beauty that channel Islands had made us for the trip.
Another backstory is required here… When ordering boards for the trip Parker had actually brought up the idea that it would be sick to bring something other than our standard shred sleds. Trav Lee of Channel Islands told me that he was going to make a “black beauty” for us to take down there. A black beauty is significant as it was the board that Al Merrick built for Tom Curren, my all time favorite surfer, during the prime of his career. At the time, I believe the board was quite ground breaking and Tom absolutely ripped on it. It is completely different than what we now ride. It was a “v bottom” vs a concave bottom and has a hard beveled edge from nose to tail… I felt an instant connection with the board when I picked it up and I, well, I sort of commandeered the board…
The first wave that I caught on the board I instantly knew it was something special. I remember taking off and stepping on the tail to take a “highline” on the wave and when I stepped back onto my front foot, the board just took off like I’d never felt a board do before. I went on to have a session that changed my surf career. The black beauty had an insane amount of speed, but it also had this really unique ball bearing feel with the V bottom allowing the board to cut through the water and roll rail to rail with ease. I felt so connected to the board and each wave I rode on it I just felt better and better and felt like I could surf with more and more creativity.
I rode one wave in particular that session that stood out. It was the biggest set wave I caught and the wave was absolutely flawless. I laid into two big frontside carves and the black beauty handled like a finely tuned race car. I remember kicking out of the wave and just laughing out loud knowing, that was a special ride. Sessions like that are the ones that I live for as a surfer and that feeling is the feeling that got me hooked on riding waves at age 4. The first turn from that wave ended up on the cover of Surfer Magazine. A huge deal for me and a goal I had had for years.
For the rest of the trip the surf continued to pump and we surfed our brains out. Swell after swell stacked upon each other. We had some epic dinners, good laughs, and a fun night or two on the town. It turned out Brandon was quite the character and he showed us a hell of a time. One night we ended up at a local bar where he let us in on a local tradition where you had to throw a whole egg in your mouth and crush the shell and yolk in your teeth before chasing it down with a shot of jaeger (I think it was yaeger). Somehow I escaped this, but a few of the boys went for it. I think Ryan even took it home to the local dive bar in Carpinteria, The Palms and introduced the hometown crew to it.
A trip of a lifetime and one I will take to my grave.