Pikers Gamble

By  Nick Brbot @nickbrbot
All Photos by Keeland Tracy @keelandtracy

So much anticipation and days of swell checking means the forecast looks ideal. The fins, handplane, budgies and towel are packed into a bag. With a last check of the swell forecast to settle the nerves, the lights are switched off, and some rest is sought.

The 0430 alarm goes off, but I’ve already been awake, so much excitement meant I couldn’t sleep. With a final check of the live wave and wind conditions the message is sent out to the crew.



In need of sustenance for the day, a couple of bananas, a water bottle and some RedBull are grabbed from the kitchen for the drive. The roadtrip begins. From all corners of Sydney the boys drive to get to Pikers Hole before first light. For me, the dark morning trip to the place where I grew up is filled with anticipation and questions. Is the swell big enough? Is it too big? Are the winds right? Is the tide right? Bodysurfing a place like this you need to have all weather conditions in your favor otherwise it is a recipe for a broken neck.


As we make our way into the national park, with the deep throaty sounds of the swell crashing on the rocks in the distance, the cockatoos and kookaburras lighten the mood and swell the heart with their morning sings. Rounding the hill and into the car park, and there it is.

Pikers Hole.

Car by car the crew arrive hastily, Peter Sperling (@peter.sperling), Rikki Gibley (@wawhandplanes), Russel Pollard (@bornwithgills), Dan Carr (@captain_kookman), Vic Ivec (@whomp_dog) and Keeland Tracy (@keelandtracy). The initial signs are great, the thunderous sounds of waves crashing against the cliffs and the light offshore winds giving us a false sense of security about surface conditions. By now there is a touch of light in the sky and a bomb rolls through. More than enough to excite the bodysurfer inside.

Everyone suits up, a few stretches are performed and then a rock hop down to the entry. Timing is crucial. An error here can be an early and abrupt end to the morning session. The right wave is eyed off, followed by an entry as the water drains back off the cliff.

The chill of the water immediately wakes you up. But the swim out to the take-off zone through the channel is enough to get the blood flowing. A bump on the horizon presents itself. As it hits the shallow rock ledge this bump triples in size, it is no longer a bump but a mountainous wall of water. You kick as hard as you can onto the face of the wave, a large initial drop that makes it feel like you’re flying, followed by a huge push along the face. The roaring sound of the wave crashing down over you, coupled with the view of the oncoming cliff and rock ledge definitely gets the adrenaline going, those chills from the jump in a distant memory.


The wave starts throwing over you. Enjoy this moment while it lasts. If you’re in luck, the next 10-20 seconds will consist of you being washing machined into the shallow reef with a collection of cuts and bruises to take home with you.

Sometimes the wave will let you out but most of the time it won’t.

This is the gamble of Pikers Hole.   

Analog Bodysurf: Mackenzie Yoshida

In the second installment of our series about film photography, we feature Mackenzie Yoshida (@WheelTurner) from Oahu, Hawaii.

Camera: Nikonos V Film: Lomochrome Turquoise

Mackenzie says: I used to shoot a bunch of film but got into digital about 10 years ago. I realized digital gear was only getting better and more expensive by the year. I couldn’t keep up!

When I jumped back to film I was able to go for cameras I knew have been around, shoot well and are tried and true. I also love the look and color film can capture. I’m constantly shooting different film and getting different results from each one with zero edits. Its a great feeling!

Surf film photography is my favorite because you  wait the whole wave for one shot. It teaches you a lot about the ocean and wave riding.

As far as developing on my own, it’s been years since I have. But i have friends working at our local lab, Rainbow Photo and love to support them.

Rider: Steve Kapela Camera: Nikonos V Film: Superia X-TRA 400.
Camera: Nikonos V Film: HP5 400
Camera: Nikonos V Film: Kodak MAX 400
Camera: Nikonos III Film: Superia X-TRA 400
Camera: Canon EOS620 Film: Superia X-TRA 400
Rider: Erik Sato Camera: Nikonos V Film: HP5 400.
Camera: Canon EOS620 Film: HP5
Camera: Nikonos V Film: Superia X-TRA 400
Rider: Kealii Punley Camera: Canon A1 Film: Kodak MAX 400
Rider Sean Enoka Camera: Canon A1 Film: Superia X-TRA 400
Camera: Canon A1 Film: Kodak MAX 400

Tripping Fins: Canada

By Skye Walker

A year ago my buddy Lew and I had a trip planned to Canada in October. But a huge storm came through and wiped out our dreams of a getaway into the land of trees, bears and salmon… so we had to hit the delay button. So this year we decided to go a month earlier and hit Tofino in the second week of September. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

waterplaneNow, this isn’t an easy place to get to. You need to get to Vancouver, take a two hour ferry ride to Vancouver Island, then it’s a 3.5 hour drive to the north of the island. But it’s well worth it if you score. I’m not saying we scored. But we did.

We camped the whole time, and luckily we had a massive tarp over our tents and campfire, because it rained the first night. And we thought it might stay that way but the skies cleared and we didn’t see a cloud for 4 days. The weather was a balmy 75 degrees and the water felt like a chilly day in California. We only wore our 4/3 wetsuit and booties and left our hoods and gloves in the truck.

packed-truckNow I have to preface here, this was a surf trip. Boards in tow and that was the focus. But I knew there was a potential for bodysurfing, but my booties made it impossible to get my fins on. So I borrowed some XXL Duck Feet from my boy Kyle that were built like tanks, but they fit and so into my bag they went.

Our first day of surfing was late in the day, sun was setting and sets were rolling into a fun cove and as the tide got higher, the inside started to turn on. Bodysurfing was on my brain. But I was bound to my board. The car was a real hike away so I opted to stay out and surf. But my eyes were bugging out at some of the high tide draining barrels that came through. I thought I’d come back to this spot the next day and get some tube time but the winds turned the rest of the trip and this spot didn’t work again. That’s ok, other spots did.

inletIn the water there, mini islands, trees wrapped around you and rocks flowed into the sea. It’s like the coastline is hugging you and welcoming you to it’s coves and shores. It was a cozy feeling as opposed to being way off shore and wondering if you were going to drift to Alaska never to be seen again.

We took it easy on day two and had a rad camp brekky, then set out to scope the scene and find some waves. The tide was shifting and the winds weren’t good for a few spots, so we drove around and got some beta from a local guy (Canadians are the nicest people I’ve ever met!) and he told us about an early afternoon spot that was going to turn on. And it did. We scored a three hour session that was, for lack of a better word, dreamy. It was glassy, hot and the green-lit waves kept coming. And as the tide dropped, the inside got even more hollow. Again, my eyes were bugging out! But the fins were 1/2 mile away in the truck… and we were scoring… so I didn’t get them. But I knew I’d bring them the next day. Our local buddy, who we kept running into, was freaking out during our session and he kept saying we were scoring the best waves of the summer. We were already stoked, but that just reinforced our stoke meter. And seeing the joy on his face catching waves knowing that winter doesn’t always look like this, was priceless.gopro-wave-1

We were toast after our session. We crushed epic burritos from the local taco truck called Tacofino and while we had all intentions of a sunset glass-off session, it didn’t happen. The waves stopped being what they had been earlier. But we knew the next day would be fun again. Kicking our feet up in front of a campfire talking about the waves we’d ridden and adventures both past and present while stuffing our faces with s’mores was a welcome end to an already perfect day. It’s the simple things in life that make it worth living and we were being reminded of that constantly. With the phones in the off position, we were able to focus on what were doing and enjoying vs. being bombarded by work, social media or other distractions. We like this tempo a lot.wave-1

Tofino is a super rad town, with surf shops, coffee shops and local fare mixed in with a fishing culture. Not to mention epic views, lush trees and landscapes and really sweet people. Tons of campers were there to surf. And lots of beginners as well. The beaches are big and sweeping, with a lot of mellow inside waves. Even the biggest day wasn’t super heavy, 8-10ft but really playful. It’d be easy to get lost up there for a few months.

wave-tofino-sketchDay three was a repeat of day two… just a tad smaller on the waves. But we scored the same spot on the dropping tide and we were grinning ear to ear the whole time. But this time, I brought the fins to the beach. I slipped those tanks over my feet and swam out to the line-up and the few guys that were out were looking at me like I was crazy. But I swam into a few back-lit gems. The fins were very cumbersome due to the booties and the stiffness of the fins. If I’d known, I would’ve just brought my trusty Viper V5 Flex fins and not worn booties. But I was glad to have these on my feet and sliding into a few low tide drainers. And next time, body surfing will be my focus. There are so many coves and spots that, on the ride tide and wind, would light up. According to the local guy we hung out with a bit, there is no body surfing culture there. Easy to see why, your a small fish in a big pond… but I think the risk is worth the reward.

Nothing more regenerating than a trip with a best friend to a new place that graced us with epic beauty and incredibly fun waves. And to find new places with amazing body surf potential just adds to the excitement.
I know I can’t wait to go back to that island and camp, explore and of course… bodysurf.


Dawn Sunday

By Drew Green

It is dawn on a Sunday. The cold, metal railing seems to the draw the line between wild and civilized, dividing groomed, green grass from unkempt and restless waters. Up above, seagulls hasten to make their morning dives, squawking in their pursuit of crabs and fish, hoping to snag something fresh before the sun rises. As they break the glasslike surface of the water, a new world is briefly revealed to them, as much separate from as it is tied to their own. A sea lion glides past, curious of the feathered disturbance to its breakfast routine. The beast flies effortlessly through the obsidian murk, dipping and diving, reveling in the occasional catch. Once the fish is caught, the creature flicks it into the air, as if playing a game of aquatic basketball. The animal’s play inspires a nearby photographer to… “CLICK” The shutter of a Canon 5D slams down, and this moment is freed from the fleeting nature of time.

They never stay on the bluff for long, the photographers. The frigid offshore wind shoos them and their beanies along the path and eventually back to the refuge of their cars. As the photographer pulls out, his space is taken by a red VW van.. The owner knows the icy water is warmer than the air around him. A neoprene-clad foot steps out from behind the scarlet door, across the manicured grass, and past the railing; casually leaving the uniform parking spaces, grid-paper grass, and engineered symmetry of the apartment building behind it. The man steps down the jagged Torrey sandstone, and sits down on the damp, worn ledge that has been the seat of many a patient water-goer. With fins on, he casts off as water rushes up onto the thawing rocks around him.img_0822

Rocks that have been here for eons. Sometimes the rocks are friendly. Most times they are not. Occasionally they shift and clamor with excitement, when the waves get too big. Today the rocks just wait, immersed in the constant energy of the surf. Energy that has travelled long and far to deliver its fatal blow on this ragged coastline. All of the members of the morning cast feel it. The sea lion is lifted from its hiding place in the kelp, the gulls evacuate their roost on the once-calm surface, the man dives deep into the blue. While submerged, he pauses to look back through the vertical pane of water as it stands up on the reef. He sees the distorted form of the apartment building, complemented by a row of crooked parking spaces, a furry swath of green grass, and a twisted, gray railing.img_0833

WBC Weekend

Oceanside Pier- Saturday Aug. 20th 6am:
Local buoys read 6ft. at 16 seconds from the SSW.  The beach on both sides of the Pier quickly filled with tents and bodysurf fins as an international contingent prepared to kickoff the 40th Annual World Bodysurfing Championships.

Photo: Philip Kitamura
Photo: Philip Kitamura
Spencer Ford doing a Pier lap in the current.
Spencer Ford doing a Pier lap in the current.

Competitors ranged from 12 to 75 years old and from California, New York, Hawaii, Brazil, Australia, France and Britain. They discussed strategies and the inevitable, dreaded current. Solid south swells tend to create strong longshore currents at open beachbreaks like Oceanside. The contest weekend certainly had plenty. Competitors on the south side started their heats  200-400 yards down the beach, expecting the strong drift. Some heats saw numerous competitors wash through the Pier. But the surf remained good to very good throughout the entire weekend.

Mike and Mark: elite level bodysurfing.
Mike and Mark: elite level bodysurfing.

With Team Kaha Nalu Hawaii making the trip, the unexpected appearance of Mike Stewart, first time contestants from around the world and California’s best…the overall level of bodysurfing was extraordinarily high at the 2016 WBC.

On Saturday night, Swell Lines hosted an event at the nearby Spring Hill Marriott. Tim Burnham screened his fantastic documentary “Dirty Old Wedge” to the delight of the crowd. They laughed, gasped, cried and sat on the edge of their seats. We also planned to honor Viper Surf Fin inventor, Fred Simpson, for his contributions to bodysurfing and the World Bodysurfing Contest.

Dirty Old Wedge enthralled the crowd.
Dirty Old Wedge enthralled the crowd.

After the movie, we called a panel of seminal bodysurf figures to the front for a question and answer session. Including Fred Simpson, Mark Cunningham, Mike Stewart, Tim Burnham, JT Nickelson, and Teddy Bandaruk. For us here at Swell Lines Inc, the opportunity to bring Fred, Mark, Mike and an international crew of bodysurfers together to celebrate bodysurfing and the Ocean was a dream come true. 

The panel.
The panel.

Somebody asked Mark about bodysurfing Teahupoo. “Eh there’s just too much water moving for it to be a great bodysurfing wave.” Mike sharply interrupted, “It’s a perfect bodysurf wave. So much potential.” We all see the Ocean a but different, but certainly Mike’s perspective is especially unique.

Wedge Crew, Frenchmen and Fred.
Wedge Crew, Frenchmen and Fred.

Next, Scott Hubbell honored Fred for his years of dedication to the WBC with a beautiful ceramic bowl lined with breaking waves. Tim Burnham gave Fred a one of kind, gold plated Viper Fin plaque. Then an older gentleman rushed to the stage, took the microphone in an impromptu moment of honor. He introduced himself as a friend and former coworker of Fred’s at Xerox. He told the story of Fred’s revolutionary Wedge bodysurfing style. Apparently, in the late 60’s, Fred was rushing through the Xerox offices, slipped on the floor, his necktie then caught in a filing cabinet, one of his hands reached out to break his fall and his other hand formed the now classic chicken wing from his hip. “The Fred” was born.

The conditions Sunday morning.
The conditions Sunday morning.
Men’s Grand Final

 Men’s Age Group Winners:
12-14 Alexander Makshanoff
15-17 Dylan Biggerstaff
18-24 Cole Margo
25-34  Alexander Vicente
35-44 Matt Solomon
45-54 Mike Stewart
55-64 Mark Cunningham
65+ Jim Isaac

Women's Grand Final
Women’s Grand Final

Women’s Age Group Winners:
12-17 Lauren Padilla
18-29 Makena Magro
30-44 Scotti Shafer
45+ Briguette Wiedemeyer

Mike Stewart and his son, Makena Magro and Fred Simpson.

Men’s Grand Champion
Mike Stewart
Women’s Grand Champion
Makena Magro
Team Champion (7th straight)
Pine Street

*Special thanks to Tim Cassinelli, Scott Hubbell and their crews for an excellent contest!