||Nathan Florence Wins O'Neill Wave of the Winter
Backdoor-through-Off-the-Wall drainer takes top honors
Yes, it was a busy winter on the North Shore. We know this because over 200 rides were submitted for this year's O'Neill Wave of the Winter. A few were average, sure. But the majority of 'em were solid, committed tuberides from Pipe, Backdoor or Off-the-Wall. The judges -- Gerry Lopez, Pancho Sullivan, Shawn Briley and Shane Dorian -- had their work cut out for 'em, in other words.
"The picks are based on the wave, the ride as well as style and grace," head judge Gerry Lopez said. "The judges choose on what is important and impressive to them personally. So sometimes, like this year, with a lot of variables in play, it's not easy."
And so after we did the top five from each month, it was narrowed down to the top ten -- with the angles chosen by the surfers themselves. And it was a close one. After a few back-and-forths, it was a tight race between Keito Matsuoka's Pipe bomb and Nathan Florence's double-drainer, both from the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout in early January. In the end, Florence's won out -- mainly because, well, making a wave from Backdoor through Off-the-Wall is a rare and very special thing.
"I think what set Nathan's wave apart is the ride had everything you could really ask for," said Dorian. "A nice, late drop, the wave was pretty big, he was deep and pumping, and then the barrel has a whole second section which made the barrel much longer than the others. Basically the length of the whole reef at Backdoor. That said, all the top 10 rides are really strong."
Gerry continued: "Nathan has been coming on strong for a number of years now, and all us judges knew at some point that he would be right up front. So this is not surprising, is actually well deserved and about time. Congratulations, Nathan!"
"Nate took off in the perfect spot then got barreled all the way across, till the end," said Shawn Briley. "Again: the Wave of the Winter is up for grabs every year for anybody who will lay it on the line!"
And the timing was impeccable. Nate Florence happened to be in HB for the Jack's Pro, so we managed to lure him up to the office to do a generic interview. He had no idea what was happening until he was doused in champagne this afternoon. And yeah, he was understandably stoked.
And the $25,000 wave, in his words:
"That right came and it looked like a big double-up, but it was stretching towards Off-The-Wall. So I kinda hesitated for a sec, but was so hyped to be in the first heat of the morning and went anyway. I took off and did a big pump and thought it was gonna get weird over the Backdoor/OTW channel -- but it just spit and I couldn't see anything for a bit; I was just waiting for foamball to hit me. But it cleared and was wide open and I started pumping again and got a bonus round at OTW. It was insane!"
But one wave does not a winter make. And as is tradition, we spent the entire North Shore season with multiple lenses pointed firmly at all the action at Pipeline, Backdoor and Off-the-Wall, captured the best of the best and then sat down the standouts.