WELCOME TO ISSUE #108 - LET'S OPEN UP WITH A HAWAIIAN HEROINE
MOONA WHYTE ON HER INCREASED BRAVERY IN CHASING BARRELS
WORDS: Moona Whyte / PHOTOS: John Bilderback
In the last two years I’ve travelled across oceans to hone my barrel riding skills, jumping on any opportunity to line up the right conditions on islands near and far. In truth, however, there's no place like home. I practiced overcoming my instincts and staying deeper on waves in Indonesia. The waves barrelled at the same spot every time and I forced myself to wait before standing up and shooting through towards the channel. In Africa I kited some of the biggest barrelling waves I’ve ever faced. I told myself I could survive anything after that and that all other waves would seem small in comparison! Endlessly peeling, deep-blue waves in Micronesia taught me to spot the sections sucking up that might throw over. On good days most would barrel, so there was time to develop an eye for the prize. After getting deep enough in one perfectly make-able barrel, waiting to fly out in glory with my arms up, I was instead yanked out the back of the wave by my kite. Regrettably, I also learned that once you have the courage and the eye, the set up is crucial to avoid the dreaded lines-stuck-in-the-lip scenario. In the South Pacific I faced my fears by paddling into steep waves which, again, would make any wave seem like a cinch with a kite. All this may sound like I know what I’m doing, but I wouldn’t know anything without being able to regularly ride with two of the best barrel riders in the biz; Keahi de Aboitiz and Reo Stevens.
When the three of us pulled up to our best close-to-home barrel spot – a playground for my seasoned barrel gurus, but a potential crash, burn and serious swim training ground for me – it was comforting to see that there was at least rideable wind (typically a 50/50 gamble here). After a summer of foiling, winging and daydreaming about past travels, with wind on my side I was ready for some action no matter the cost. Our trusty photographer, JB, was there to ensure no wave would go undocumented and with the rare phenomena of the breeze filling all the way in to the beach, it was enough of a confidence boost to declare that if a barrel popped up, I WOULD pull in. Keahi took the first wave of a set. From the back I saw no buckets of spray kicking up, which definitely meant he pulled in. I dropped into the second wave and started to cross off all my boxes. I spotted the section, stayed deep, recognised it as a little two footer (Africa worked!), hoped my lines wouldn’t catch and shot through as the lip threw over me with Keahi claiming it in the channel! It was only after seeing JB’s shots that confirmed it definitely wasn't a two footer... and that my next lesson was very clear: stand tall and get way deeper! Staying at home has taught me that patience pays off. Luckily, now that winter’s here in Hawaii, it shouldn't be long until the next opportunity.