Mason Ho is lost. The World’s Most Exciting Surfer (trademark pending) is wandering the red carpet in the Turtle Bay convention center, which is crawling with the best wave riders in the world all dressed uncharacteristically in cocktail attire for the 2015 Surfer Poll Awards, surfing’s Big Night.
“I think I need to be somewhere,” Mason said, to nobody in particular.
Near the carpet there’s a production room filled with behind-the-scenes techy types on laptops. He walks in there. I get the feeling that’s not where he needs to be. Moments later Bruce Irons, Lyndie Irons, and Axel Irons walk out of that same room. Perhaps Mason knows more than me.
After Bruce and Co. slithered away quietly, the media circus perked up like a group of mouth-breathers at a Dane Cook show. Cameras flashed. Palms perspired. Alana Blanchard was walking in. She was probably the only one at the event that was actually qualified to walk a red carpet. Her peach dress riding tight and showing off that Insta-famous curvature.
Arriving casually late to an awards ceremony he would undeniably dominate, John John Florence strolled down the carpet in true rockstar fashion – two girls on his arms, one being Mom John. His latest fling, however, on the other arm – a tall natural beauty dressed in white lace – looked somewhat like that famous country-singer-turned-pop-star that he was rumored to have been dating a few years back. Taylor something?
When he walked by I put my hand up for a high five, which went un-smacked. Guess he didn’t recognize me from that one time we awkwardly met at a screening of View From a Blue Moon.
Everyone is in a state of happy confusion. They don’t know where to be, when anything starts – and they don’t care. There’s a few bars scattered around the room and there are friendly faces. Even as the lights flicker and an assembly of Hawaiian hula dancers march through the room, blowing conch shells, nobody seems to budge. The awards are clearly getting underway, but nobody’s in a hurry to enter the main ballroom.
Keala Kennelly and her date are feasting on a plate of bruschetta. Koa Smith and Zeke Lau are sipping Dos Equis in the hotel lobby. Noa Deane lurks in the corners as some surf fan reminds him of his establishment-damning speech from a few years back. Literally, the guy screams, “Fuck the WSL!” as Noa acknowledges him uncomfortably.
Eventually the room thins out as most people make their way into the main event where Dave Wassel is announcing, having flew over via helicopter from Maui after competing in the Pe’ahi Challenge. With a buzzed hairdo, he looks like John Cena but he acts like John Stewart.
Dane Reynolds took the number seven spot, a seemingly low showing for him. He came out onstage lugging his son Sammy Boo. Although his man carves at Rocky Point the following day would beg to differ, Dane appears a changed man. He’s a dad now and he’s really taking the whole thing seriously, championing the whole dad style with a white tee covered by a flower shirt, a curled brim hat with sunglasses resting on top, and something like a puka shell necklace.
Very few people who got behind the mic didn’t mention Evan Geiselman, who had suffered a near-death wipeout at Pipeline earlier in the day. Owen Wright, who was out at Pipe when it happened, said: “I managed to shit myself a couple times. I’m glad Evan is ok. Here’s to a speedy recovery.”
But the big news of the night was John Florence winning basically every award that he could (if he donned a wig, Juwanna Mann style, he’d probably have won the women’s category, too). Kelly, who wasn’t in attendance, fell to John in the popularity contest for the second year in a row, signifying that “changing of the guard” nonsense is true. Wassel described the utter annihilation best.
“John must have a big broom back there,” he said, “because he’s sweeping this whole thing.”
After it was all said and done, after John took home more hardware than his lanky arms could carry, everyone scattered into the various drinking establishments of the hotel, into the overcrowded bathrooms, and into every nook and cranny of the floor plan to just hang out and talk.
Over in Kula Grille was Daren Crawford, the water photog for View from a Blue Moon, behind the turntables DJing. I saddled up to the bar next to Noa Deane and bought him a beer. After which he graciously bought me a screwdriver, or four.
But at a certain point it was time to leave, time to sleep it off. After a wild and tempestuous day in the ocean on Sunday, the waves were supposed to clean up the next day. Fun surf would nurse the surf world back to health from our collective headache – at least those who made it out of bed following the booze and buzz from surfing’s Big Night.