It’s not every day you head to The New York Times website and see Kala Alexander’s picture staring you in the face. The New York Times posted the article which attempts to delve into “surfing’s darkside on the North Shore,” talking with PT, Eddie Rothman, Kala, and others about the Wolfpak, Da Hui, Pipeline, and the occurrences that take place in the film Bustin’ Down The Door. Here’s the article below:
Kala, right next to the latest actions of our new President.
As reported by Matt Higgins for The New York Times.
SUNSET BEACH, Hawaii — They are known as the Wolfpak or simply “the boys.” They use fear and their fists to command respect in the surf along the North Shore of Oahu, a seven-mile stretch of some of the world’s most renowned waves. At the celebrated Banzai Pipeline, they determine which waves go to whom, and punish those who breach their code of respect for local residents and the waves.
The Wolfpak’s members have tried to soften their image with charitable works, but they have learned that a hard-earned reputation can be hard to shake.
The Pipeline is “like any surf spot,” said Randy Rarick, executive director of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which includes the Pipeline Masters.
“You have locals, and you have locals who enforce the unwritten rules,” he added. “And sometimes that leads to violence, sort of shady characters dictating. It’s kind of like mafia control in the surf.”
This persists even as wealth has poured into the North Shore through the vacation-home market.
“The intimidation was and still is a big part of the North Shore experience,” said Shaun Tomson, the world surfing champion in 1977 and producer of a documentary about the seminal professional surfing scene on the North Shore, “Bustin’ Down the Door,” released on DVD this month. “That’s just the way it is. You go there as a surfer knowing that that’s part of the experience.”
The Wolfpak’s loosely affiliated membership comes mostly from the neighboring island of Kauai. It includes professional surfers like the three-time world champion Andy Irons, 30, and his brother, Bruce, 29, a talented free surfer.
The most notorious member is the group’s enforcer, Kala Alexander, a professional surfer with muscular tattooed arms and “Wolfpak” inked across his knuckles. In 2007 Alexander starred in “The 808,” a reality television series about the Wolfpak and the North Shore, and appeared in the films “Blue Crush” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” But he has also gained fame for YouTube videos that show him pummeling surfers on the sand several years ago.
“The code is to respect other people,” Alexander, 39, said. “People come over here and don’t respect other people. You’re going to run into problems if you do that.”
That is what happened to Chris Ward, a 30-year-old professional from San Clemente, Calif., and runner-up to Kelly Slater last month at the Pipeline Masters. In November, Australian publications reported that Ward cut off a local surfer while riding a wave at Pipeline. He was banished to the beach, where a Wolfpak member smacked him in the head. Without providing details, Ward confirmed that the incident happened.
“It’s been like that for four decades,” said Peter Townend, who in 1976 won the first world championship of surfing on the North Shore. In 1978, he said, he was punched out at a surf break called Off the Wall. In that year he required a police escort to compete in the Pipeline Masters because of threats against him.
During the 2007 Pipeline Masters, a fracas in the water spilled onto the beach as Sunny Garcia of Hawaii chased his opening-round opponent, Neco Padaratz of Brazil. Padaratz fled, followed by Garcia and some locals. The police eventually escorted Padaratz from the contest site.
Such incidents create debate about localism, a brand of territorialism that has been practiced at surf breaks around the world for decades. Yet the North Shore remains a focal point because its breaks are a proving ground for professional aspirants who arrive each winter along with the massive swells out of the North Pacific.
“It’s really the center of the surfing universe,” Tomson said. “It’s like Mount Everest for surfers everywhere. And Pipeline is really the wave one needs to come to terms with as a surfer in order to be considered a great surfer.”
As surfing has become increasingly popular, some say fear of violent reprisal ensures order and safety at congested and perilous surf spots like Pipeline.
“It’s a dangerous environment, and without a self-governing control pattern it would just be chaos out there,” Rarick said.
For the full article and video interview, head to The New York Times.