The North Shore Of Oahu As Seen Through The Lens Of Justin Jay
Renowned photographer Justin Jay has an innate ability to be in the right place at the right time. When he'd stay with us on the North Shore, he'd grab his customized camera setup and sneak off, only to return an hour later with amazing images that captured moments most people don't see or have access to. And despite having clients like Sean Combs aka "Puff Daddy", Justin is as humble and mellow as they come—he actually slept in a closet at the rented TWS house. Below are Justin Jay’s images and words that we ran in the Hawaii issue of TransWorld SURF (April 2013). Aloha!
OG Top Gun
Christian Fletcher at the Nixon Weird Board contest
Imagine a random group of top NBA players spontaneously getting together for a friendly pick-up game. Now imagine another particularly illustrious player who happened to be seminal in the pioneering of the slam-dunk. He casually strolls up and asks to join the game. Metaphorically speaking, that is essentially what happened at Ehukai Beach Park during Nixon's "Weird Board" contest. Christian Fletcher literally stumbled upon it and was subsequently invited on the spot to compete in the event. Watch any basketball game from the 1960s and you’ll see a bunch of gangly white guys in tight shorts playing molasses-slow offense and throwing lackluster set shots. Fast-forward to today, and you’ll witness a completely different game. It’s played at a breakneck speed, replete with a swarming defense, fast breaks, and above-the-rim pageantry. In competitive surfing, a similar stylistic sea change occurred in the late 1980s. You can trace a clear path back to Christian Fletcher and a small handful of others who were instrumental in the cultivation of modern aerial surfing. Many of today’s groms probably find it hard to imagine a time when judges weren’t willing to reward ample points for a well-executed air. Christian’s thumbs-up votes from the judges on this day served to reinforce just how far competitive surfing has progressed in the last 20 years.
The fast track to catching cracks
Parko is great human being who has paid his dues. Kelly is a legend who you can’t help but respect and root for. Even though everybody on the North Shore had their personal favorites for who they wanted to win the world title, passions were relatively tame. There certainly wasn’t any Red Sox versus Yankees level rivalry amongst the fans or the athletes. Granted, the "Kelly 12" and Parko posters were all printed and ready to go, but they were respectfully kept tucked away in the team houses until a victor was actually decided. In most other major sporting events, the guy holding this sign would largely be ignored and regarded as simply an insignificant and ridiculous fan. Strangely, the atmosphere at a surf comp is closer to a golf tournament than to an NFL game. This dude wearing a pink bikini bottom and a “Go-Parko” half-shirt definitely stuck out. His antics clearly ruffled some feathers, including the large security guard approaching him. I lost track of what happened to him after this exchange, but I did hear tales of some very unhappy locals. Perhaps rocking this outfit seemed like a funny idea when he woke up that morning, but this is clearly not the getup you want to be wearing when you have to contend with the boys.
Greyson Fletcher on fire
In science, there's a phenomenon known as the Observer Effect. It states that a scenario is often influenced or affected simply by engaging in the act of observing it. The same can also be true in photography. I try my best to tell a story with my photos. However, if you unnecessarily influence said story by cajoling people or allow them to pose gratuitously for your lens, you usually end up with an image that has lost the genuine moment that you set out to document in the first place. Rest assured, the act of youthful debauchery featured in this photo was not a product of my presence or my prodding lens. I simply happened to catch his eye when this particular moment of mayhem was organically was going down. Greyson Fletcher ruled the North Shore skatepark this season and girls knew it. He has a magnetism that you can’t help but be drawn to. My favorite element of this photo is the Good Samaritan on the left side of the frame casually reaching over as if to say, “Hmm, this scenario just isn’t quite complete. Here, let me grab this G-string for you and help you out with that.”
Parko Comes Up
Joel Parkinson's happy place
Some of the team houses have the chaotic tone of a pandemonium-filled frat house on the beach, replete with kegs, scantily clad girls of questionable character, and even an occasional after-hours fist fight. The Billabong A-team house, however, is comfortably appointed and quite mellow. It has one of the most accommodating and manicured lawns to watch the Pipe comp, and cold beers are never in short supply. Joel’s son Mahli and Andy’s son Axel can often be seen tearing it up on the grass. It's a family affair. There is something completely unique about a team of world-class athletes staying together under one roof, rather than in individual rooms at a hotel. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade certainly don’t rent a house together when they play the Lakers in Los Angeles. There is a palpable sense of community that the team houses foster. This feeling of unity was at fever pitch on the final day of the Pipeline competition, with everyone on the patio counting down the last remaining seconds as the Slater versus Kerr heat drew to a close, with Kerr in a commanding lead. After the horn sounded, there was an explosion of applause. Joel was the new world champion. It felt like a victory for the entire Billabong house.
Kelly Slater's Reluctant Hand Off
Kelly passes the torch to Joel Parkinson
Joel Parkinson had won the world title. Kelly was at the foot of the podium standing directly next to the ASP trophy that he would not be receiving. It was an intense moment. Most of us could never dream of competing on the level that Kelly surfs. It’s simply unfathomable what he's accomplished in his career. His heat against Shane Dorian just hours earlier was legendary—clutch performances like that are the reason why people watch competitive sports in the first place. Many people would kill just to nab a single wave at Pipeline as good as Kelly’s throwaway waves. But you can see it in Kelly’s eyes: there's no glory for him in this moment. To Kelly, it's simply about being second best, and it’s killing him. His trademark deal-sealing, high-scoring wave in the final moments of his semifinal heat simply never materialized. Title number 12 had just slipped through his hands. For that brief moment in time, Kelly was a broken hero. But rest assured, the experience will only exacerbate his drive for future wins. There is a subtext of humility, fallibility, loss, and perseverance in this scenario that we can all learn a lesson from.
For more of Justin Jay’s work go to justinjay.com