The Best Places to Get Barreled, According to Gerry Lopez and the Hobgood Bros.

Posted on October 31, 2014

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Getting barreled is the holy grail of surfing. Of course, any wave is a good wave, but watching that lip sneak over your head and realizing that yes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel is something beyond compare.

 This is not an easy thing to do. Getting a proper barrel takes a lot of time in the water. Photo: Brad Masters

A few days ago, I was surfing at my regular spot. One of the most familiar faces out there is an older lady, probably around 70. She wears two wetsuits – a john and a regular one underneath it – and a cap with a long braid falling out the back. She rides a body board with little fins on it, and she is, without a doubt, the most stoked person I’ve ever met. She has zero concern for what anyone thinks about her, and every wave she kicks onto looks like the most fun thing that’s ever happened to her. On this particular day, I was paddling back out, and because she was on a body board, she snuck into a mini-barrel – more of a head dip, but still, it counted. I whistled at her as she hooted her way out. “That was a good one!” I exclaimed. She smiled at me. “MORE!” was all she could say. “MORE!”

Getting a really good barrel is hard. It can take years of surfing, and sometimes, it just never happens. It’s one of those endless searches – even if you manage to find a good one, it just fuels your passion for the next. It’s exhausting, really. It’s a treadmill, only way more fun. With that in mind, I wrote a few emails to some of the best surfers in the world. These guys have been barreled so much, they should be sick of it. They are not sick of it. I asked them a question: where is the easiest place in the world to get barreled?

The first to get back to me was CJ Hobgood, owner of a 2001 World Championship Cup (which he’s not entirely comfortable with… you’ll have to watch the documentary when it comes out). “Definitely Macaroni’s,” he wrote. “That ledge is a friendly drop, and the wave does relatively the same thing.” As with anything, repetition is necessary for learning. There’s something called the 10,000 hour rule, which Malcolm Gladwell says is the time it takes to master something. If you’ve spent 10,000 getting barreled, you’re probably the best barrel rider on earth. “At first, that’s what makes it fun,” CJ continued, “but then you kind of get over the wave because your surfing can become scripted.” While getting over a wave as perfect as Macaronis might be the best problem I’ve ever heard, CJ does have a point – surfing’s fluidity is one of the best parts about it, and no one likes being stuck in a rut, even if it’s a watery, super fun one.

The next person to get back to me was CJ’s brother, Damien. Damien’s not a tour guy anymore, and he’s been using his newfound free time to do exactly what he was doing on tour: surf. But he’s surfing on his own time now, where and when he wants, picking and choosing his trips. He’s been branching into bigger waves lately, too, with a paddle session at Jaws last winter and a handful of some of the most incredible video clips I’ve seen in a long time. “I’d also say a south swell at Chopes and P-Pass,” Damo added in a reply, “but west and small is pretty hard at Chopes.” Speaking from a totally average regular footer’s point of view, Teahupoo was not on my list of possible answers to the question. When I think of Tahiti’s most famous wave, I think of thick, backless beasts, ones that fold over the sharpest and shallowest of reefs – I think of the Millenium Wave, to be perfectly honest, and I want nothing to do with it. But on further reflection, while it’s not common to see images of regular ol’ Teahupoo, I have seen a few. It looks fun, so maybe Damo’s right. I do have one small worry, though: if anyone remembers Keala Kennelly’s horrific facial injury at Teahupoo, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It was on a totally average day. And Keala is one of the best surfers in the world.

Of course, when you’re talking about barrels, one wave comes to mind: Pipeline. And when you’re talking about Pipeline, one name comes to mind: Gerry Lopez. So I wrote Mr. Pipeline himself a quick note to get his thoughts on it. His response was brief, but helpful. “Nothing easy about getting barreled,” he answered. “But if you have the desire and the skill set,” Gerry continued, “Pipeline, Teahupoo, G-Land, Lance’s Right, and Scar Reef.”

Gerry’s answer, I suppose, is indicative of something. I asked the wrong question, and he called me on it. There is no easy place to get barreled, because getting barreled is hard. And that’s what makes it worth chasing.

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