You could sense the day was really hitting Uncle Mike deeply.
Yeah, it was. When he said, “This is gonna be my last one,” at the Eddie ceremony, I was like, yeah, sure. Then I talked to him after the event and he's like, “Nope, that was the one to call it. It's time to pass it on.” And I mean, the guy is 65 and was full sending it. It was really, really special to see him out there and to surf alongside him.
What did you see when you got to Waimea in the morning?
[Laughing] We got there at 5:15 in the dark and there was nonstop backed-up traffic. We stayed right near Pipe and people were walking from Pipe all the way to Waimea. We pulled in and there was supposed to be parking for all the competitors, but the security guy says, “There's no more parking.” I'm like, “I'm really sorry, but I'm a competitor. I have to park here.” They shuffled some cars, and we pulled up and it was just jam packed. There were thousands and thousands of people on the beach already. It was pitch dark and you could just hear the roar of the waves. As soon as the sun came up just a bit and you could actually see the waves breaking, we knew right away that it was on. Like, I mean, we could tell by the buoys, but I mean, what we saw at first light, it was like, this is just the beginning. It's gonna be firing.
Who did you have in your corner for the day?
I was really lucky. The day before I was flying over from Maui, I did a workout in the gym with Shaun Lopez and my friend, Izzy Gomez. We did a big-wave activation just to kind of get my body all fired up. Shaun asked me, “Hey, do you have anyone over there to look after you?” Because I’d never really surfed Waimea. I know all the guys would help me, but he's like, “Oh, Uncle Dennis [Pang] would be psyched to help you.” I was like, that would be really cool. So, he called him on the phone. We were on speakerphone, and Dennis is like, to Shaun, “Are you coming over?” And Shaun said, “No, but my good friend Paige Alms is coming over.” And Dennis is like, “Oh, she rips!” And Shaun's like, “Well, you're on speakerphone with her!” And he's like, “Oh, I’m glad I said something nice!” But he was happy to give me some pointers and just show me the wave. He kept it to a minimum and more than anything just made me feel really supported. To have someone from the North Shore – someone who's been in the Eddie, who’s judged the Eddie, who has seen every single one – to have him in my corner I felt really supported, and it was really generous of him to give his time to do that. He spent the whole day with us on the beach, just so fired up. He said, hands down it was the best Eddie he's ever seen. The most consistent, the biggest and the best conditions, hands down.