Ski season is upon us!
Editor’s Note: Surf legend Gerry Lopez’s annual Big Wave Challenge at Mt. Bachelor was last weekend, and photographer Grant Myrdal was on the scene. It’s a surf-style competition judged for variety, speed, power and flow, and big-time surfers are invited from all over to compete. Grant was a hard-core surfer born and raised near J-Bay in South Africa long before he started shooting photos on Mount Hood, so we decided to interview him about the festivities and check out some of his pics from the competition.
How was the Gerry Lopez event?
It is so fun. It just leaves everyone in such good spirits. It’s super competitive but it’s also like a bunch of surfers hanging out at the beach. Everyone cheers everyone’s ride. And the quality of the riders was really high. A lot of the best snowboarders in the Northwest were there. Man, the levels were so high.
What was it like having all those surfers up on the mountain?
It was great, especially since we got some snow. A lot of surfers come up here and they’re like, ‘Yeah, snowboarding’s probably fun, like skateboarding or something,’ and they come up and take to it pretty quickly on hard-pack. But they don’t get too excited, because hard-pack isn’t mind-blowing. And then when they get some powder, they just go ‘Oh, my God! This is Amazing!’ You witness this awesome transformation when they ride real powder for the first time in their lives, and they just go ‘Dude, this is just like surfing. You can just slash and lay back,’ and I tell them ‘Yeah, that’s why all of us surfers are living up here in the mountains, having fun, ripping powder together.’
What was the snow like?
We ended up getting four or five inches altogether. It didn’t feel epic, it was that spring thing where there are a couple of chunks lying around, but it was good snow. I actually hiked Cinder Cone a few times in the early hours before the competition with my buddy Alex Nekrasov, and we got some good turns up there. (Alex is pictured below, all photos by Grant Myrdal)
How was the turnout?
Turn-out was huge - 175 people. They used to get less than 100, and you could enter on the day if you wanted to. This year it was sold out weeks before. People have realized how much fun it is. There was a huge Japanese contingent because Gerry spends a lot of time shaving boards and snowboarding in Japan, and they know him there.
Another interesting thing was, because there were so many surfers there, you saw a lot of swallow tails. Just everywhere. There are so many great companies now that are making really cool, funky swallow tail boards. Like my swallow tail board, but with lots of variations — shorter, wider, all sorts of designs — and of course that really allows you to slash and burn on the big berm.
What was the course like?
The course was just insane. The very first hit was a road gap, but there were options on the side, because some of these surfers are not so good at the big hits. They would ride on the top of the hip and slash and drop into the next bowl… But you do the first jump, and then you drop down into this bowl, and you have this huge wall, maybe 100 feet long and about 25 feet high. It looked like a wave. It had a big peak in the first part of it, and then it tapered down. Guys were doing massive surf hacks at the top, spray everywhere. Some people were getting two or three turns, some people just went for one ginormous big slash. And then it flowed through three or four more features which were like waves. The surfers would treat them as a series of waves, and the younger kids were doing 360s off the top, or throwing massive airs.
There are no rules about where you have to go. You just do whatever you feel like doing at any point, and the judges grade your whole run from beginning to end. The criteria are variety, speed, power and flow.
Who was your favorite rider to watch?
For one, the guy Forrest Devore (pictured above), who won the main event. He’s actually a good buddy of mine. He and his girlfriend Ashley Thornton (pictured below) both won, and they are really good, just phenomenally talented. Ashley has won it before, but this was the first time for Forrest. He just nailed it.
And then a lot of the surfers are fun to watch too. They are a little more tentative on the jumps, but they’re really good at doing stylish slash turns. Joe Curren (pictured below) was definitely one of my favorites. And this guy from Japan called Orange Man. He was completely dressed in orange, and he was just super-stylish. A lot of these Japanese guys just had a gorgeous surf style and put a lot of really good runs together.
They had different sections named after famous surf spots?
Yeah, it was really neat. Each zone was named after famous surf breaks in the world. The big hit in the beginning was Pipeline, and then you drop in and the next big wave feature is called Jeffreys Bay, which is my home break in South Africa.
You competed a few years ago. What was that like?
I entered the Over-40 division and I was like ‘Over-40, I’m going to be the only one out there. I’m gonna win this.’ And then all these guys come out of the woodwork, and I was like, ‘Where did these guys come from? They are just crazy!’ They’re just throwing down 720s and slashing like crazy, and I thought, well, I guess I’ll just take photographs next time.
South Africa-born surfer and snowboarder Grant Myrdal is a professional action photographer based in Bend, Oregon. He shoots and sells skiing and snowboarding photos on Mount Hood during winter and kiteboarding and windsurfing photos in the Columbia River Gorge during summer. He will be setting up regularly in the usual wind spots around Hood River starting in June.
Here are the final results for the 2015 Big Wave Mountain Challenge:
1. Forrest Devore
2. Tucker Andrews
3. Jonathan Sisco
1. Ashley Thorton
2. Desiree Melancon
3. Barrett Cummins
1. Todd Richards
2. Chris Roach
3. Gordon Boehm
Keiki’s (Under 16)
2. Alder Butsch
3. Elijah Pyle
1. Kody Kerbox
2. Kohl Christenson
3. Joe Curren