On finals day at the Billabong Pipe Masters, revered lensman Steve Sherman spent the day at the Quiksilver team house documenting Ezekiel Lau's incredibly emotional experience. Sitting on the qualification bubble ranked No. 11, Lau needed his teammate and good buddy, rookie Kanoa Igarashi, to advance further than anyone thought possible in order to double qualify on the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour. If he could pull it off, Lau's dream of being on the CT himself would come true. Here's what the historic day looked like behind the scenes. Below is Sherman's account of what went on.
"Zeke spent the whole day walking in and out of the house. On the one hand he wanted to watch but when crunch time came -- if Nat or Kanoa were out in the water -- it almost became too much for him to bear. He couldn't watch it with his own eyes, I guess. So he'd go inside and watch it alone on the TV. There were a bunch of people milling about, so it was easy for me to blend in and not be too intrusive. But I wanted to capture something that really depicted how lonely that experience must be. I think this shot tells a pretty good story. He was in a pretty helpless, vulnerable situation. So it makes sense that he'd want to be alone during the high-stress moments. I really like this shot, it looks like he was sending up a little prayer in a stressful time."
"It's pretty incredible to think about what Kanoa did. This was his first time surfing in the Pipe Masters. He's not just a rookie, but the youngest guy on Tour. Going in he had a ton going against him. He'd only made it past Round Three once all season. And even if he made it past that barrier, he still needed to finish more than a thousand points better than Nat Young. When Nat finally lost in Round Five, Kanoa knew the whole thing was coming down to his Quarterfinal heat with Jordy Smith. He snuck away to compose himself beforehand. I captured this right then. I've looked at this over and over again. It's such a cool moment of a somebody going inward to find strength. He knew the gravity of the moment."
"The Quarterfinal heat with Jordy had to be the most stressful moment of Zeke's life, for sure. He didn't know what to do. And honestly it didn't look too good early on, because Jordy jumped out to an early lead. Zeke was hiding inside for most of it. But then it happened. Kanoa got one of the most incredible barrels of the day -- a full screamer -- traveling through two sections. When he emerged clean at the end of it the whole house just erupted. Everyone thought it was a perfect 10. The judges gave it a high 9. Still, it was enough for Kanoa to take a pretty solid lead over Jordy, and with a few minutes left in the heat Zeke finally came out of the house to watch with his own eyes. He was never comfortable, because he knew a guy like Jordy is never out until the end. But as soon as he realized the clock had run out on Jordy he finally let it out. This was his moment. The moment he'd been waiting for his whole life. The whole place just lit up."
"Kelly [Slater] showed up during that crucial Quarterfinal and hung out at the Quik house for a while. He's watched every one of these kids grow up, so not surprisingly he can get pretty caught up in the drama too. I think he was pretty blown away by the whole thing, and he wanted to be there to support the crew and the kids cheering for Zeke. It was a cool scene. Once things got settled, he got his crack at congratulating Zeke. I like this one for obvious reasons. It's basically the King welcoming a new member of his court. It's a nice moment. Little did he know he'd be Kanoa's next victim in the Semis."
"Of course when it was all over, Kanoa and Zeke had a blast recounting the whole thing -- what they were doing and feeling at different moments. I think they were both still pretty stunned by the whole thing at this point. I think this is another one that these guys will be able to look back on years from now and remember exactly what they were feeling."
"No explanation needed for this one...There's little doubt these guys are going to be buddies for life after going through that."