On a balmy saturday afternoon in Waco, Texas, if you’re not in or near a body of water, you’ve made a terrible mistake.
So, we were content knowing we’d made at least one good decision as we pulled off the highway and cruised the unassuming country roads to wave pool heaven. But of course, we didn’t just want to be next to a pool — we wanted cold beers and large punts from the brilliantly curated aerial squad at Stab High 2.0. Needless to say, anticipation was (stab) high.
It takes cojones to throw a surfing competition in a completely land-locked town. While entering the park, the situation quickly became tangible as we saw that stab-high-goers were decently outnumbered by Texans enjoying just another Saturday at their local waterpark. I mean, the lazy river was completely bumping at times, so much that the announcers couldn’t help but acknowledge the drunken hollering and three-six-mafia. But seriously, the blending of cultures at Stab High offered incredible color to the event, emphasizing the originality and aforementioned absurdity that we now understand as classic Stab High. Multiple surfers from the day, especially first-timers to the competition, were unsolicited in constantly vocalizing their amazement of what was unfolding before them. They were awe-struck, and we were too.
One of our favorite looks was Nathan Fletcher’s acid drop event, during which the boys were absolutely giddy with comments like, “What the fuck is this?! Who’s going first?!” Obviously, once a few took the plunge, limits were out the window with moments like Noa Deane removing parts of the scaffolding for better launch access and Harry Bryant completely obliterating his sled from an upper deck send. At the end of it, the surfers all wanted more, seemingly not giving a shit there was still $25,000 up for grabs in the main comp. In frustration, Noa jumped off the scaffolding with Dylan Grave’s buckled board, athletically aligned his ass mid-deck, and snapped it clean in two. Sincerely, Bravo.
With the contest back in tow, stakes came into focus as the remaining competitors went to freaking town on the coveted Waco end section. Some of our favorites were Crane’s signature backside stalefish thing, Eithan’s weightless backside straight air, and, of course, Sir Wilson’s glorious rotations off the forehand. And with a light offshore wind afoot, the left was looking especially buttery. However, the source of the windshift was no innocent, evening temperature change that we see along our coastlines. Nope, this is humid-as-fuck Texas. Said winds were the predecessor to a black wall of low pressure steamrolling straight towards the contest area. I showed a neighboring lensmen the radar forecast from my phone (myRadar — a delightful app), which had him hurriedly climbing off the scaffolding to protect his precious gear. Apparently having a shitty camera can sometimes work out in one’s favor, especially as the sickest waves of the finals are pushing through. We’ll take it!
The arena was literally and figuratively electric. Thunder, lightning in the distance, and four finalists in the water had everyone on the edge of their seats, which was due to the all-star showdown as much as the black mass about to engulf us all. Nevertheless, when it was announced Chippa had won, any worries of the storm were set aside as surfers and spectators alike hailed the man of ink and brawn. Chippa humbly accepted that strange, pink phone while everyone promptly resumed semi-crisis mode with brisk paces back to the sanctuary of a covered, second floor patio. Rain was coming down at an angle more horizontal than vertical, thunder was enhancing the low frequencies of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road”, and lightning was doing its best impression of spider webs — welcome to summer storms in Texas. And what an environment to celebrate a day of talent and progression from the world’s best.
Once the DJ equipment was safe from the deluge and beers started flowing like the nearby creeks, it was on and people were loving it. If you weren’t grooving to the select tunes, you were drinking along the front railing to see nature’s best show and chat with the inherently cool people who traveled to Texas for surfing. After a few cold ones, we made our way back to Dallas, but only after spending ten minutes getting the car out of the once dirt parking space that had turned to mud. Thank you Stab for the great memories and lessons of meteorological phenomena. We will definitely be back.