Some job titles are very specific. An employer expects one thing of you. For Reef McIntosh, that job is to go ride Pipeline ...Well, that and manage the Quiksilver house directly in front of Pipeline.
He does both of them very well. There are few surfers that can ride proper Pipe like this big Kauai-born regfoot. And you won't find any sand in the Quik house. McIntosh forbids it. My first time at the Quik house, I was told to remove my slaps and wipe my feet before even getting up on the deck. Last year when the Quik team took a bunch of NFL players surfing, Fred Patacchia and Kelly Slater looked like hobbits. McIntosh could have been a tight end. I didn't argue.
And when I met up with Reef again in NYC for dinner this summer, we discussed his house keeping philosophies, Kona Brewing Company, John John Florence, the Fiji swell, and taking a bunch of Pro Bowlers swimming in the shorebreak on a huge day at Pipe.
ESPN.com: So what's the deal with sand on the deck?
McIntosh: Well, we live on the beach -- and thank you to Quiksilver for that. It's the best beach in the world. If we didn't have that house I probably wouldn't be here today. I run the house. I don't even call it the Quik house. I call it my house. It's a never ending battle with the sand. I try to keep it down as much as possible. It's like anywhere. You don't walk in the house with mud on your feet, right? You don't walk on the deck with sand on your feet. Eventually when it gets to the deck, it gets to the floor. The majority of the houses have a pretty "whatever" attitude. But I try to run the tightest ship on the North Shore. I hope the people who come stay figure it out. And I hope they take that home with them, back to their house. Hopefully I'm teaching life lessons. I cut them some slack at first, but sometimes they need to be refreshed. It's like, "How many seasons you been staying with me? You're 28 years old now."
So, there was a lot of talk a few years ago that as the birthplace of surfing Hawaii wasn't properly represented as far as events in Hawaii and opportunity to qualify for the ASP World Tour. Do you feel that has been rectified? Do you think they're still fighting that battle in Hawaii?
Yeah. I definitely think we're still fighting this battle. There's what? Two Primes, a five star and a four star? There're two Hawaiians on Tour. Freddy P is on the bubble. That leaves John John and Dusty. It's hard. If you want to be on the tour, you have to go and grind it out. You have to go to Brazil and Europe. Fortunately the surfers that come out of Hawaii are blessed with really good waves, so they have that option. Do they want to be the pro that just lives in Hawaii? Or do they want to be on the big stage and wax world title contenders. It's all personal preference. Sometimes you hear, "Oh he's such a waste of talent. He should be competing against the world's best." But maybe that person just wants to compete with the world's best when they come to his backyard. And brands pay people to perform those four or five months -- as long as you're on stage when that thing happens. You might not make a lot of money, but it's your choice -- go on tour or dominate the North Shore.
So do you think Hawaiian culture is being honored enough by surfing?
Yeah, it's enough. When you go to Brazil or Europe, you should pay respect wherever you go. Hawaii is great and all, but when you go to France, Mexico, or Fiji, you need to pay respects to them, It's a two-way street.
So, we're here in NYC. What are you doing out here?
Well, I'm out here with Kona Brewing Company. They're launching their new beer called Big Wave Golden Ale. I like to come to the city as much as possible. This is my third trip this summer. They asked if I could come out and I just said, "Yeah -- I'm honored and flattered to be involved with a brand like that."
This is your third trip to the city this summer?
Yeah, I've been out for Quiksilver's "No Agenda" movie tour and another time I came with my fiancé to hang out and enjoy the city.
Are you fairly involved with Kona? Do you get to mess with the hops and barley?
No, I'm not really involved with the brewing. I'm kind of an ambassador and there's more than one of us. When the opportunity was put in front of me I asked if they needed help getting it out there. I knew it was a well-established beer. It's really good and -- it's local. A lot of people might have beer sponsors, but they might not be a really good beer. So, I was definitely stoked to be involved with a good beer.
You went to the round of 32 in the Volcom Pipeline Pro, you won Da Hui Backdoor Shootout, and were awarded Surfline's Wave of the Winter. Now that the qualifying season changed to where instead of spending ten months on the road surfing crap, you could show up at certain Prime and 6-star events and collect a bunch of points. Does it every go through your head to maybe do some events?
No. It should. I just never could quite ... I mean, I could probably cut it to where I could make a couple heats, just so I can do the Triple Crown. But it's not really that important to me. The only thing that's really important to me is Pipeline. If I could be at one event and do decent and then do the really big event (Billabong Pipeline Masters) that's awesome. But it's hard starting from the bottom and trying to qualify for the big event. Everyone knows what I do and it's hard to bottle that. I was stoked to be able to bottle it for the Shootout and that's a perfect event for a guy like me. It's a couple day event and you're just out there looking for the best wave. I'm good at that.
You were in Fiji. What was the most ridiculous thing you saw that whole week?
Fiji is definitely one of my favorite waves, even before that. I've surfed it multiple times really good. It doesn't even have to be 20 or 25-foot. Even when it's six-foot, it's ridiculous. And it's just a long version of Pipeline, but even bigger. I was on the fence about going, thinking "they're going to run the contest at the peak of the swell. Why wouldn't they?" And then I thought, "Maybe they won't. And if they don't, I should really be there." There were some guys that weren't, and they're probably just punching themselves in the face. The ticket was a grand. That's what you're gambling. Even if they did run the contest, they're going to be done at a certain time. And all I want is one. There were so many waves in that swell and they didn't run. It was just a great stage for anyone who wanted to go out and capitalize that day. But those empty ones were what I remember. I was on the boat. I mean, they were there, but you couldn't paddle into them. Maybe. You would have had to have been in the most perfect spot -- paddling, speed, and coordination. Everything would have had to come together and I don't even know if you could have.
You're four houses away from John John Florence, right?
Yeah, four houses and a park.
Are you guys fairly tight?
Everyone probably says they're tight with him. We're buddies. Throughout the summer if the waves are going to be big somewhere, he'll be like "Are you going to Tahiti?" or "Reef, what do you think?" I used to ride for Vans for eight years or just being on the North Shore and watching that kid grow up. He'll definitely reach out, but he has his little circle of boys.
And what's the future for him?
Oh, he'll be world champ for sure, ... for sure! It would be great if he won this year. He's third in the world.He could win it this year with France, Portugal and Pipeline. He can do good anywhere and he can beat the best. He's already done it.
Tell me a little bit about your tie with the Quiksilver NFL collaboration? Are they kind of giving you the green light to get involved with that?
Yeah. Other people are interested in art or photography. I'm into sports. It's just awesome that brands are willing to listen to you or take your ideas into consideration. When the whole NFL collaboration with Quiksilver came together, I couldn't believe that. Quiksilver told me three years ago that they were going to do a Chargers boardshort and I was like "Yeah. Whatever. You guys are always saying stuff." And then they mentioned it again and I just said, "Okay." And then they came back and said, "It's done." And I'm all, "What's done?" And they actually had them. So was just like, "Where's my trunks? Let's get it on." And this last year they were really involved with the Pro Bowl. And football is really Hawaii's sport. So we met them all at the resort and they introduced us to every player in the Pro Bowl. And those guys probably didn't know much about surfing but there were a couple guys that were like, "Whoa, sick." So there were a few guys we got to take surfing -- Drew Brees, Tony Gonzales, and a few others. It was insane. And then they all wanted to see big waves. I was kind of star struck. And I told them, "Look, I'm not a stalker or anything but if you really want to see big waves come to my house on the North Shore. It will be right there in front of you." Then it kind of spread. Someone said, "We're going to the North Shore to see big waves," and the rest wanted to come too. I just told those guys to bring them all. So Eric Weddle, Steven Gregory, Andy Dalton, Jamie Graham and watched Pipeline. Kelly came over. They really wanted to go in the water, and I said, "You guys really shouldn't go in the water." And they were like, "Ahhh, we can handle ourselves." So I kind of chaperoned them down to the beach and told them, "Jump in and come right back. No backstrokes! Hit the water and get freaking back to me as quick as you can." So they hit it and were like, "Man, you are not freaking joking. It's like a river." I said, "I told you guys. It looks like calm water, but there's some force under there." So, that was a memorable experience for them as well as for me.
What else is in the future for you?
Last winter was definitely the highest point of my career. I don't want to say it was the pinnacle. I guess I can go higher. I would love to win the Eddie. I just want to enjoy it. There's that ladder you climb. It takes a long time to start going up that ladder so I'm working that ladder to where I'll be in the lineup enjoying waves, making waves, maybe getting more waves? At least kicking out of them. Sometimes when you're climbing the ladder you have to gamble more, thinking you might be able to make this one and then saying, "Damn it. I didn't." So maybe now it's a little more relaxing. I enjoy it all. But at the end of the day there is still a job to do.