Red Bull Rivals 2009 Zak Noyle/Red Bull Photofiles

If you’re a product of the ‘80s you probably remember the ubiquitous yin-and-yang symbol associated with T&C Surf Design. What skinny jeans and ironic T-shirts are today is nothing compared to how ubiquitous the T&C brand was. It was so damn popular, the original Nintendo dropped a T&C Surf Design game, and even Asian F.O.B.s rocked that shit (not that the two were related—we think).

Short for Town and Country, it was commonly known that the label’s origin was steeped in Oahu’s surf ethos. But what wasn’t as well known, particularly to us Mainlanders, was that it represented the two distinct locales. The South Shore surf area surrounding the Waikiki region referred to “Town”, and “Country”, alluded to the distant North Shore.

More obscure still is the rivalry between the two.

The South Shore is a bustling metropolitan mass teeming with tall skyscrapers, massive resorts, and sprawling shopping centers. Despite the hustle and bustle on land, bordering the urban landscape is some of the most legendary surf spots. Who hasn’t heard of Waikiki Beach and southern Oahu’s smaller but consistent swells? 

null Zak Noyle/Red Bull Photofiles

In the heart of the city with thousands of sunbathers on the sand (read: ogling eyes), the hip “Townie” surfer tends to be a bit more image-conscious than his Country brethren, likely sporting newer boards, fresher threads, and tidier gear. With potential vacation bootie on the line, wouldn’t you?

The North Shore guys are of a different breed. They’re out in the cuts, meaning besides the occasional lost tourist or sea turtle, there isn’t much to impress as far as talent. Beat up old surfboard, same pair of board shorts, and ratty flip-flops wouldn’t bother Country. What does get them heated is a Townie leaving his city dwelling to come up to try to ride their renowned big breaks.

Flat as a lake for most of the year, it isn’t until the turbulent winter storms churn the northern oceans that Waimea, Sunset Beach, and the Banzai Pipeline come alive. With a short window, there’s a stringent hierarchy to the line-up here. Permission from North Shore locals to catch a wave is not a request but a requirement.

With either region a stark contrast of the other, mutual rancor was bound to occur - not since the Emancipation Proclamation have we seen such a great North vs. South dissension. The Townies can rip all year with their waves, but to get any respect, they need to go North during the winter. The laid-back Country folk might get a bit territorial on the water, but they undoubtedly have to go South to scratch their summer wave itch.

Who’s better? Tough to say. Both camps have produced some of the world’s greatest surfers and will argue why their side is better. Before the feud could turn ugly, Red Bull stepped in with Red Bull Rivals events, the veritable Gettysburg of waves . . . without the mass casualties.

To settle the debate, a team of surfers representing each region would wage battle on Sandy Beach - neutral ground on the east end of the island. Acting as overseer and muscle would be notorious surfer Kai “Kaiborg” Garcia.

The current score? Town: Two; Country: Zero. After the South Shore took the inaugural Red Bull Rivals event last year, they returned in 2010 to take a narrow victory. With redemption at stake, you can bet the North is looking to whoop some South ass next year. Will history repeat itself? Can slavery be abolished and reconstruction begin? Er, oops - wrong war. Thinly-veiled Civil War analogy gone awry aside, peep the other links for more info.

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