February 1-February 7, 2020

And the days lengthen,

The sun is crawling back up the sky,

But darkness still creeps into morning

And stretches down into afternoon.


When the Romans’ year was divided into 10, the winter existed of course but was blank, an unmarked span of time, too dark to think about, too cold to see on a calendar. This time of the year was just blank space, outside their doors, in the fields, on the calendars, time to be passed through until the real time started in March. 

When Pleiades rises in the night sky, Hawaiians marked an end to war and changes to their daily routines in keeping with what the season brings: wet weather, stronger storms, rough seas, monster north swells. Seasonal kapu are instituted and time is spent in other ways, in competition, in game, in celebration and ritual, in community building. The end of February, the month of purification, roughly marks the beginning of the end of Makahiki, perhaps an end to the rough seas of winter, but that is still at least a month away.

February 2, 2020

The tides are strange today. The typical two peaks and two valleys have been replaced or filled in and so today we had a large high tide near midnight of February 1, creeping down through a flat tide most of the day, then finally bottoming out around 2:40 p.m. at .2 feet. The wind, however, was perfect, back to variables and clear skies. I scrapped my original plan of an early morning trip to Mahaʻulepu to let Erin hike in peace and to wait out the tide. I stopped at Playgrounds for a quick check in, after seeing that Makaʻiwa and Flat Rock were still going off, picking up leftover north swell as a monster storm drifted away towards Alaska.

Playgrounds was fine, but I decided to follow my gut and head to Mahaʻulepu, hoping that any of this strange, phantom swell was showing down there. I was not disappointed. The water was crystal clear, sparkling like broken glass on blue greens. Dreamy. The waves were shoulder high with thick head high sets. The wind was just a gentle puff, though it held winter’s tropical chill, enough to ripple the water and hold back the February sun’s slanted heat. Between waves, I watched whales breach; a few turtles stopped by for a visit, one getting quite close before lunging away, and I paddled lazily against the ever present current. The wave walls, especially on the best sets, were tall and long and a few bowled over just perfectly, giving me a rare gift: a barrel at Mahaʻulepu.

The sky today was that winter shade of light blue and was fringed with white and lavender clouds. Eventually, the half moon distinguished itself from the clouds in the eastern sky and I realized it had been there the whole time, nearly the same color as the water vapor in the sky.

A strange thing to realize because of course it is always there, above us or below, pulling all the water. And all our waves are water.

February 4, 2020

C– said he had to stay at work to grade papers. After the meeting for I–, and despite needing to be off island Thursday through Tuesday, I also needed to just not be at school. I was debating between a long bike ride and a surf, hoping that the wind had stayed down. Erin and the girls decided to go for a hike and I chose the water, wishing for it to wash away the details of a student’s life that I cannot change but which change me.

I made it to the tower at Kealia at 4:00 and the wind was up, brisk from the east south east, and cool. With the wind on it, Kealia is a different place, all churning water and sand, browns and dark greens. The sand flecked sea foam floats over leaves and limu suspended in the water, ripped up from the exposed sea floor.

The sand bar C– and I surfed last time, south of the tower, was still there, but everything was bumpy and the wave was flattening out in the middle, not connecting to the inside. The tide was low by 4:00, and dropping to -.08 ft at 5:45 pm. The moon was fatter, just more than half, but still low in the eastern sky.

I ran into J– out in the lineup. We talked school a bit, but also talked kids and surfing. Mostly we just enjoyed the wildness of a windy Kealia afternoon. 

Eventually I settled into a peak closer to shore, directly in front of the tower. This spot was not as consistent, burlier, bumpier, but also was connecting to the inside where I was able to find some ramps, some hollow spots, and a few backwash widened barrels. One wave allowed me a nice top turn against the oncoming closeout. My tail slid out perfectly, well past the lip, and I brought the board back under me as everything exploded in the nearshore.

Two sea birds visited, an ā and an ʻiwa, silently surfing just above the water, searching for fish, I suppose, but Iʻm not totally sure. They looked like they were just enjoying the afternoon like the rest of us out there.

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