March 10, 2020
Today is just past the full moon, the tide is high around 3:30 in the afternoon, over 1.5 feet. The winds lightened up again and the sky stayed clear most of the day. By the time I was leaving school, the mountains had been obscured by those towering grey-black clouds that have almost no definition and hang over everything like another mountain, above the mountain, like a shadow.
I pulled up to Kitchens, thinking that Playgrounds might not be working on this high tide and questionable swell. S– decided to head to Kahili, which I didn’t have time for today. Kitchens, Bluffs we called it my whole life, back when it was barely more than a four wheel drive track through ironwood, mud, and sand. We used to drive the landcruiser around one of the bluffs, punching through to the coastline, to post up for the weekends. I wasn’t there to surf back then. We were fishing, laying net, then bodyboarding away the hours between the work of checking the nets and hauling the nets and cleaning the fish. I have never met anyone else who calls that place Bluffs, just us and the Venturas, maybe.
ʻAlio is the stretch of sand from Hikinaʻakalā all the way to Hanamaʻulu. This place is huge, vast, always windswept and littered with drift wood, still wild looking despite the keiki swim ponds, the bike path, the camp sites, the golf course, and the hotel. Kitchens is the surf break just off the edge of the shallow reef where I spent my childhood fishing. It is usually a wind blown mess of peaks but sometimes the sand bars set up just right and the winds die down, and it is becomes one of the best spots around.
Today, the waves were glassy, blue but clear like resin, sparkling from below, and I could see a few peaks sucking off the sand bars, not well organized. I also saw a wave breaking another hundred yards farther out and not quite connecting. Honestly, the set up was a mess today, with swell racing across the edge of the reef and across the sand bars, from all directions, crisscrossing, piling up on top of each other, combining and doubling and separating seemingly randomly. I decided I could pick off a few lefts coming off the reef or maybe some rights coming off the first sandbar, so I headed out, never an easy paddle at Kitchens, always farther to go than you think. I ignored the Portuguese man o’wars lining the edges of the wet sand, feeling still protected by my tattoo and my wet suit top but also feeling silly for feeling that way.
Though the sets and wave directions were not orderly, every single ride was smooth as glass, surprisingly so. The rides were fast, some were even tipping past very good. I watched as one near perfect wave showed up in the midst of the mess and peel right in front of me, spitting as I paddled over. I later found one of those, maybe two, navigating the drops with the 7ʻ single fin, then stalling into the pocket as the wave curled over my back. Those two connected to fun inside sections with some great carvable faces.
No one was out and my arms got tired and I thought about L– and K–, crowding out my older memories now, their ashes out here somewhere, their families and smiles still tangled in the iron woods on shore.
March 11, 2020
Today was similar to yesterday. Light winds, clear skies all morning with clouds building up over the mountains by the afternoon. Today those clouds were just a bit darker and taller, spilling rain by 3:30, for just a bit, and fully obscuring the sun.
My voice was going by the end of the day, my throat felt scratchy, and Erin was strangely fatigued and sick all week and that virus is on the radio every day. I debated taking a nap when I got home to an empty house but forced myself to head down to Kealia to take advantage of the free hour, knowing that rains are always on the way, this afternoon or later this week or maybe all year.
Kealia was beautiful, glassy, super smooth and organized. There was a dreamy little peak between the tower and the river month, crowded by surfers. I decided to sit just off shore, right in front of the lifeguard tower, looking for the strange peelers I saw breaking closer in. I sat under a SUPer and a long boarder who were set up farther out than me but who were also too far out for the waves I was after. My choice paid off as I found ride after ride of glassy, beefy, chest high waves that spilled right up on to the sand. There wasn’t much face to work with, no little barrels to find or lips to duck under or bounce off, just racing down the line to the sand. Fun enough for a while.
Eventually I paddled over to the edge of the main peak, farther south, and found two near perfect waves despite the crowds. One ride in particular was long enough and full of enough turns and snaps to make my legs burn. From there I headed back to my shore break spot for a few more, all the while eyeing the break at Landings.
I decided to paddle up there for a last wave after seeing a few beauties roll through empty waters. As I sat there waiting, the water roll around me, silver then blue then green, invisible, translucent, glowing, then opaque and back again. Kealia is rarely this calm and you almost never get to see the sea floor here with any clarity but today it was a pleasure. Finally that last wave rolled in, peaking up and sucking down at the same time, and it was worth the wait, small but perfectly steep. I rode the wave well which is all I ever want, to ride the wave I am on the way I should, not like I wished it was something else. By the end, I was just moving on moving water until it was moving sand and I was moving feet, running up the shore, smiling.
March 13, 2020
No surf today. Just more news piling up, more clouds piling up. And I said goodbye to my students, asking them to be safe, to take care, to ride the wave they are on, and to not wish for something else. I reminded them that, despite all the rumors and other indications, I care about them and that they are worth caring about.
And then the drive home, as the skies opened, and Erin’s throat closed, and the rainy weekend beginning in the dark of the ER and ending in the setting Sunday cloud-dimmed sun.