May 9-May 15, 2020

May 14, 2020

I headed out for Anchors around 11:00, after working on my National Board renewals all morning, and helping Violet with her virtual school. We sit together on the bench at the table, shoulder to shoulder. Today the tide was low early then basically flat all day. The winds were light and the sky was clear; the east swell was nearly nonexistent. As is usually the case, the waves at Anchors proved to be powerful and fun even when the rest of the east side was flat.

I made the long paddle out, anticipating that moment when the sound of the waves finally hits my ears. The water was crystal clear, warm on top, but cold just a few feet under the surface. Jets of cold water swirled up and around me as I paddled or waited for waves.

The sets came in chest high, maybe, and I was able to find a few super fast rights. One dropped out in front of me so drastically that I worried I wouldn’t make it. I went flying down the face, through a super steep curving bowl, just inches above that shallow section on the rights, narrowly ducking the lip, and then I made it out the other side, eyes wide open now. The rest of my session was mostly spent exploring the lefts, as they were longer and more consistently fun. I spent many waves stalling into the bowling section of lefts, looking for the bending barrel. I found one that closed out on me and a few that peeled just behind my back.

After a few hours, I made the long paddle in to rinse and head home. A homeless woman walked up to me, after she bothered a local family fishing off the break water, to ask me for 50 cents. She kept babbling on as I found some coins to give her. She asked if I surfed here and I said I was paddling around. I didn’t follow everything else she said but she seemed to want to talk about how a surf break was setting up under the pedestrian bridge in the canal and how we should take all the sand from Wailua and dump it at Brennecke’s to bring that legendary surf spot back from the dead. I nodded a few yesʻs and kept drying off and packing up my board while she continued what by now was either half of a Dylan song or a chapter from Ulysses.

May 15, 2020

Today is the day of the first real south swell. It filled in last night and is set to hang around through Monday. Low tide was at 6:15 this morning, at .15 feet and the first high tide was at 12:23 at .8 feet. I decided to check Sidewalks on my way south, just in case the swell was big enough to sneak in there, but all of Kalapaki was flat, like a big green pool. I headed for Poʻipū.

I pulled past Prince Kuhioʻs birth place at about 9:00, anticipating a good swell. As I drove between the hotels, PKs came into view, then Centers, with Acid Drop and Heroins behind. I drove the length of exposed road slowly since there was no place to park. I saw just a few people out at PKs but there were solid crowds at Centers and Acids. When a set rolled in, each spot was picking up the swell a bit differently. It was biggest at Acids but maybe breaking the best at Centers. I had a different spot in the back of my mind and I drove on to Kukuiʻula Harbor.

The left out side the harbor wall was firing, hollow and scary, as usual. I surfed it once years ago with A– and M– and though we had fun, I have never been back. That wave drops like an elevator shaft and has a wicked bend on it with waves usually pushing through fast and thick. I sat and hoped to see what I came looking for, on the far west side of the harbor. I donʻt have a name for that wave. It probably has no modern name, since it isnʻt on anyoneʻs surf map. The break is under Spouting Horn, off a bench of lava rock, and the wave pushes into a shallow, rocky cove with a tiny pocket of sand, today the resting spot of a giant honu.

After seeing a set roll through, I made the long paddle across, not wanting to trespass through the million dollar yards that block the easier access. I stayed out for over 2 hours, enjoying this weird and lonely wave. Every time I surf here, I am struck by the huge houses that greedily block the shore, interlopers screaming “mine!” and casting long shadows across what is certainly not anyone’s. The houses all seem empty, no surprise right now during the pandemic, but they have never seemed to hold any resident. They are just shells of vacations for rich people from somewhere else.

Anyway, today the swell was inconsistent, with long lulls, but the sets were large and fun. The section nearest to the lava bench sucks up fast and is difficult to handle. I paddled into one set wave, against the accelerating current. The bottom dropped out as I popped up. I made the drop but then the lip smacked me in the side and I went down, tumbling over two or three times in tight somersaults, with my arms over my head, just in case. Other than that spill, and a turtle I had to hop over as I came out of a bottom turn, no problems.

I love the size of the faces on this wave. I canʻt quite explain it, but when the wave is right, it looks like I will be too deep on the take off, but the top of the section down the line never quite tips all the way over, allowing me to bottom turn and pump past the falling lip. Then I get to what I always want to see: a huge, open, sloping, curling face of water with no imposing lip or white wash in my way. I love making this approach and heading all the way up the huge open face before snapping back into the white wash behind me then doing it all again. The trick is to see how close to the inside lava bench I can make it.

Though the swell wasn’t consistently making it in, the sets were nice and big and fun. A good day for the first south swell this year.

Looking west at Kukui’ula

May 2-May 8, 2020

May 3, 2020

M– mentioned he might be able to surf this morning, so I headed for Mahaʻulepu, hoping the wind wouldn’t be too bad. The low tide bottomed out at -0.07 feet at 7:14 this morning, which meant a rising tide. I love catching Mahaʻulepu just after a really low tide. The skies were blue, dotted with the typical trade wind white clouds. The sun was still low enough when I parked, around 8:45, to make the waters sparkle grey and black, turning the clear blues and greens opaque. The wind rushing sideshore, almost offshore, textured the ocean, the sunlight low, blazing off of liquid, always in motion, broken glass. I texted M– a general rundown: “Little bit of a wave. Two people out. Headed down the hill.” And then I indeed headed down the hill.

By the time I had put my bag and towel on the tree and peed, M– was stepping up the bluff to join me under the iron woods, formerly Hale Nalu. We chatted a bit, waxed up, and then he headed his way and I headed for my favored walk across the reef. The water was perfect, cool under the warm sun, and the current wasn’t too bad. M– and I reconvened out at the break, chatting briefly with the two guys out; one a doctor from urgent care that M– knew and the other that guy I surfed with at Playgrounds who was planning his trip to Indo. I suppose that was canceled along with the rest of the world. They headed in shortly and we enjoyed the break to ourselves for the next hour.

The waves were pleasant, not super consistent but the waits weren’t too long either. We found many fun rides to salt and pepper our conversation which ranged from children to viruses to building boards and other ways to positively spend a life. Eventually we were visited by three spear fishermen, lazily drifting and diving through the lineup, an unusual occurrence. M– paddled in after an hour, shortly behind the divers, on the end of a decent left, and I stayed for another hour or so, alone. 

***

“All our waves are water.”
    -Jaimal Yogis

Even the waves of joy and pain and grief, the waves of interest and focus, of apathy or disgust, the waves of pleasure and mourning, the ones we ride, the ones we watch, all our waves are water, as are we.

***

Hoʻopiʻi Falls between surfs

May 8, 2020

The low tide was around 9:30 this morning, bottoming out just under -0.4 feet, one of the lowest tides of the year. The full moon, Mahealani, set at 7:09 this morning, dragging the tides along behind it. Today the trades continued to bless us with beautiful skies, blues and whites, helping the sun to shine through the salt thick air.

S– headed for Waiohai. M– headed to court. C– suggested Mahaʻulepu. Those winds though suggested that nowhere would be great. As I drove past Wailua, looked out at Makaʻiwa, I could see there was no real swell making it to shore. I still held out hope that there would be a mystery bump down at Mahaʻulepu but when I pulled up at about 11:45, Erinʻs Motherʻs Day Cake chilling in the cooler, I could tell there wasn’t much happening. The tide was still super low, which down here limits how much of the swell makes it in and changes where it breaks. I sat and watched for five minutes, ten, twenty, and was still not convinced anything was rideable. The wind was smoothing out the seas, holding up any swell that looked like it might break in time, and the waves were pushed way inside, breaking deeper than usual, across the entire shallow shelf, effectively a whole rideʻs length closer to shore.

I decided to head down and just paddle around, maybe head out past the outside reef to work my arms and back. C– arrived just after I made it to the adjusted lineup, his hoodie up, protecting his skull from the sun. Surfing any wave is fun, more fun than it looks. Despite the looks from shore, I found wave after wave and was surprised on each one by the novelty of a peak I know better than any showing me something different. Since the waves were pushed so deep, almost to the house, and the tide was so low, the rides were reeling off in unexpected ways. 

I found a few bowling sections, a few sections of face to hack at, and few times I could lay back and tuck under the lip, all with the wind blowing sea salt in my face. Over the two hours, C– and I talked about work, kids, the virus, always the virus, and even found a few mini-bombs rolling through. We did not talk about mother’s day, but I wished K–and L– a happy day as I drifted between waves.

“Was it good?” S– texted later. “It was fun,” is my response. “Lucky to be in the ocean.”

April 25-May 1, 2020

April 26, 2020

The moon was new a few days ago, maybe yesterday, and the morning low tide has been negative. Today it bottomed out at 10:50 a.m. reaching down to -0.11 feet. I did not know this as I pulled up to Makaʻiwa, standing on the shore at 10:45. In my head was the 9:00 a.m. low of Friday and I assumed the tide would be well on its way up by the time I got to the beach. The negative tide was only one problem with paddling out at Makaʻiwa in front of Lava Lava. Another was the green and brown water. Yet another was the swell itself, messy due to the stiff trades and the mixed swell directions. Also, the sets were much bigger than I had anticipated, but none of these issues stopped me from a paddle. Just get wet, as they say.

The first half of the session was a wild mess of green water, sucking barrels with no bottoms, boils and fountains of white water exploding out the backs of the set waves. As soon as I made it out to the peak, a large a-frame came my way. I was in position for the left, so I turned, popped up and barely made the drop, fins releasing from the wave face momentarily. As I struggled to land the airdrop and I grabbed my rail, I could see that I was much deeper than I had hoped, the rest of the wave pitching over down the line. I managed to stay up and stay just in front of the crashing lip all the way out into the flat section near the heiau. I paddled back out to the peak, sufficiently creeped out now, as I understood the tide was way too low and the swell was way too wild.

Iʻll just find a few corners, paddle around, I thought, and stay safe.

That first hour was sketchy, dodging bombs, constantly feeling the rush of water up through the holes in the reef after the wave washed through, always worried my feet were going to drag on the rocks. I managed to find some fun waves, despite the craziness, though one did dump me over and hand me yet another injury, this one courtesy of a fin slicing across my left shin.

As the session wore on, and the wind lightened, and the tide finally started to come up, I noticed that the waves became more organized and predictable. In that second hour, I really found some great rides, one or two strange roller coasters with pits and sections, and even a few decent barrels. My last ride was a hefty head high wave that sucked off the reef again but let me in early enough to make it doable. I dropped right into the bowl and let the lip curl over my back for a few seconds. I stalled into another section before running it out to the last section of white wash, which I met with a decent little hack.

I rode the white wash the rest of the way in and headed up the incredibly steep shore to my bag under the ironwood. The angle of the sand down to the sea just right here, on the north side of Kukui Heiau, has always struck me. The land ends so abruptly here and runs steeply down to the sea. These are not the dunes of Polihale where hundreds of yards of sand separate vegetation from the sea, so far off you can never quite tell how big the waves are. This is just a matter of a few board lengths forward but a drop of ten to twenty feet down.

***
“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
Itʻs always ourselves we find in the sea”
    e.e. cummings

May 1, 2020

Today is May Day across the country, Lei Day here in Hawaiʻi. A day invented by a white guy in the 1920s and so engrained in Hawaiian “culture” that I almost always forget the colonizer part. It is the last month of Spring, or the first month of Summer, depending on who you ask or when in time you ask it, and it is easy to guess why this month is named after Maia, the Roman earth goddess. I prefer the older word, Magya, she who is great.

***

Today I drove through the wind and sun to the south shore, hoping for a miraculous break in the breeze or for some random uncalled swell. I could tell as I drove that it was too windy for Mahaʻulepu, so I had decided to check my little spout under the Spouting Horn, across Kukuiʻula harbor. As PKs, Centers, Acid Drop, and Heroines came into view, I could see that the wind was mostly offshore, making the sea beautiful, if not full of waves. I watched Acids for a few minutes. There were some waves breaking there, but they foamed out into nothing almost immediately. I drove on and watched the water under the blowhole and watched the moʻo breathe. Again, beautiful but no waves.

Still thinking it was too windy for Mahaʻulepu and now worried about time, I headed for Keoneloa Bay. The parking lot was blocked off, so I parked on the side of the road, got my stuff, and walked down to the shore. There were maybe 7 people out; a mom pushing her son into waves, a guy with his sons, and a handful of others. The waves looked to be breaking pretty deep and a bit soft, a rarity for this spot.

I paddled in and could tell that the vibe was nice and mellow, to match the waves. I chatted, shared some wax, ran into the strange outer edges of that alterna-life of the other Jon Medeiros, and found plenty of fun little waves, most slower than I am used to here. Eventually, the swell shifted and started breaking a bit more like its typical self and I found one or two great head high bombs that allowed me to stall in the bowl as the lip peeled over my back.

Two National Guardsmen, in full camo, boots, hats, gloves, face masks, parked their humvee and walked out to the sand, looking for unmasked sunbathers, I suppose. Finding none, they watched us surf for a while before awkwardly walking back up the sand to their vehicle. Is this life in May right now? Check points and military oversight of exercise?

National Guard Chain off Keoneloa Bay

April 18-April 24, 2020

April 18, 2020

Light trade winds again today and clear air. I made my way to Makaʻiwa, in front of Lava Lava, with my normal surf bag: water, coffee, one banana, sunblock, wax, wax comb, wallet, shades, wetsuit top, and towel. My board, of course. But now I’ve added the mask. I park, don my mask, grab my board and bag, and walk down the path to the shore. I see no one when normally I’d have to step aside at least twice to let others pass coming in the other direction. Similarly there is no one on the shore. Just piles of sticks, a few huge trees left over from the storms in March, and some birds.

It is 8:45, just after the 8:05 low tide of .09 feet. High tide is just after 2:00, topping out at a bit over 1 foot. Rising off a low tide with some east wind swell, or south east ground swell, is perfect for this bit of reef. Today the water is inexplicably green and the waves look smaller and messier than I had hoped. Mentally preparing for the simple pleasant feelings of paddling and duck diving, I made my way out to the line up.

Just as I reached the peak, a decent sized wave rolled through, sucking off that familiar slab of reef, the bottom dropping out as it peeled off to the right. I turned mid-paddle to take off on the next wave, slightly smaller, but still chest high, super fast and fun. I always marvel at how waves at Mahaʻulepu can be overhead and just mellow, slow, but the wave here is tense with speed and power, even those that come in at knee or waste high. The session ended up being much more fun than I anticipated, with no real lulls and some beautiful green barrels peeling just over my back. I even found one or two deeper barrels, green and bright in the morning sun, though I didn’t make it out of those. As time wore on, the sets picked up a bit, but they also got a little wilder, with steps and ledges all along the face, adding a bit of dirt bike fun to these later rides.

I paddled for what looked like a nice clean right but I got hung up on the take off and it closed down to mushy white water. I dropped in, turned into the fat mush and bailed over the top, not thinking anything of it. I felt my board hit my shin as I tumbled over the white wash and I quickly located the ding in the rail, some leg hair still in it. Not wanting more water to seep into the foam, I caught the next wave, about as clean and fun as I had hoped that other wave would be, then paddled in.

I dumped some cold water on my head to rinse the salt off, hung up my wetsuit top, and started drying off. I didn’t notice the cut on my leg until I was putting on my slippers. Ding and body repair are on the docket.

April 19, 2020

The winds were even lighter today. Erin and I started the day with a walk around the neighborhood, now almost as habitual as our after dinner walk. From the end of Lani Road, I could see out over the old buildings in Kapaʻa Town to the clear, clean ocean. The fact that Anchors would be perfect right now registered in my mind but I did not say anything. I canʻt remember now why I didn’t head right down to surf; someone had something to do. I waited until about 10:00 and as I was getting ready, Erin decided that we should all go down. The girls and Erin would ride their bikes from the library out to the grassy meadow past Paliku while I paddled out. Ok.

The winds were up just a bit and the parking lot was packed. I saw someone skittering across a left out at the break. No solo surfing today. When I made it past the eponymous anchor, I saw that there were three guys out there, two looking like first timers with a friendly guide. I paddled my patched up spitfire out past all of them and over to the take off spot to wait. I quickly found a decent left but dipped the nose in on the second drop, tumbling head over into the water. No injuries, though, and no one seemed to notice. I havenʻt surfed this board in a year maybe and I am not used to the speed and aggressiveness, especially on waves like this. Shaking off the spill, I paddled back out, found another left, and carefully made it to the inside section, though this was no wave to describe. Just water moving.

Next up, a huge wedge came through and I was set up for a right, not sure if they were even working today. I paddled, started to pop up but I felt my board get hung up. I stood and took the drop super late, tail escaping the face of the wave, then catching again, and then…down to the bottom, the actual bottom, the reef beneath the wave. Sometimes a great wipeout is as fun as a great wave. That drop was exhilarating and I made it back just fine, with a few extra ounces of salt in my sinuses.

The leader of the crew started talking to me. His name is T-. He grew up on the east side, lived in Portland for a long time. His buddies had never been to Anchors, and that was obvious. Despite my initial frustration at having to surf around others, I enjoyed getting to bullshit with T- about waves, about Portland, Kauaʻi life, the swell today, tides, bending NW swells. He and I agreed that the rights just weren’t working today. His first words to me, in fact, were about my big airdrop, telling me there was no wave after that anyway.

We settled in, chatting, finding little rights, me trying to get used to the tightness of the spitfire after so long on my retro boards. After one pretty decent left, that I connected to the inside sections, stalling in the pocket, I paddled in to the other anchor. I saw Erin and the girls riding across the bridge just as I made it to shore. We spent a while swimming together, getting our state approved exercise in together. These last ten minutes were the first ten minutes we have been able to all swim together in months and it was nice. Cool, warm, fun.

April 20, 2020

One day later, and Anchors is a different place. No crowd. No cars anywhere near the library. The swell is solid, not breaking apart, but lining up frequently, draining all the way through from the outside and across both sections of the left. Maybe the swell direction shifted just enough. Maybe it filled in a bit. Maybe I just felt better on my spitfire after so long. But today, the lefts were firing and I felt good.

The water was blue today, no surprise, but like broken glass shining in the sun, with a little southeast wind blowing. Today was the first day in weeks that I saw a passenger plane fly over the coast. I hoped to myself that it was empty of actual passengers, or that its passengers were animals, or supplies. And then minutes later, a second plane flew in. I hate that now I donʻt just get annoyed when I see a plane, or too many people. Now I worry about disease, about carrying or passing the virus, like a horrible game of tag.

By the time the sun was high over my head, the wind had risen enough to start blowing the once decent waves apart, rendering the rides much shorter, disjointed. Before that though I had a blast, finding left after left. A few were pretty close to epic. Head high at the peak, chest high out the rest of the way. I stalled into the pocket on one, hit the top, made the connection to that second drop and bowling section, then a floater, and finally that creepy bend in the wave towards the anchor. There were few rights today. Just big, familiar, sicken drops, followed by nothing. Not much payoff for the risk on the rights today.

I managed to find one last decent left after the wind came up, but I botched the inside section, right at the bend. I managed to avoid the reef, but was rolled up in the barrel a few times, tumbling on rinse. I decided not to go out like that, so I found the edge of the inside slab to wait for another last wave. What I found looked fun, with a nice wall running out, but I again misread the drop. The bottom dropped out as the wave sucked all the water off the reef which I did not avoid this second time. I tumbled over once, and then again, and then smack on my ass. No blood, though, which was a nice change after my shin at Makaʻiwa and my nose out here a few weeks ago, and my board was fine. Back out to the edge of the slab…hunting, waiting, paddling. Finally, I found a decent one, made the drop, navigated the bend, and drifted in towards the anchor. Session over.

***

The moon makes the tide
And the tides mark the time
And the wind brings the waves.
I havenʻt seen the moon for a few days
But the stars
Spun around our heads
Violet in the corner, 
Evora next to her, scared,
Erin and I with our feet to them.
We watched the stars
And I thought about waves.

***

April 24, 2020

The trades crept back, as I knew they would, over night. S– had asked me to let him know the next time I was heading to Mahaʻulepu, so I texted that Iʻd be there around 9:45, just after the low tide of -0.01 feet. High tide was well past midday, giving me a perfect two hour window of a low to high rising tide with some decent swell. The large North was wrapping around and surging across the reef, along with the typical wind swell and a bit of a south swell. No shortage of waves today.

After giving S– a few pointers (he had never been out here) about the reef and the current and the take off spots, we tiptoed across the rocks and paddled out. It turned out to be a classic Mahaʻulepu day, brisk trade winds, a bit of current, and nonstop waves. Some sucking off that inside section a little deeper than most, some mush-bombs breaking outside, some closeouts peaking on the east side of the break, most with that nice bottom turn section and fat shoulder before flattening off.

I found a few reelers that took me all the way in, a few with great shaped faces for hacks, a few with nice little ramps. A classic day out there. No crowd, just fun. The day was all blues and greens and puffs of white. Mahaʻulepu is rarely epic, though I have had some amazing days there, it is almost always able to provide a lot of fun waves. After surfing it as long as I have, I am able to find more little sections and bowls and take the waves farther than most casual visitors to this break.

After a “last wave left,” I paddled over to the rock pile for one of the sketchy little slabs and found one fairly quickly. Iʻm getting better at sitting close to the dry rock here without getting sucked over or past it. The wave isnʻt great yet, but the drop is fun, a bit scary. S– followed me over there but wisely decided against trying to find one of these waves, and we headed in.

April 11-April 17, 2020

April 11, 2020

We’ve been locked down for almost a month. Today I had to head in to Lihue for a bunch of errands, including supplies to build my chambered wooden surfboard, toilet paper, and some basics from Costco. I also needed to replenish our supply of lemons by visiting the tree near my classroom. Mrs. L– gave me the ok for that.

As I had these various things to do, I decided to jump in the water on my way. Makaʻiwa seemed to be the easiest, with the wind still down. Kealia probably would have worked well but I was hoping for another solo session and the crowds at Kealia have been too large for my comfort in these quarantine days. 

It was about 8:15 when I made it out to the shore at Makaʻiwa and I could tell that things had changed since yesterday. The sky was totally clear, no high thin clouds to obscure the sun. There were more sticks and logs floating through the lineup. The swell was down compared to yesterday, which meant knee high waves, maybe some waist high. And there were people here, to my surprise. I had seen R–, Ch–, and O– getting out of their car when I was pulling up, and out in the water was a guy I recognized with his two young daughters, one wearing water wings. To be honest, this was the perfect day out here for keiki, but to be even more honest, I did not relish the idea of surfing any where near people, even if one of those people was an attractive and magnetic woman I’ve never quite talked to.

I stayed out about an hour. Long enough to embarrass myself in front of R– and O–, feeling awkward and gangly in the water today. Long enough to talk story a bit with the other guy about surfing with little ones. Long enough to notice the same SUPs, flies buzzing around Flat Rock and even way out at the edge of the reef off Hukilau Lanai. I found some fun little peelers. Nothing amazing. Nothing even like yesterday. But fun, still.

I decided it was time to leave when I saw the surf lesson crew roll up with about 8 or 10 people. I canʻt understand why some are still not taking this seriously enough, but when I saw that crowd, I was out. I headed for my errands in Lihue, hoping to make it home with all that need to all that I need.

April 12, 2020

C– called this morning, when we were waiting for Jesus or the easter bunny or whatever this weekend is about. He decided to break quarantine and drop his kids with M– for a few hours and asked me to join him down at Anchors. The day was beautiful, again, but the trades were finally but barely back, extremely light today. High tide was about 6:35 this morning, though not very high at .5 feet, dropping to almost -.1 by noon, so as I paddled out behind C–, I could admire more of the anchor than I had ever seen.

The swell was small again, no surprise, but the session turned out to be super fun, bigger and more consistent than the last time Iʻd been out, just a few days ago. We both found plenty of fun lefts and rights. A few came in near chest high, with the bottom dropping way out, leaving a perfect face and wall to drive down. I even found a little barrel or two, and nearly found the reef on the inside section of a few rights.

That plane that buzzed me a few days ago flew over again, and we were also visited by a number of fishermen in kayaks and one or two solo canoe paddlers. After about two hours, I headed in, on two great lefts, to meet my family for our now near daily quarantine bike rides.

April 17, 2020

M– and I met at Mahaʻulepu at 9:10 this morning, about two hours after low tide. High tide peaked at 1:20 around .85 feet. The trades are back, moderately, coming in between 10 and 15 mph. With some south swell mixed in to the east wind swell, today promised to be a prime time for Mahaʻulepu.

The water was clear, the waves were solidly head-high, some sets coming in a bit extra, maybe. We walked down the hill and paddled out and I was on a wave in less than a minute; a nice, clean right with a decent drop and room for me to take it all the way to the inside. M– and I paddled against the current, chatted about distance learning pluses and mostly minuses, partners present and missing, children, boards, this crazy world we live in now, and in between, we surfed. 

Not long into the session, three doctors paddled out, two on rasta red gold and green soft tops, making my face itch and my quarantine-self bristle. They turned out to be fine, staying to themselves mostly but I still was bummed about the crowd.

What went well today: I hit some good, hard turns, some nice snaps, boosted a few airs, even landed one, and I found a nice little close out barrel on the end of a long wave. 

After M– left, I stayed a while longer as the swell continued to pour in, maybe even picking up. As I left, I paddled over to the rock pile in front of the house to check out the sketchy slabs I saw running through. I tested out a small one, found a few medium ones, then got sucked across the dry front of the dry rock at the outside edge. Nervous with the adrenaline from that close call, I paddled around, waiting for one more, trying to get on a decent size slab, sitting somewhat deep. A set came through, the first wave exploding off the dry rocks. The second coming in a bit wider. I paddled, made the drop, made it around the boil and the second section into the nothingness of the shoulder and then drifted off to calm waters.

M– left me two hands of bananas, from trees started from the keiki I gave him a few years ago. I stopped on my way home to pick 23 lemons from the tree behind my class. The sky is blue and white, like the waves.

A bowl of lemons

April 4-April 10, 2020

April 5, 2020

I have already surfed in April as many times as all of March. The moon as we know is never still and it is still waxing, almost full. The wind has been down all day, the skies clear, so I decided to head to Anchors. I wish I knew the Hawaiian name for this wave, this stretch of reef, but I wonder if the break itself did not exist prior to the dredging of the channels for the small boat harbor and Kapaʻa Ditch.

C– headed to Hanalei around 10:00 but I have no interest in places where people might be congregating. So, today I surfed alone; not unusual for me, even before the quarantine.

Despite the nice weather for almost a week, the eastside has still not cleaned up completely. Wailua is still full of mud and sticks. Even Anchors isnʻt clear blue.

The water is emerald and teal today,
Green tea, matcha, opaque.
The rains have washed the colors of the forest 
Out to the sea.
I paddle through fields of tidal greens and browns,
The water viridescent today
And the ocean is nothing like the sky, today, 
Itself clear blue and still.
I turn to watch a wave break:
Clouds rolling across Makaleha.

I am not usually worried about sharks but today they were on my mind. Maybe because I couldn’t see the reef beneath me as I bobbed around the takeoff zone way out past the channel markers. As I had hoped, the waves were glassy, superbly clean. I spent about two hours enjoying the smooth, powerful rides that always surprise me out there. The break is usually twice as big and three times as powerful as it looks from shore and today was no different.

Shoulder high swells kept rolling through. Some of the rights were wide open, offering big faces and long walls for more than a few turns. Some bent towards shore sharply, like a V, closing down the second section but offering a ramp or lip to hack at, if one wasn’t too worried about the reef below. Some bent the other way, out to sea, like a Y, the wave disappearing at the fulcrum. I found a few fun lefts, too, with nice steep rides across the shallows, pushing directly towards the eponymous anchor. And though today wasn’t a day primed for barrels, I did find one small on, eventually.

Just in time for my arms to be tired, the wind came up from the South, only a puff of air, really, but enough to blow rifles across the glass and shut the whole place down. I found one last left, paddled for the other anchor on the inside reef, and finally made it to shore, neck and arms burning. 

After a quick rinse, I found my mask and headed for the store, much scarier than the notion of sharks beneath green waters.

April 7, 2020

Today, I headed back to Anchors. The winds are forecast to be light all week and there was still a bit of swell hanging around. I paddled out through perfect glassy waters, surprised as usual when I hit that spot in the paddle when the sounds of the waves suddenly roar to life, just as the anchor comes into view. The tide was low this morning, still dropping a bit, and the moon will be full when it rises just after sunset.

I anticipated that the waves would be on the small side, so I paddled my 7’ single fin today. Just as I made it to the line up, a wave rolled through, maybe waste high. I was not quite in position and the bottom dropped out as the lip hit my back and I somersaulted over the nose and into the green sea. No problem, but in retrospect, an omen maybe. Do I believe in those? 

Back on the board, I headed to the proper take off spot to wait for a proper wave. In almost no time, a perfect shoulder high right came through, sparkling in the morning sun. I paddle, pop up, take the drop smoothly and head down the line. I have time to notice that the power of the wave is not a perfect fit for the single fin, but I make a nice bottom turn, pump a few times over the green reef and I set up to hit the lip and drop back to the second section. This is where things turn as I donʻt make the second drop. No problem, usually.

Then sharp confusion, an impact and searing pain in my skull before I even make it back to the surface. I think I realize my board has been turned into a missile by the wave and has slammed me in the face just as I also worried about checking my teeth. I make my way back onto my board, dazed, lucky to be conscious, lucky my teeth are intact. Now the pain of the impact is more localized and I can tell my nose is broken and maybe I have a cut above my right eye. As I spit out gobs of blood, I wonder if I can or should paddle in. The surfer in me hates to abandon a session after one wave, especially when the day is otherwise so perfect. I decide to see if I can get the bleeding to stop and finish my session, as I think about sharks again. Can they really smell one drop of blood? Do they sniff around for human blood verses that of the creatures of the sea and can they tell the difference? It can’t be that mine is the only blood clouding the waters today. I don’t know what else I think as I tilt my head back and squint and somehow try to keep an eye on the swells.

I eventually stop spitting out blood but my nose never quite stops dripping. I manage to stay out for a full two hours, finding some truly beautiful waves, but my head is foggy and my knees are weak. The dull pain hangs over the session, over the whole day, really. I canʻt find my keys and glasses after I set them down at home later that day before or after I take a nap, try to work, respond to students.

After the board to the face.

This is two hours later, after cleaning myself up. 

April 8, 2020

After a fitful night of sleep made worse because I couldnʻt breathe through my broken nose, I decided that the day was too still to ignore. With the winds still down, the sun still shining, and the seas still as glassy as I have ever seen, I decide to try Anchors again. Maybe for a bit of redemption. My departure is delayed because, as I mentioned, I have no idea where my shades and keys are hiding. Eventually I find them on the bookshelf; a place I have never left them and that I have no memory of being near yesterday, testament to my foggy, post impact mind.

I make it to the lineup around 8:15, tide low and dropping, moon just past full when it reappears later this evening. The water is perfect, clear now and still green, like an emerald today instead of the mountains of the weekend. The swell had dropped a bit further, coming in at knee to chest high, maybe, but this wave is so strong and fast, even these waves proved to be a blast.

For the first half of the session, after seeing a hammer skin fish, I focused on the rights, some short wedgey peaks with nothing but a drop, a few long beautiful runners with a few sections for snaps and turns. I saw some big green barrels and found a head dunker or two, but nothing special.

Eventually the swell shifted, maybe as the tide dropped, and I spent the second half of the session hunting those lefts that bend and then hollow out and run out to the channel all while hurtling toward the anchor. These waves proved to be the best of the day, longer, steeper, hollower. I found a little close out barrel on one wave and on another just had fun rushing down the line while watching the reef fly by below.

What do I think while I surf? Yesterday Erin asked the girls what they think about when they bike. Nothing. Everything but with no words. How to describe what is in my mind while I ride a wave?

Water over rocks.

April 10, 2020

Winds are still light and it feels like the whole world is still. I left before 7:30 this morning, while the air was still crisp and cool. Low tide was just before 11:00, bottoming out at -0.29 feet and the swell was way down, maybe just knee to waist high. There is a NW swell coming in over head and Hideaways is probably epic today, but I just donʻt want to be around crowds right now, so I decide on trying Makaʻiwa, in front of Lava Lava Lounge, hoping that the clean conditions and shallow reef would provide some sweet little rides.

High, thin clouds were still hiding the sun in the eastern sky as I paddled out, keeping the world cool and the water colorless. Not blue or green today. Just clear, almost invisible. My first wave was a nearly perfect stomach high right that peeled through two sections, allowing me to find a little barrel, just over my back. This turned out to be the best wave of the session, but I had fun finding little runners, lefts and rights, some sucking off the reef enough to give me some beautiful closeout barrels. Wave after wave of invisible water, like sliding, like hovering over the reef rushing past my fin.

Waiʻaleʻale was clear today, its long arms visible, and it is hugging Kālepa and Nounou. The horizon across Wailua Bay was cluttered with eight or ten sweepers in black, standing on the water, buzzing around each other, like flies on rotted fruit. Their hoots and hollers carried across the water reassuring me in my aloneness.

March 28-April 3, 2020

“Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind-”
“...breeding
lilacs out of dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.”

Aperilis, the following, the next. Formerly the second month. This April, this spring, seems like it has been here for a while, like we have all been paused in that space of time described by Williams and Elliot; we are all once again frightened, naked children, uncertain about everything except that we are here in this world together hoping for the roots to stir and the world to bloom again as we think it should.

April 1, 2020

The second half of March was filled with quarantine, lockdowns, travel bans, and floods like we havenʻt seen in years. Twice in less than 10 days the skies opened and turned the rivers upside down and the oceans red and brown. I managed to sneak in one surf between the rains and today made it out again, on the foolʻs day.

I stopped at Longʻs for toilet paper, which they did not have. I was careful not to touch anything, least of all my face, which all of a sudden itches in an unfamiliar way every time I think about not touching my face. I left the store and made my way to Mahaʻulepu, looking for some spot of ocean that wasn’t still muddy from the rains. The south shore is the best bet as there are fewer rivers that empty that way.

As I pulled up to the spot on the hill overlooking the break, a set rolled through and I knew immediately that things were going to be fun. The winds were light, variable, the tide was low, rising to .89 feet by 12:30. The sun lit up the swells, turquoise and blue, like a honu. Not a hint of brown anywhere except the river. 

I walk-ran down the hill, waxed up, peed, watched another set, applied sunscreen, and was out in the lineup by 9:50. No one was at the house; no one was on the beach; the winds were light, the current was light, the waves were consistent and I decided to get in one shortsless ride before anyone walked down the sands.

Thereafter, pants up, the session was mostly sublime. The water was still cool with a hint of the heavy rains of March, the sun was shining, the winds blowing almost offshore (rare for Mahaʻulepu), and the waves were fun sized, coming in shoulder to head high over and over. I noticed too that most of the waves rolled through with extremely wide shoulders, resulting in lots of face and long rides down the line. I took many into that inside section where the water is just inches away from reef. I even snuck five over the edge on one wave and made it out the back safely.

No one joined me in the line up, except a little sea turtle and a butterfly. After nearly two hours of surfing (Iʻd have stayed longer but my legs are still sore from doing PE with Joe, the now pandemic famous phys-ed teacher to the world), I paddled in, rinsed off, had a bit of a snack and a walk in the woods.

I am hoping April is more like today than March. 

April 3, 2020

C– and S– both texted to try to meet up for a session. S– was checking out Kahili and Kealia, I suggested Anchors, and Caleb’s original call was Mahaʻulepu. By the time I checked Anchors, around 10:00, the wind was too strong and the waters were still a bit brown. S– wasn’t interested in driving to the South side, so he stuck around close to home. I pulled up to the edge of the cliff at Mahaʻulepu about 10 minutes before C–. 

There was no wind, but the water was bumpier than Wednesday, with a weird chop on the surface. The tide was rising to a .7 foot high tide at 11:40, but the swell was smaller and less consistent than the other day. The sky was tall today, light gray, and there was a halo around the sun. It occurred to me that the size of the circle the halo of light etched around the sun probably depended on the elevation of the water vapor making up those thin, gray clouds. I suppose there is a math problem there to solve, if only I knew the equations. As I sat in the line up, I noticed the water was clear, mostly, but all shades of black, today, not green or blue. This too could be connected to the clouds obscuring the bright blues of the sky.

The waves were slower, smaller, a bit gutless, but a few fun ones still made it through. After being out of the water so much in March, and now being locked away from everyone, just paddling around was enough. I remember a large black fish turning under me as I found the inside section over the last, shallowest portion of reef. There were few colors anywhere in the ocean today, but talking, even from a distance, with an old friend, was a nice change.

We stayed out for a few hours, C– leaving before me, to relieve his babysitter. He told me about L–ʻs board again, that she wasn’t able to ride anymore and then will never ride anymore; we talked about school a bit, but most just about these strange times.

March 21-March 27, 2020

March 22, 2020

I have only ventured out to the store once or twice, taken the girls on flash flood watching drives, we all made it to the path a few times, we’ve walked Ea and Lani Roads to no end, I even took a drizzly bike ride on my 45 minute loop up Kawaihau and Kahuna Roads, but today was the first time since the quarantine that I have ventured farther afield than Kapaʻa town.

Kapaʻa stream still running high after over topping the bridge earlier.

The weather has been pleasant since Thursday, since the kona storm finally drifted off. I had tentative plans to meet M– at Mahaʻulepu this morning but he couldn’t make it. I briefly thought about Anchors and Nukoliʻi as I packed up the truck, but the wind was too brisk. I thought the north shore would certainly have better waves but I was worried Kalihiwai would still be too muddy, so I made the drive south.

I pulled up to the cliff around 8:10 and just watched for a while. Low tide was close to 9:30 a.m., bottoming out at 0.01 feet but much of the near shore reef was already dry. The near side of the bay was dirty, red orange, frothy, but a sharp line separated the mud from the surf break, showing the hard edge and direction of Mahaʻulepuʻs dependable current. The waves were small, crumbly, but frequent enough for me to head down the hill, across a newly minted sand flat that had completely buried the tide pools in front of the stream. The river itself was a brighter dirty red, headed for the open ocean via the sandy spot right in front of the house, instead of straight out across the rocks, impeded by all the new sand. I walked across all this and sat under the trees to watch some more.

The skies were classic, blue and white, the air was bright, saturated, the sun warm but the breeze cool. The water was a beautiful green across the surf break, but the outside peak of the outside wave sparkled translucent blue as it pitched over. As I stood on the edge of the reef, waiting for a wave to deepen the water enough, I noticed the inside section was the color of tea, fading to that brilliant green I saw from above.

I wasn’t hoping for much more than just a quiet few hours paddling in the sea. And at first, the waves met my low expectations. Over the course of the two hours, I found some fun ones, a few shoulder high runners. I even found myself dropping into a section that just opened up and curled right over my back, perfectly.

When the sun was high enough to tell me how long I had been out, I found a left and headed in, through the stinking red water in front of the house. The water felt thick on my skin, like rinsing a butter knife in cold water, like a film of sea foam mixed with the island mud coating me. A quick rinse from the canteen, and I sat to finish my coffee, looking at all the waves that I could have ridden.

March 14-March 20, 2020

March 15, 2020

I had plans, hatched last week, to meet M– and S– for a surf Sunday morning, before the Kona storm made its way over us, wiping out the rest of the week. Instead we have all spent the past few days adjusting and readjusting to current realities of pandemics while dealing with Erinʻs emergency room visit. She woke up early Saturday, maybe 1:00 in the morning, not being able to breathe, her throat swollen shut. She spent the next 36 hours in the hospital getting tests, retests, steroids, Benadryl, and I spent the time trying to keep the kids worry free while they wondered why they were not allowed in the hospital to see mom.

I spent Saturday morning at North Aliomanu with the girls, just playing in the rocks and tide pools while Erin was slowly breathing better in a hospital room. A large NW swell was wrapping around the island, closing out the little surf spot just to the south of us in a break between dry reef. Someone was out there for a while, catching some in-betweeners while dodging the sets. I just enjoyed the sun and clear water and the sights of Evora and Violet getting lost in salt air imagination.

Erin was out of the hospital by Sunday afternoon and we walked slowly on the path, north of Donkeys, to take last advantage of the sun. The field at the end of the path, overlooking the tiny rocky cove, was beyond pleasant and we spent an hour there, just sitting together. And now here we are, self-quarantined from the world, from the virus, from the rain, though that always makes its way into our home.

This is not a day for surfing. Maybe after the storm passes.

*edit – 12 months later and we are still riding out that storm and it is raining again, still.

Waterfalls and mist on Makaleha

March 7-March 13, 2020

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.

No photo description available.

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.

The words on my whiteboard the last time my 9th grade class was open