December 27, 2020
The moon is approaching what many people call full, one day past Hua, the first day of fullness, Akua, and the winds have been up for a few days. I ran down to Kealia around 9:30, planning to just get in and paddle around since I haven’t surfed in a few days. As I get my board ready, I can see the swell is a mess, big, breaking way outside. I also can see the largish woman in the pink, floral, skirted suit, dancing in the shore break over at Landings. She is shaking her ass hard, her arms pumping up and down, fists near her flushed cheeks, her head bobbing side to side. Whenever a wave comes in, she smashes it with her closed hands then goes back to her dance. I look around, for music or for someone watching out for her, but maybe she is just enjoying the ocean, which is understandable.
I paddle past her, out to the peak, where a guy on a bodyboard, sporting a huge beard, is drifting around. We nod to each other.
“Some fun ones?”
“Yeah, I tryin to get one of these fuckin bombers,” and he is off as I keep paddling for the peak, much farther out than I want it to be but the waves are big today.
The waves I catch are fun, smoother than I expect, and long. I drop into a few that are well overhead and take them all the way to the sand, ducking into the yellow and gold and white closeout barrels.
A few more bodyboarders join us but keep getting batted away by the unpredictable waves. Then a few surfers make their way out.
“You caught some good ones, I had to come out. That last one pitched up and you got shacked.” Yes, these are things actual adults say to each other, even when they are strangers.
The bald local guy paddled over to me, with the familiar what’s up head nod and half shaka to ask “Did you check A-town?”
I had not.
The rest of the session was fun, big wave after big wave. I took off late on a left and didn’t make it, ended up on the bottom for a decent hold down. I climbed my leash up to air and paddled back out, chuckling as one does feeling sweet salt air after being pinned under the waves, stuck to the sand and darkness for too long.
Towards the end of the session, I noticed some disturbance on the face of a wave I was on, and then dozens of needle fish jumped all around me as I slid by. On my paddle back out, the bald guy shook his head. “Did you see those fish? Fuckers stabbed me in the face.”
I showered the sand off, sat in my truck. A woman changed in the parking lot, from tiny shorts to a tiny swimsuit, no care about showing off her naked body, and I headed to meet the family for an afternoon at the end of Anini.
December 28, 2020
The moon is Hoku tonight, the second night of fullness, and the winds are gone. I head down to Mahaʻulepu hoping to find the large wind swell I dealt with yesterday at Kealia but in cleaner conditions. The view from the cliff near the stables is epic, no clouds, the water silver blues, the sand untouched except for crab and bird tracks.
I am in the water by 8:40, two hours before low tide. The water is clear, the waves are clean, but the current is up. A butterfly passes me from the west, headed towards shore. A while later it passes me again, from shore headed back towards the cliffs. Then again, after another hour, it fluttered past me from the west headed towards the shore. I imagine it is the same one, running laps or errands, or just enjoying the day, like me. A small pod of dolphins frolics outside the break. A young honu pops up on the inside. A huge parrot fish swims just ahead of my board as I surf a particularly clear wave to the inside section. And I see whales jumping, finally.
I am eventually joined by a father and his son, Zach, who tell me I had some awesome waves and they were jealous, so they had to paddle out. They are staying at the Gillin House, which makes me wonder where they are from. They call Adam’s Reef the Twin Sisters, a name I have never heard. The father’s daughter’s boyfriend also joins us, on a wavestorm, for his first surf ever. He tries hard, gets rolled by a few waves, and never catches anything.
The waves are beautiful, slow, easy. Nothing fast today, no bowling section. Just a fun drop and then sloping shoulder into the inside shallows. Eventually the drop even fades away. I paddle over to the rock pile and sit as close as I can. I find a decent right that sucks off the dry rocks and then I drift in.
Tomorrow, Anchors, I hope.
December 29, 2020
Māhealani, the third night of fullness, hazy, like moonlight.
I headed down to Anchors at 8:00, the winds still and the sky clear. M— is still a bit sick, and probably needs to be working. C— and S— hadn’t responded yet. I watched the waves from the bridge over the canal and I can’t tell how big the surf is then my extra coffee kicks in and I desperately try to find a spot under the bridge away from other’s eyes.
After crawling back up, I text C— and S— that the wind is still light but I can’t tell how big it is. Judging swell size from the shore can be difficult, especially at a break like this. The wave is hundreds of yards out, hidden behind smaller whitewater reforms, seeming to break below sea-level, sucking off the ledge. I know that North and South swells bend in here, funneled in and magnified onto the point of the reef and I know there is a large NW swell and I still am not sure how big it is out there.
I paddle out. As I pass the anchor on my left and then the first channel marker on my right, I can see that the peak is way outside normal. As I pass the second channel marker and start to cut over to the north, to get around to the takeoff spot, a huge set comes in and warns me off. I straighten out, scared, and paddle well outside then cut north. Confirmed: the waves are large today and the tide is dropping. Each set wave comes in rushing out of deep ocean and sucks off the reef, the sound of the lip hitting the water is a crack of thunder.
I spend the first 30 minutes nervously trying to stay outside and off the shoulder so I do not get caught out by a set. The main problem with this is that I do not want to catch a set wave today. I manage to pick off a few medium sized waves, still well over my head, thick and fast. I am on the 6’ beat up Dominator I picked up yesterday and it handles the speed and drops well. I don’t do much more then bottom turn, set my line, and outrun the barrel on my first few rides.
Eventually, after the giant honu popped up two feet from me, gasping and splashing as if it had been under for days, eliciting a full, high pitched scream from me, I settled down. I think the honu helped me shake off a bit of tension and I began paddling for more peaks. The wind picked up just a bit, then a bit more, eventually making it unsafe to stay out, but before that happened, I had 2 plus hours of high adrenaline fun. Most of the rides connected all the way through the bowling sections and out into the boils in the shallows. Over the session, I pushed the board more and more, eventually finding its sweet spots on big sweeping turns, no sharp snaps. I took off deep on one wave, ducking under the lip and then carving off the top out on the shoulder before making the second drop into another little barrel.
As the wind came up more, the swell started breaking apart making it scary again as I could not find where to safely line up. I paddled back around the peak, south, and caught a big lumpy left then made the long paddle to shore. The large NW swell was causing a pretty decent current to sweep south across the inside reef, making the paddle a bit longer today.
I checked my phone in the truck to see that S— had just said to have fun and C— had spent the morning on the phone, dealing with more family tragedy.
December 31, 2020
Today is the last day of the old 10 month calendar, before we enter that space between times that humans lived their lives outdoors. We are deep into Makahiki now, Makali’i rising above the horizon every night since the second half of November. Makahiki will take us into March, roughly aligning with the named beginning of that other calendar, the one where the number names make sense, the one with the dark whole bridging deepest winter.
Today the surf is rising as people are rising. The salt spray at Polihale is visible from miles away as we turn onto the dirt road. We sit on the cool sands of the dunes, watching the waves, thinking about Pō, thinking about the pahapaha growing offshore under those waves, thinking how the sand holds the coolness of night but warms so quickly to the day. I don’t surf today. This swell is well beyond my limits. But we watch, we feel the salt air cover us. The sea foam rushes dozens of yards up to the edge of the dunes after the bigger sets and my feet are cooled again.
Today is the last day of December, of the named calendar, of 2020, and we are knocking on the door of January, of Janus, wondering what is on the other side.