The moon is half full, just a quarter of its monthly journey as seen from earth. The tide was rising all morning, topping out at 1.9 feet around 10:30. The winds were still light and the east side was super glassy but generally devoid of swell. The next NW swell isnʻt arriving until Sunday or Monday and we are well past the season for south swell. I decided to paddle out at Makaʻiwa in front of the restaurant on my way into work and I was in the water around 7:15, paddling into translucent greens and early morning light. The water looked like if you somehow colored glass with the liquid youʻd get if you crushed all the naupaka leaves into a tea.
The tide was already too high and the swell too small for anything significant. No ledges, no big drops today, just mellow, playful, waist to chest high waves. I did manage to find one big, bright green barrel, a closeout, and just before I paddled in, I took off behind the peak of a little right, ducking under the lip, and shooting out the other side of a perfect little tube.
Early morning sunlight and saltwater quiet.
Every session, one wave is the wave of the day, as I have said. One is always the last, as well. One day, one of those waves will be my last wave on earth. And I wonder if Iʻll recognize it while Iʻm on it.
October 24, 2020
A day later, the moon is slightly larger and the tide has shifted with the moon, topping out around 1.9 feet at 11:30. Still no real swell around but yesterday at Makaʻiwa turned out to be so fun, I decided to head back there. The conditions were even better than yesterday, glassier, smoother waves, and the tide was just a touch lower, giving the waves a bit more shape. I paddled out into the early morning sun on my 7ʻ single fin, hoping the extra length would allow me to catch even more.
The first 20 minutes or so were frustrating and slow but things picked up, still waist to chest high, but so much smoother than yesterday, and the single fin allowed me to get in early and switch to a more mellow glide.
I found one or two of those big sea foam green close out barrels, one on a right hander behind that bending bowl section. As I dropped into the pit there, watching the oncoming left wedge up, the wave just tipped over me and I found myself in a room of green and white for a split second before I popped out the back of the wave.
Those close out barrels were just an appetizer, though. I eventually found a handful of sweet rights with long walled faces. On each, I popped up as the wave swept over the ledge, put my hand on the crystal green face, and just leaned in close, tucked under the curling lip for a few seconds, before coming out into the flats for a turn or two.
An old white bald guy in a speedo and goggles came swimming out to body surf, but he didn’t stick around long. Another old white guy paddled out, too, but on a board. The state has been opened to tourists for 9 days now. Lanaʻi has had 65 positive cases in the past four days, passing the 7 month total for Kauaʻi, and now everywhere I look, I feel crowded by visitors and disease. The planes are in the skies again and I just want them all to leave.
October 25, 2020
I took Evora and her friend to Kealia today while Erin was off hiking Alakai with Violet and the other Erin. Again, the day was beautiful, clear, calm, bright, and blue mostly.
The waters down near Landings were swimming pool clear except for the sandy foam after each wave crashed along the shore. We all three swam for a long while, enjoying the thrill of diving under the surprisingly large set waves. The girls played and swam and even bodysurfed a few and I enjoyed the clear water and the salt and the cool. I took advantage of the larger waves rolling in to bodysurf a bit, finding big, bright barrels over and over again. A short glide, right arm out front, then the whole wave tipping over me and for a second or two or three, Iʻm alone in there with the ocean all around, and then everything explodes and I spin onto the sand under the wave and swim back for another.
Today is Erinʻs birthday. We are staying in Hanalei, trying to celebrate and enjoy this island and our lives and each other before the visitors come storming back.
The moon is new late tonight, early tomorrow morning. We went out for a walk on the bay around 8:00 a.m. The plan was to walk up to the pier but the girls only made it to about Pavilions before they wanted to jump in and swim the rest of the way. After much shuffling on shore while the girls “swam” to the pier, Erin walked up the rest of the way on her own. We walked back to the sand bar in front of Pine Trees and bodysurfed for a while. I took Evora about halfway out the sand bar and we caught some nice fun waves. I even found a few big empty barrels.
Covered in sand and salt, we walked back to the house and had a bit of lunch before we headed out to Keʻe for the end of the day.
October 16, 2020
The moon is officially “new” this morning, though it was not in the sky last night either. The winds are still down, nonexistent, and there is a rising NW swell. Yesterday, the bay was nearly flat apart from the little peelers on the sand bars, but today Pine Trees was closing out overhead barrels. The bowl looked fun and Middles had a big mushy wave, with the left disappearing, weirdly.
Erin had walked out on the bay earlier, on her own, and I met her with the girls around 8:15 so I could paddle out for a bit. I saw a bit of a corner on the waves at the far side of Pine Trees, closer to Pavilions but not up at the cape. The waves there still looked steep, extremely fast, and large, but I saw two guys paddle out convincing me to give it a shot.
I made it out to the line up without much trouble, but as I approached that spot where the sand kicked the wave up and over, I rerealized how big and fast and hollow Pine Trees is. I took my time finding a first wave to ride, while the local guy was tearing it up. His bald haole buddy paddled a lot but did not catch anything for quite a while. Eventually, I found the corner of a nice right with no sections. I paddle, popped up, and immediately ducked under the lip, then pumped out and ducked again, then I sped down the line and up over the end. I made it back to the line up with getting caught inside; a victory in itself.
For the next 90 minutes, I mostly had fun picking off the smaller set waves, still well over head, some long smooth rides like my first, many short close out barrels that required me to punch out the back. One wave left me caught inside the next set. 10 minutes of paddling and I thought I was outside only to be sucked back by the next set, the largest of the day so far. Another 10 minutes of scratching, duck diving, bear hugging my board, and I eventually scratched out past the break, sucking for oxygen, worried I might pass out. By this time, a crew of bodyboarders had paddled out, hooting and hollering a bit more than the local guy would have liked. He stayed inside after his next wave and let himself drift down the shore.
My last wave was extremely fun, a large set wave but one that set up with a big peak closer to Pavillions and a shoulder sloping off towards Pine Trees. I knew if I could catch the wave and make the drop, I’d have no closeout sections to navigate. I turned, blinked, paddled, and was rewarded with my wave of the day, a long, fast, hollow wave with a proper barrel right off the front, then a cut back section way at the end, a rarity today. With that wave, I headed in to walk down to Waiʻoli stream to find my family.
Later in the afternoon, after icecream, we all went to the pier to swim and play and surf. Both Evora and Violet caught some long fun waves. I even found a few peelers on the wavestorm once they had given up. I caught one or two all the way through and under the pier, dodging the pilings and gliding out the other side.
October 17, 2020
After our last day in Hanalei, celebrating Erinʻs birthday week, I found some time in the afternoon for a quick session at Anchors. There was no wind at all so I thought I might get some fun glassy waves but the water was inexplicably rippled. It was a dull mossy green with a silver mirror overlaid, reflecting the colors of the grayblue sky.
The current was strong, running across the reef from north to south and there was a lot of water moving around, but I was able to find some fun rides. The sets were beefy, coming in head high and fast, but were mostly just a quick steep drop and then not much face. I did manage to find one spectacular left and one very long fun right. After what I thought was my last wave, a left where I dropped down the face and then hopped over another ledge as the wave over took the wave in front, I found myself looking back at a large hollow wave rushing towards me. I tried to paddle to the corner and thought I could just pop up under the lip. I realized at the last second I was too deep and the wave too fast, so I turned and tried to paddle off the back, but I became enveloped in the lip as it curled and sucked me over, the board under my right arm. I prepared for a horrible hold down, or at least a scrap across the reef, but was surprised to relatively delicately float up in the white water, unscathed.
October 18, 2020
The tide swings are large right now, as the moon drifts from new towards crescent then half. The peak high tide was 2.33 feet around 4:00 this morning, and low tide was around 10:00, bottoming out at .44 feet. I wanted to take advantage of the still decent NW swell and the light winds before the konas blew across the mountains and ruined the conditions, so I invited M— and C— to check Kalihiwai. M— had to stay south, finding an empty (and flat) Waiohai, and C— was set on trying Bowling Alleys, on the north side of the Anahola river mouth.
I got to Bowling Alleys first and reported the lack of swell then headed to Kalihiwai. When I pulled up, the conditions were beautiful: glassy waters, clear and calm skies, and no crowd. The waves looked small off the point, but I decided to take advantage of a nearly empty Kalihiwai while C— opted for Hanalei Bowl.
Kalihiwai is a small sandy bay with the Kalihiwai stream at the north west corner, near a lava bench and low cliff. The south east side of the bay is walled by a large cliff of volcanic rock, a decent example of columnar jointing in the islands. The lower sections of the cliff have been cut out by centuries of huge North swell pounding away and the outer tip curves in such a way that it looks more like a giant ship jutting out from the hillside, when viewed from the lineup.
I paddled out at 8:30, passing the small group messing around on the inside. As I reached the main line up, the one guy I saw bobbing around had given up and paddled halfway in. I almost immediately paddled into a fun head high wave, easy and playful, but with a nice long wall running me back along the cliffside. The guy saw my wave, thought twice about abandoning the point, but then continued in.
I had the main break to myself for a while before two longboarders joined me. The woman was nice, chatting about the rarity of empty Kalihiwai between waves. They left and were replaced by a local guy giving two women a surf lesson, perhaps pushing their limits too far, perhaps taking out some frustration that visitors were back at all. He complimented the wave he saw me catch on his paddle out and marveled along with me that no one was out here. He managed to push one of the women into a few fun looking waves while the other one seemed nervous from the get go. He eventually pushed her into a decent wave but she stayed down on her belly most of the ride until she popped up at the very end only to fall right off. The guy started asking me about my board before we were interrupted by a large set wave coming in wide.
I paddled and popped up under the lip, made it around the section, and just enjoyed the huge face running out in front of me. The wave was easily two or three feet overhead and much steeper than the first hour or so. As I made my way down the line, I saw that nervous lady bobbing in the white wash, still not back on her board. I took a high line as I went past her, cut back a few more times and let out an involuntary hoot of joy. I slid off the back of the wave and paddled over to the woman to see if she was okay, knowing she not only fell off her wave but that she just got hammered by the largest wave of the day so far. I helped her on her board and she asked me to let the surf instructor know that she had decided to paddle back in, where things felt calmer.
After that, I basically had the point to myself again and the waves just kept getting steeper and better as the tide dropped. Eventually the wind came up a bit, making the face bumpy and bit more difficult to make sharp cuts. I was happy, though, having found countless overhead waves, long runners with great sections. Many of the rides were so long, my legs were burning at the end of each ride, which is uncommon for me, not because my legs are strong.
As I made my way in after one last epic ride, I found a fun little inside section off the cliff and then another that took me all the way to the sand.
The northwest swell has faded, but the buoys are still showing some decent south and east swell with light winds. The only problem today was that the tide was wrong; well not wrong. How can tide be wrong? My selfish timeline wanted low tide to match my schedule, not the moon’s schedule. Low tide was well before sunrise, topping out around 1.7 feet at 10:30, and then it stayed pretty high all afternoon. I decided to head to Mahaʻulepu despite the high tide, thinking I could use the wavestorm if nothing else, but I decided to check Acid Dropʻs at the last second.
The water was beautiful, silver gray and glassy, and the waves were lunging up off the ledge, blue and white wedges peeling down the reef. I saw one guy out at AD, that guy that is always there, either in his truck or in the line up, and I waited just long enough to see him pull in to an overhead barrel before I grabbed my board and locked the truck.
I paddled out, noting that the tide was already so high that I could not easily jump off the ledge at the shore, feeling some nerves as I replayed the wave I saw. The swell wasnʻt huge or even close to the largest I have surfed, but this is Acid Drops and anything overhead can be difficult to handle.
Shortly after I made it out, an older grandpa joined us, and we all paddled around, talked aimlessly about how the tide was too high but the day was perfect anyway. I found a few amazing waves that lined up from the main peak past the bend and to the inside section and even ducked under the lip once or twice. Eventually, I gave up on the outside peak as the tide continued to climb. The waves were fat out there now, difficult to paddle into without a longer board. I moved wide and inside, looking for the ones that jacked up off the other section of reef. These waves ended up being even more fun, holding their shape and speed for longer.
After a while the crowd swelled to 6, with 2 of the new guys on wavestorms. I milked the session until after everyone else had given up and I did not regret my tired arms.
October 10, 2020
Body surfing with the family at Kealia again. So crowded down at Landings, trucks and tents and thongs all over. Found some fun shore break whompers. The barrels headed to the left lit up with the setting sun.
A colleague has been posting about god. And how he is sad that people live inferior lives to his life enriched by god. And I float in the water and I marvel at what he doesn’t know about the richness of my life, of the world, or what he is too afraid to know about people.
The day before the full moon. The winds are still super light, the skies are bright and blue all day. Makaʻiwa and Anchors were amazing the past few days and I finally had time to paddle out after work today, getting out to the break around 2:30.
The swell was down a bit from the past few days but the sets were still solid, almost head high. As has been typical lately here, the rights were less consistent, mostly just wedging up for a big drop and then nothing. I did manage to find one right that ran down the reef for a while, through that second bowling section, then the wave split, with one wall peeling back away from the shore. I managed to make it over to that little weird section running almost perpendicular to the shore, pushing me north across the shallowest sections of the reef.
Apart from that, the real highlights were the lefts, long, steep, and fast. A few sucked up and spit at the ends and most ran all the way into the slabbing section near the anchor. I found left after left, sometimes making it into the pocket. Two were spectacular, fast and steep, over the greens and blacks of the reef. I recall thinking, as my last wave stood up and the bottom dropped out, “You make this. Grab your rail.” This thought seemed to unfurl slowly, but also between heartbeats. I did in fact make it and grab my rail and then speed down the line past the wall seemingly always bending towards me, the lip threatening my head, before I made it out to the edge for a snap over the second section.
The old english name for October is winterfylleð. No longer the eighth month, this name perhaps references October and its former place near the beginning of winter. This year, October has two full moons; the first one is a harvest moon on October 1, and the second is on the 31st.
I watched the harvest moon rise this month. Erin and I went for a walk on the path above Kealia Kai just after moonrise. We watched it rise, larger than it should be, orange then yellow then bright white as it marked the minutes up the sky. And the ocean turned silver and alive.
October 2, 2020
Kealia, high tide, body surfed, Violet got rolled, caught a few shore breaks on the beater.
October 3, 2020
M— rescheduled our trip to the north shore, so I paddled back out to Anchors around 8:00 this morning. Ran in to L— who advised me that the tide was low. “The tide is always low out there,” I thought, as I paddled out into the glassiest ocean I’ve seen in a while. The swell was smaller than Wednesday, topping out at chest high, but the conditions were perfect, glass, see through, like ice on a window pane, like the Metolious.
This morning each wave was nearly silent. I could hear the sounds of my board and myself gliding over water. The lefts especially were fun. I felt close to the wave on most drops, face to face, he alo ahe alo, like Aunty Pua wants us to know each other.
Despite the amazing clean conditions, and playful size, this wave is never forgiving. I was sent flying on a few late drops, each time pushed down to the flat ledge below, before being rolled back up to the sky. Nothing too bad. Just enough to be reminded that this is the ocean.
We ended the day at Kealia again, with the girls, for more body surfing. Lots of big whompers.
October 4, 2020
M— and I headed straight to Hideaways after meeting at sunrise at Kealia. I was excited about getting a good clean big swell, but it was not to be. The direction was weird, with the waves only breaking in one spot, inside a bit, crowded by 7 or 8 surfers, mostly missing the sets. We went down to check Pine Trees and Middles, but neither seemed promising, so we headed down to Kahili, Rock Quarry.
The parking lot was full with cars and trucks spilling up the hill, so we assumed the line up was equally packed. We found out later that the excess vehicles were from the huge party the night before. The line up was basically empty with two guys over on a warbly right and two guys over on the left. We paddled for the right, thinking the reef would be helping the waves breaking steadily, but M— quickly changed his mind and headed across the bay. I stayed on the right for three waves, all large, well over head, but none clean. One closed out and the other two were covered in what felt like dozens of speed bumps.
I made my way across the bay to meet M— on the left against the rock wall. This is normally a powerful, hollow, fast wave that heaves across the sand bars, but today the peaks were showing outside, then feathering in and breaking at three spots at once, making it difficult to find the clean edge or face. Even when we did find one, the steep and hollow ride was nowhere to be found.
Eventually we were visited by two seagulls flying low, one hovering just a few feet over M—ʻs back. These were joined by a half dozen ʻiwa birds gliding way up high. Over the last hour of the session, something changed. Maybe the tide dropped enough or maybe I finally found the right spot, but I picked off the edge of a large set wave, made the drop and looked down the line at a huge, long, clean wall. I made a few turns and cutbacks, and boosted a nice air off the last section. From then on, the rides were fun, longer, hollower, faster.
Once time was called on the morning, by familial responsibilities, we headed back to the truck and were met by a couple of talkative young men. They sounded like they were speaking my language but half of what they said was not making sense. Eventually I picked out some key phrases. “Fun out there?” Then, “Were you here last night?” before I could answer, and then “Nah, thatʻs his blue car, itʻs melting, itʻs the mushrooms,” before I could answer that. “Itʻs my momʻs car. Itʻs a banga.”
I donʻt know how to end a conversation with people tripping on mushrooms, but M— and I managed to leave eventually, and that was that.
The moon is almost full, rising in late afternoon, around 4:30. M– and I checked all the south shore spots, looking for that overhead swell that was on the forecast, but found nothing. We ended up at Mahaʻulepu by 6:30 this morning, and there are certainly worse places to end up. M– mentioned that my SeaSide had inspired him enough that he bought his own. He also decided that my injury from last week is only lingering because that is life over 40. My body is still sore, has been all week, causing me to walk with a noticeable limp.
Today is the first paddle out since that spill onto the reef 8 days ago. My bottom turns were not as difficult as last week, but still not 100%. The wind was calm, the water clear and green. Dolphins frolicked on the outside and fish jumped and surfed in front of me on a few waves. Though the swell was not what we had expected, we had fun talking story and picking off some long rights. The waves were breaking much farther up the reef than normal, closer to Lihue ahead of the normal spot, causing us to take off behind the peak a few times. Eventually two guys on longboards paddled out but they mostly stayed out of the way, on the inside or really deep. That guy with his metal detector walked the shore again, as did a woman in a tiny bikini and huge backpack, dressed for a day of sunbathing but packed for a camping trip, it seemed.
After close to three hours of surf, and too much talk about the dumpster fire of 2020, we headed in and up the hill.
I wonder, if we knew what these place names meant, would they find their way into the Sad Topographies atlas of places?
The girls came to school with me today. We planned to leave at lunch time so we could have a beach day down at Waiohai, but meetings popped up and Evora decided she couldn’t skip her hula class. So, we left at 1:20 instead of 12:00, but no problem.
We got out to the beach just before 2:00, close to high tide. The girls carried the snack bag and towels while I lugged out the wavestorm. There were very few people around, the winds were light, and the skies and water were brilliant, blues and greens and silvers. A handful of people paddled around out at the main break, picking off little rights and longer lefts, nothing over shoulder high, but clean and fun looking. I played with the girls in the water, then took the wavestorm over to the inside corner to catch one of those sketchy rights over the dry rocks.
Later, I paddled Violet out to Left Lefts. I asked her where she wanted to go, and she pointed and said “Out there,” so we went. When she noticed how long the paddle was, she started to pretend to be worried and asked to turn around. “We have to catch a wave,” I said. I paddled us around the shallows way out at the break, looking through the clear water at the greens and browns and blues, Violet smiling and talking about being scared of the turtles and sharks. Eventually, I paddled us into a nice little runner and Violet laughed the whole time, then yelled “We need to get another one!” So we did.
After I dropped Violet off on the inside and played with the girls for a while longer, they decided to bury each other in the sand. I took this opportunity to head back out to Left Lefts by myself. I stayed out long enough to catch three or four waves, most just waist high runners, but one proper bomb came through. It stood up off the rock pile so that I assumed I would be dumped over. Somehow I managed the weird escalator drop, turning the huge wavestorm down the line, past the close out section. I cut it back and was able to run out to the nose and glide back to the right over the shallows until the wave faded back into water being calm over a reef.
Back on shore, Evora, Violet, and I sat in the shade of a palm tree, drinking water and snacking, looking at what there was to see of the world. Water, sky, light.
September 19, 2020
I headed for Mahaʻulepu this morning, not expecting much apart from quiet time in the water. The forecast showed 1 foot swells all around the island with a background South and background East filling in over night, maybe Sunday. The tide was also high just before sunrise, so I aimed for an 8:00 a.m. arrival hopping the tide would be low enough for something to break. I even left the wavestorm in the back of the truck in case things were that tiny. Despite all that, when I arrived at the cliff, I saw consistent head high+ sets, light winds, and no one out. I grabbed my Seaside and headed down the hill.
As I walked across the first pocket of sand, I saw the largest cowrie shell I have ever seen, smooth and shiny on the bottom, lined and carved by other animals on the top. I put it in my bag so I could show Violet, who has been into examining and thinking about shells lately.
The waves were breaking outside, making for long rides and lots of open face. I tested that length too much on my first ride, dropping into a head high right. I made my bottom turn, cut back hard, turned, cut back again, turned, pumped into the inside section, cut back, turned, then tried to run through that last section just a few inches deep. I did not quite make it out to the hole on the other side of the ledge and the lip dropped me hard, full speed, from five or six feet up, slamming me straight down on my right ass cheek on what felt like dry reef. I rolled over, breathless with pain radiating up and down my right side and managed to find my board and slide out to deeper waters. My first instinct was to head in and call it a day but I decided to finish my session. The initial shock wore off but the pain never went away and I had no real power in my back leg for the rest of the session. Bottom turns proved especially challenging. Despite that, as I said, the waves were extremely fun. Head high all morning with almost no current. Though I had less pop in my turns, keeping me water bound, I did manage to find one beautiful wide open barrel.
Before I headed in, I paddled over to the rock pile to catch one of those sketchy rights over the ledge. I found a decent sized wave that dropped out like normal but had a second bowling section out in front of me, beautiful greens and blues curling over my back as I ducked past.
Once on shore, I noticed a few more injuries from the initial impact. Some scratches on my hands, my right hip bone was tender, and my chest had a decent cut. I also noticed that bending, sitting, or standing up from a seated position was problematic. This pain will linger all week, I think.
I decided to leave work early today so I could paddle around. There is only one low tide today, around 1:30 this afternoon, bottoming out close to .3 feet. The moon is halfway to new and I wonder if the long flat tides, showing up as only one low and one high, correlate to this time of the moon. The trades are up today, not super strong, but steady and there is no real swell around, just background wind swell and a dying SSW.
I decided to just paddle out at Makaʻiwa, not expecting much. The shoreline is still piled with hundreds of sticks and not a few huge tree trunks, but the water is clear and perfect. I head out to an empty line up and immediately catch a long, shoulder high left that takes me almost all the way to the heiau. Happy, I paddle back, directly into a steep right. I duck under the lip for a quick barrel and then sit in the pocket the rest of the way. Two fun waves before five minutes is up, before I even made it out to the line up, really.
Eventually a large-ish white guy paddled out on an overly large long board. I could smell his sunblock from 30 yards away and he annoyed me before he was even close. We spent the rest of the session not acknowledging each other. I think he was mad or embarrassed about bailing on a wave when he tried to cut me off. Nothing to argue about. The waves were mostly slop.
I did find one nearly perfect Makaʻiwa right. I popped up just behind the peak and watched it bend as the bottom dropped. I tucked under the lip and came out to a big empty face to carve, then another steep section and the final fade into the flats. When the sunscreen guyʻs friend paddled out and started jabbering about fires and BLM and Colorado gummies, I headed in to rinse off.
September 11, 2020
Nineteen years ago we know what happened. I remember not understanding what V— was telling me about the world trade center. I remember not understanding that my coworkers were still going in to work. I remember not being able to find A— or M— for a few days. They fled to the west coast not long after.
Twenty eight years ago my parents were on the mainland with David. The sirens woke me up early and I had to get the house ready so my sister and I could be safe. My grandparents stopped by and tried to take us to Kalihiwai, but I turned them down. Their house was half glass that shattered and pierced June’s artery in her leg. The sheet that Dale wrapped her in became so heavy with her blood, they didn’t need us to carry around, too. I made it to the farm somehow to lock the animals out of the barn and back at home I brought all the dogs and cats inside. Sarah and I hid down in the hallway at the bottom of the house away from the large windows and sliding glass doors.
Thirty one years ago I learned to surf at Makaʻiwa with Sara V, where I went today. Paddling around the shallow ledges, tucking into fast, bending barrels, snapping the tops off the open faces was a nice way to be alive today.
September 13, 2020
When I took the dog outside this morning, around 5:40, the almost new moon hung low and bright in the eastern sky, Venus just below it and slightly to the right, nearly as bright, burning a whole in the blue black of almost sunrise. Low tide was just before 6:00 a.m. and high tide was just after 1:00, topping out over 2 feet. With the dying, or dead, south swell and no real east swell, I did not expect much, but the winds were light all day, keeping the conditions clean, at least. I met M— at Mahaʻulepu after he called off AD’s and Waiohai as too crowded and too small and I greeted him with a birthday cupcake that Violet and I made yesterday. She chose funfetti cake with funfetti frosting, always a winner. M—’s birthday present, Sad Topographies, is in the mail.
We talked story up above the beach, about waves and getting older and about cupcakes. Just as we turned to leave to search elsewhere, we saw a set and decided to just head down the hill here, which turned out to be the right call. The waves were much bigger and more fun than we expected. They stayed clean all morning due to the light winds and there was no real current. Most waves came through at about chest high, a few were proper head high runners. Atypically for Mahaʻulepu, all the waves coming through stood up tall and steep and had some nice power. I think maybe that was the leftovers of the south swell lighting up on this tiny little reef, but no matter why, we enjoyed. I found a few pockets, one or two lips to tuck under, and I even landed a little air, but most waves were just simple fun, drop, turn, pump, and a big snap off the top, two or three, on the really good ones.
Between waves we talked about kids and virtual schooling, the hell that is middle school, dogs needing other dogs, zoysia grass in the shower, outdoor privacy, refinancing, and eagle rays flying like UFOs, which makes me smile as I hear the Pixies song again.
The seventh month is number nine right now, called hærfestmonað or haligmonað in Old English, the “harvest month” or the “holy month.” Hawaiians counted time by nights, not days or months, by the moons, each with its own name, to know when to plant or fish or rest.
And what else about September…? The fucking Green Day song, of course.
As I think about this month ahead, I reread the epigraph from We Gon’ Be Alright, “…and all of this for you is fuel/like September kiawe./You vow to write so hard/the paper burns.” And I don’t know if kiawe is different during this month, but my feet still ache when I recall the thorns that have reminded me to tread carefully in the sand, and so we walk across this month, exiting summer.
September 2, 2020
The winds were light last night and this morning. I had a hope of finding some fun waves at Playgrounds or Anchors or Wailua Kai. But the tide was too high for Playgrounds, the swell backed down too much for Wailua, and the wind picked up just enough to blow Anchors out. I ended up at Kealia, looking at thick closeouts pitching off of the sandbars. The moon was full last night and high tide was on its way, over 2 feet at 4:00, and the sandbars did not seem to be working well, but I paddled out to be in the salt and the sun.
As usual, the waves here, on the sandbars between the lifeguard tower and the river mouth, are heavy and thick, pitching way out in front, closing out or ripping down the line. I was able to find one or two corners and some runners, but mostly I pulled into closeouts or dodged lunging lips. A quick and hectic 90 minutes of fun.
September 5, 2020
The moon is still large, but dipping down towards three quarters full, and it hung low in the western sky as I sat looking at Kukuiʻula Harbor. High tide passed around 6:00 this morning, peaking at 1.41 feet above sea level, and a long period south swell was filling in. Centers looked good, but crowded. Acids wasn’t working because of the tide, I think. I had hopes that Honus would be fun, but I didn’t see much besides the white fading moon and a bunch of retirees in blue shirts and runnerʻs numbers fast walking past my truck window. I headed for Mahaʻulepu, into the wind, expecting nothing, chastising myself for not heading into the crowd out at Centers, which was legitimately fun looking.
At Mahaʻulepu, a family was fishing on the rocks near the river mouth. I walked past quickly, the moon lower behind me now as the sun rose up the east. I paddled out just past 9:00, into the dropping tide and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the waves that made it through. No east swell was working, but some of the south snuck in, reeling off the reef in nice, long, clean rides with perfect pocket sections and big open faces for turns. The waves also packed a pleasant amount of power, a rarity here. Mostly I was making fun slashes and cutbacks, with a few floaters and stalls mixed in.
The water was not clear today, on the inside, but it shone translucent green on the outside. Turtles were everywhere, one or two popping up right next to me, close enough that I could hear them gulp air before they ducked back down. After one wave, I was startled by a huge black shadow in the swell in front of me, and then two triangles of fin peaked up above the water and I could make out the silhouette of a spotted eagle ray as it swam past me, just a few feet away. Its fins, black and grey, spotted, looked just like Hihimanu over Hanalei town but under water, over the reef, the sky the ocean now.
I’ve never taken the time to wonder if eagle rays are dangerous but now I do as I lose track of the flying swimming creature, a mountain in the sea. Later, I sing that Pixiesʻ song to calm myself.
After almost two hours, a woman paddled out. I recognized her from a few weeks ago, in her same suit, beautiful in the sun and water, an intricate tattoo spilling down her right shoulder and arm. She chatted with me a bit. I caught a few more, and headed in. As I walked up the shore, past her stuff, I noted her phone set up. She was recording herself surfing, which means Iʻd made a cameo in her video. I had fun today, ripping some nice turns and cutbacks, but I wonder how I awkward I look through someone elseʻs lens.
After lunch at home with the girls, Erin, and Cosmo, I took Violet and Evora to Lae Nani. C— and his kids were there. We spent a few hours enjoying the epically beautiful day. Both girls asked me to paddle them out to catch waves out on the rock piles. Violet and I caught two long ones. Evora and I struggled a bit, but had fun teasing the swells and spotting turtles. We ended up catching one closer to the kiddie pool. When the kids were off in the rocks, I paddled back and caught two of my own, taking one in from the rock pile all the way to the blowhole. I then set up in the shallows outside the kiddie pool and found a fun little left. I slid just past the rocks then hooked back towards shore, a foot or two from the rock wall.
When I park, the moon, just over half full, is hanging in the sky blue sky over the sea green sea and the tide is rising to over 2 feet by 1:35. I left my classroom today, after a 504 meeting with a mom who kept saying her son didn’t know how to “viral in,” so she would make sure he could “viral in” to all his classes by Monday. I left by 12:30, that phrase echoing in my mind. It was the middle of the last day of this week, and though everyone I saw at school made the same tired “Glad itʻs Friday” comments, I canʻt seem to see the weeks as having beginnings or ends. Students are home again and I am talking into my computer screen, trying to stay in touch, to share some challenging ideas that might still grow. But today I left and paddled into the sea green ocean towards the eponymous anchor, the moon hiding its point under the drapes of the salt water.
The wind is light, the waves small, but once again they carry much more speed and power than might be expected out here across from the boat channel. I found fun rights and lefts in equal measure today, a few running for a long way, out across the shallows. I kept thinking about tides and that cliche that goes around education conferences and I wondered, while peopleʻs boats are being lifted by the tides, many students are drowning because they aren’t in the boats.
My mind didn’t quiet much in the water today. I surfed and paddled until my arms were tired, finding fun curves and bends, sliding the tail out a few times, stalling to get back into the pocket of a particularly nice left. On the way in, I made my usual pass near the other anchor then paddled back toward the breakwater where kids fish and swim. As I floated in the near shore shallows, taking off my leash and resting a bit, a woman walked out of the water in front of me, up the sand, her floral bottoms riding high between her cheeks and her yellow top barely holding her other curves. I self-consciously watched the sand as I walked past her to the car.
August 29, 2020
I planned to try Anchors again since the wind was still light, but no luck. By the time I made it to the parking lot, the breeze was blowing across the break, scrambling it up to the point that it wasn’t worth the paddle. I headed for Makaʻiwa, not thinking I’d find much, expecting more wind chop and tiny swell, but I could at least paddle around a bit, maybe sit and read.
I was surprised to see two people in the water when I walked up as the conditions matched my expectations; that is, the waves were no good. I immediately began to worry about the two guys in the water, one on a Wavestorm and the other floating nearby on a shortboard. First, they were way inside. Second, they were floating in front of the rocks below the heiau. Third, the Wavestorm guy should not have been anywhere near the water. He could barely paddle one arm in front of the other without tipping off of his board. When he did manage two or three strokes in a row, he made no forward progress. In fact, both of them were quickly drifting west, across the super shallow inside reef, in front of the rocks, towards Lae Nani.
I watched them closely and I followed as they drifted around the rocks to the other side. I took my board with me as I watched, hoping I didn’t have to paddle out to help, as I have done in the past. Eventually, the guy on the Wavestorm put his head down, too tired to paddle, and kept drifting. He got dumped by another wave and barely clambered back on his board. The other guy smiled and waved at me, trying to look casual, I think. They eventually made their way to sand and I headed back to my backpack, shaking my head.
By the time I paddled out, it was about 8:00, an hour after low tide. Makaʻiwa, here in front of the hotel, is a difficult wave, especially on a low tide, but it is also a fun wave, fast, ledgy, hollow, especially on a low tide. I figured I would find some fun little runners in between the chop, but I was surprised by a beautiful session. The water turned from translucent greens to opaque silvers and blues as the sun came out and the waves glassed off. That calming was just enough to coax out some beautiful shoulder high waves, with bright and wide open barrels. I was lucky enough to find a few, ducking under the lip at take off or ducking under the second section when the bottom drops again.
I surfed for almost three hours, until the wind picked back up and the tide lifted the water too far off the ledges. Before I paddled in, I was visited by a tiny green ray of light, hanging vertically in the water, just next to my right arm. It first looked like an inchworm, but still, hanging like a tiny green hook, and then it was a long thread of iridescent green light, then maybe a bright and glowing leaf or strand of limu. I reached out my hand and the green strand of light and water snapped horizontal and it was a tiny fish, maybe a just born wrasse with its greens and reds, and it swam away from me, this tiny thing, a half inch of twitching glowing muscle and nerve fighting against the rising tide and the swell and the current and it look to be standing still and moving faster than any wave at the same time.
High tide was around 6:30 this morning and the moon was a thin crescent, something I did not notice until I took a shower this evening. That night, during my shower, the sky was clear and dark and the moon was hanging low in the western sky. I watched a few thin clouds move past it, turning silver and orange as a star shot across the sky from the north east. Before all that though, the day was long. I left in the early afternoon to get away from the kids complaining, knowing there wasn’t much surf nearby.
I checked Unreals, Kealia, and Anchors and all were not working. I decided to head out to Makaʻiwa in front of the hotel, hoping the shallow slabs of reef would be tipping the waves over. The water was clear and light green, bright, the line up empty. I paddled out, enjoying the temperature and the light winds, just happy to be away from the house for a while. I surfed alone for the first hour, mostly catching waves that either fizzled out immediately after the drop or were just fast close out barrels. A few runners came through but turns were rare today. The last hour, I was inundated by a group of eight or nine people, SK leading the way, followed by a few beautiful and friendly women in thongs, and a handful of young guys. They spread out, some drifting all the way to the heiau. SK talked story a bit and I headed in after one last long ride.
August 23, 2020
The tides and swell were the same as yesterday, basically, but the wind was even lighter. I again had hopes for Anchors but still nothing. I checked Kitchens, which is overrun by a homeless camp now, making it basically impossible to drive down to the surf break. Playgrounds wasn’t working either, so I headed back to Makaʻiwa, just hoping for some paddling time.
I noticed that tiny crescent moon as I paddled out, hanging over the southern sky, its points tipped down to the sea. Later, while I showered, I noticed what I guess should be obvious, that the moon seemed to be upside down now, the tips of its crescent pointing away from the land and the sea as it slid low in the west.
The waves were about the same size as yesterday but much more fun. Immediately I found three waves in a row that just ran all the way down the line, leaving room for pumping and cutbacks. A few sets from the background south swell even snuck in, giving me one or two clean barrels. The tiny shift in direction of the swell made a big difference in the rides, letting me find lots of face for turns and a ramp or two to launch some airs (that went unlanded today).
A two wave run near the end of my session stands out. I paddled for a head high right, popped up right under the lip and just glided down the line for a while, my cheek inches from the wave face, one hand trailing in the water, everything quiet. Then I was out of the pit making a perfect cutback and then another. As I paddled back to the lineup, a left came in over the far shallow section. I turned and went, not expecting much. The bottom dropped out as I knew it would, but it didn’t close out. I made it back up the face and the bottom dropped again, then shot me full speed into the oncoming barreling right. I again launched up off the lip and didn’t even try to stay with my board as I flew out and landed in the nothingness of the lip of a wave exploding off the reef.
A few waves later, I was tired enough to head in. Tired from paddling, from surfing, from popping up as quickly as possible to stay with the lightening fast waves here, tired from school, from going up and down a ladder, from building fences and gates, from talking and listening and helping teachers not fuck up. So I headed in, happy and tired, and I just laid down in the shade for a while, listening to the waves, to nothing.