The moon is almost gone again, a tiny crescent when it rises. Low tide was near 6:00 this morning, just above zero feet. M– wanted to meet early, so I left the house at 5:45 to meet him on the south side. We checked Mahaʻulepu but decided to head to Acid Drops instead, checking other spots along the way.
The winds were light, the skies clear, and the water salty, so we enjoyed ourselves despite the lack of swell. There is a spot here on the long paddle out where I always have this sudden feeling that I am paddling nowhere. Just as I pass the exposed edge of the reef to the left, near the end of Centers, something about the sight lines and the way the water moves off the shallows, gives me a feeling of paddling without making any forward progress but still with that feeling of movement, or like I’m paddling at the same speed that the earth is spinning under me.
We spent most of our time talking about families and schools, falling apart and staying together, and the excuses humans use. Waves sporadically interrupted us, forcing bursts of paddling. Even on a small and mellow day like today, the wave at Acid Drops is tricky. It stands up high and the bottom drops out, all while you should be popping up, making even todayʻs soft shoulder high swells entertaining and difficult.
I found a few very fun rides, steep and smooth. After one decent set, M– commented on the temptation to duck under the lip today. I eventually caught one that tipped over my head just enough as I hugged the face and glided down the line, one of those not quite barrels; still fun.
I left the house early today to have some alone time before we met C– and his kids down at Waiohai to celebrate K–. She had spent the night last night, on her actual birthday, so I left before anyone was awake. I headed for Mahaʻulepu, making it there on the rising side of the low tide, and I was in the water by 7:00.
The ocean was full absent humans and the waves were fun. For years, I have made half-hearted attempts at 360s out in the flats at the ends of rides here. I usually make it more than halfway around, facing back towards the white water and the house. At the end of my first ride today, I surprised myself by spinning all the way around and continuing to glide as the wave faded off.
I caught many more waves over the next few hours. The current was present but light and the rides were fun, as usual. I spent most of my mental energy thinking about how I had to get the fence ready for the dog, which, surprise, is coming home today instead of next Friday. I spent last weekend and a few afternoons this week after work, building the fence, but I thought I had 6 more days to get it ready. Looks like I will be spending all day tomorrow finishing it, instead.
“Today is the first day of August. It is hot, steamy, and wet. It is raining. I am tempted to write a poem. But…after a heavy rainfall, poems titled ‘Rain’ pour in from across the nation.” -S Plath
This used to be the sixth month, un-creatively called sextilis in the later Roman calendar. Naming the unnamed winter months January and February rendered the number-named months meaningless, recklessly incorrect (examine Sept, Oct, Nov, and Dec). Quintilis became July in honor of Caesar, and Sextilis became August, named for the other, more venerable Caesar.
August: noble, majestic, perhaps from the Latin avis and garrire, birds talking or singing as they fly over our lives. The old English word for this time of year means weed month, coming after early mildness and later mildness, which I suppose leads to weeds in the gardens of England. Here in the Pacific, August finds us two months deep into hurricane season, usually hot, steamy, and wet. And maybe full of poetry and waves.
August 2, 2020
M– texted about meeting early on the southside. He checked the usual spots but we ended up meeting at Mahaʻulepu at 7:00. The water was blue and white, like the sky, and the waves looked fun. Low tide was at 8:03 a.m., dropping to -0.12 feet and the moon will be full tomorrow, Hoku, but today it is Akua, the first night of fullness.
We saw O– fishing in front of the house as we walked. He pulled up a fat oama just as we passed and said hello. A good day for fishing and a good day for planting root plants like uala and kalo. M– gave some side eye to the tent farther down the beach as we walked across the reef. Too many people think they can just play adventure and camp or walk wherever they want without actually knowing where they are. I know where I am when I can hear the sea or paddle in it, so we paddled and talked and surfed. Conversation today settled on the pandemic and the asinine decisions being made regarding schools.
I took my new board out, the Seaside, and it was beyond fun. So loose and fast but I felt completely in control, enough to push my turns and snaps harder than usual. Wave after wave, I seemed to just be in the perfect spot, tight to the face, right under the lip, snapping the tail through the tops on my come backs. M– paddled in around 9:15 and I stayed a while longer, paddling in as I noticed a couple walking their boards down the hill, startling the nude sunbather near the house.
The moon is half full today and the tides are similar to yesterday, low in the early morning than basically high tide all day. I met M— down at Mahaʻulepu and we were in the water by 8:00. Two of the doctors were out, but they didn’t stay long. A skinny lady on a rasta colored wavestorm paddled out from the new makeshift camp we had seen on shore. She got stuck on the other side of the current, catching little inside lefts over and over again. Once she headed in, her friend paddled out on a white wavestorm outfitted with a fishing pole. He sat just beyond us, jigging his line up a down, and was gone in a matter of minutes, having drifted with the current almost to the cliffs.
M— and I talked story about the mess that this world is, particularly as school is set to “open.” We talked about other messes too, in his typical dry fashion. We paddled against the current, as one does in life, and took turns finding extremely fun waves, also a feature of living. Most waves today were strong, bowling at the peak, and running all the way in to the shallows. I found a few that tipped just over my back as I popped up, a few that turned into ramps for airs at the ends. At one point, the skies opened, just after the winds picked up, and it rained hard for five or ten minutes. It was that kind of rain on the ocean that splashes up so much salt water, everything starts to smooth out. Waves look like hills in an OʻKeefe painting and everything is quieter behind the sound of the rain beating the ocean, the water that is being rain becoming the water that is being an ocean, a series of waves.
In the afternoon, I took the girls down to Lae Nani to meet C— and his kids. We sat and talked, again about these fucked up plans to force us back to school buildings and classrooms, while the kids played in the saltwater river. A couple, a meathead and a skinny woman in a thong, walked by us with their huge pitbull loping behind. The dog not only was off leash but had on no collar. The couple went in the water to snorkel right next to where the kids were playing and off course the dog tried to follow them, scaring the kids. I asked the guy if the dog was his and he said “Yes, sheʻs fine.” I asked if he could tie her up and he said “What the fuck for? Why?” After explaining that he canʻt have a loose dog at the beach, he just stared at me. After saying the kids were scared (they had run away by this point), he said “Oh, really…?” The question of the narcissist.
They got out in a huff and walked themselves and their dog as close to me and C— as possible without saying anything. Shortly thereafter, the skies opened again and C— and I tried our best to hide towels and bags from the rain. The kids kept playing in the river.
Once the rain let up, we spent the rest of the time bodyboarding and body surfing the sweet little waves peeling across the sand bar, pitbull free now.
July 13, 2020
Today Erin and I had hours and hours of online workshops and meetings, my first at 7:00 a.m. The kids had their 1:00 online summer class and Erin still had two more hours of virtual meetings to attend to. I took the kids out of the house a little after 2:00, to go play at the river. I knew the water would be high with rain but I just needed to get us all out.
When we pulled across the bridge at the far end of Hauaʻala, I could see that the river was running high but it wasn’t muddy. When we got down the bank, through the 10ʻ high buffalo grass, I saw that the pebbly shore that usually allowed us to walk to the little falls was totally covered. I also immediately saw a little, perfect river wave where the water gets deep and narrow.
We were able to play and have fun, building dams and ponds and catching little fish. Eventually the girls floated around in the shallow eddies away from the swift water in the middle. I kept looking back at that little wave and eventually pulled off my shorts and took the beater board out there, in just my black boxer briefs. I had a hard time getting into the wave at first but eventually figured it out on the third attempt and body boarded for a while, drifting back and forth staying in the moving pocket. Shortly after I got out, the wave disintegrated. Maybe a rock shifted or the water level changed just enough, but it was fun while it lasted.
July 16, 2020
The moon is on its way to new, to renewal. I was talking to Erin about that word today. The connotation is one of returning to former newness, or former quality, but literally, to re new is to become new again, not the same. I like that the moon becomes new when it is not visible and that it is remaking itself into a different celestial light as it grows through the sky each month.
The low tide today was at 0.0 feet, just before 6:00 a.m. High tide was somewhere around 2:00 in the afternoon. The girls went to hang with M–, Erin went on a hike and then worked on her next essay for Merwin, and I headed back to Mahaʻulepu. There was almost no one there when I arrived. Just one spear fisherman headed up the cliff as I headed down. The morning sun, shielded by large white clouds, turned the water into silver and black. As the sun peaked out, the outside sets started to glow turquoise, like they were lit from inside. The waves were fine, topping out at chest or head high, and mostly slow and soft. A few bombs rolled through with nice ramp sections, and some of the smaller ones let me ride all the way in up onto the almost dry reef. Eventually a woman paddled out, getting in the water in front of the house and then paddling straight across the shallows. She sat way inside most of the time, near where M— or C— end their waves, but she found some decent insiders. We chatted eventually, about the day, the waves, the crowd, why Mahaʻulepu is special, and then I found one last wave and headed in.
I cracked my right big toe pretty bad on my way up the hill, the same toe I broke 15 years ago at Shipwrecks. I am certain it will just always be sore.
July 17, 2020
When I have something, a tool, a door hinge, a bolt, that is stuck, I have one method for fixing it. Spray it with lubricant and then open and close, open and close, by force, until everything moves smoothly again. Sometimes I use the same philosophy on weird noises in a vehicle or other gas powered devices…rev it it hard and then see if it works. Sometimes I use this thought process on bodily injuries, too, with a strained finger or twisted ankle, just move it through the pain to see if it goes better. Anyway, I decided to put my very sore toe to the test this morning. I had planned on not surfing for at least a few days, with how difficult it was to walk all day yesterday but the winds were just too perfect to ignore Anchors.
I paddled out around 7:30 in the morning, about an hour after the negative low tide, but the tide is always low at Anchors. I figured I would mostly paddle around, find a few small waves, and just test my foot. I ended up having a very fun session catching mostly rights. I was able to get in early, before the air drop, setting myself up for making the second section and ducking under the lip as the wave bowled and bent. I am now always prepared for this wave to be fast, powerful beyond its size, but I still marvel at the power and speed, these waves rushing in out of open ocean unslowed by any reef or sea floor until they hit the shallow reef outside the Kapaʻa Public Library.
Towards the end of the session, a light wind came up, so light I could barely sense it on my skin, but it changed the glassy, hollow rights into lightly folded swells that were much less predictable. The last two waves I caught started as rights but both urged me to cut back left after my bottom turn. My last wave was great, challenging, fun. I took the steep drop, bottom turned to take the right, ducking a bit as the wall tipped over my back and then I cut it back left, hard. I saw the left running out down the line, the bottom dropping out even as I made my turn. For a moment I thought I might not make it, but I pumped down the secondary drop and everything lined up for a brilliant, long, fast left, all the way to the edge of the slab on the inside, where the eponymous anchor lay half buried in the island.
I paddled in, tired and happy. As I hopped off my board in the shallows and my feet hit the sand, I saw something bright blue rolling in the shore break. I reached down and pulled up a cool little cobalt blue bottle that once held milk of magnesia, medicine for people long since dead. What will someone pull from the sand 90 years from now that we once used to heal ourselves?
The low tide is negative this morning, again. Yesterday at low tide, Erin and I walked Pilaʻa and saw turtle tracks in the sand.
Today, the girls are sleeping over at their friendsʻ house in Kalāheo tonight, so we all headed down to Waiohai before sending them off. I decided to try my wooden board out as a twin fin, paddling out to Left Lefts first before heading over to the crowded main break on the reef. I talked story with J– and a former student, K–, in between waves, mostly about school and life.
The waves were small and weak, but I was able to find a few fun ones anyway. The board definitely feels better as a twin fin, looser, easier to pump and do a real bottom turn, but I still couldn’t make a sharp cut back. The board feels slow and glidey, heavy, but fun. I want to get it on a wave with some power to really feel how it goes, but that may take a while. As I was putting the board into the truck, I heard a sloshing sound and then confirmed that the board had taken on water. While making that confirmation, I also noticed that I had lost a fin during my surf. I suspect that the screws were not quite tight enough and the weight of the board pulled the fin out.
Once I am home, I mentally trouble shoot how to get the water out and try to still feel successful in this board build. As I have told my students nonstop for years, we must celebrate failures, seek them out. Well, here is one.
July 11, 2020
High tide was at 9:37 this morning, topping out just under 1 foot. The moon is almost half full and the tides are basically flat between the morning high and the afternoon low of .71 ft.
We decided to head to Waiohai again with the whole family to see if we could find some sunshine. Thursday and Friday were full of huge, fast rain showers and gray skies, a nice change but not conducive to big outdoor adventures. C– met us an hour or so after we got there. A– and S– showed up a while after that, and M– and his blended crew arrived in the early afternoon.
I decided to paddle out as soon as we arrived, just to get a few waves. I could see from the shore that the tide was too high and the waves were mostly mushing out, but it always feels good to paddle. I saw a few former students, T– and J–. T– was on a bright yellow bodyboard and gave me his typical nod hello that was so subtle and full of apathetic disdain that you wonder if he nodded at all. J–, on the other hand, talked my ear off for a long while, catching me up on his life and his sister. The line up was a bit crowded, especially for the quality of waves, but none of the typical characters were out there. One old uncle on a longboard kept snaking all the good waves from way outside and a young woman in a tiny black thong sat shivering in the wind. She managed to find a good looking right, pumping down the line, her body appearing and disappearing below the lip. She headed in after that one, perhaps wishing for more material.
Other than talking with J– and watching the bathing suits, the session was uneventful. I found a few set wave rights that closed out, a few that lined up, and one really fun left that took me from the main break all the way through to the inside bowling section in just inches of water. I spent the rest of the day talking story with family and friends on shore. C– took the bonzer out for a quick session.
The moon is half full today and I am surprised at how quickly that happened. The high tide was at 11:30ish, topping out over 1 foot, but the south swell was predicted to be filling in. I met M– back at Mahaʻulepu, both of us hoping to pick up some of the big south swell without the scene that happens at Acids. We didn’t see much of promise from up top, but we headed down anyway and were rewarded with some truly fun surf. The difference between yesterday and today is stark. The waves today stood up tall and fat, some pitching over at the peak and again on the inside, many easily over head. Though the wait between sets was long and unpredictable, there was still plenty of fun to be had.
Between waves we chatted about dogs, boards, our children growing up, the virus. We talked about empathy, or the general lack thereof, that seems to be somehow stuck to people of privilege. M– also talked about when he worked for a newspaper in Sitka and the guy who took his job, who now works for Stanford and writes books about his life with his wife and kids traveling the world on a tugboat.
There were almost no people on the shore, no one in the water with us. A few couples walked by, with dogs or without. One stopped to watch us and seemed to wave, though we did not know them. A couple of young women did a photoshoot, taking turns being the subject and photographer, showing off their carefree lifestyle in thongs. When they finished, they changed into hiking clothes, one simply standing naked for a moment, spinning her bathing around in the air, to shake the water out I suppose, her body moving in time with the suit. The other laid down to change, a bit more modest I guess, but sandier for her modesty.
After a few hours, after the women walked off, a group of three surfers headed down the hill. M– was already late to make it home and I was not interested in waiting through the long lulls to then jostle for the one or two waves that showed up in the sets. He made it in on a decent left and I found one more fun right, winding all the way inside to a ramp that helped me boost high and fast. I landed in the flats and stayed up for just a second, then paddled back out. The crew of three paddled past, two women in that new vogue, a one piece thong, and a guy. They smiled and said hello. “That was a great wave you just caught,” the sun shining on her as she glided past me. “Thanks. Some fun ones out here.”
After a quick visit at M–ʻs house, and some lunch with Erin and V, I took Violet out for a surf. We headed down to Wailua Bay to check out the sandbar that had setup since the storms this March. The waves was breaking way out and were much bigger than what she has been riding at Hanalei, but she was stoked to get in the water. I paddled out with her on the front of the board, surprised at how difficult that was. We pearled on our first wave but Violet popped up laughing. From there, it was wave after wave, long rides, me steering from the back, Violet standing, crouching, touching the wave face with her hands. She caught a few on her own, proud that she was surfing with big kids and grown ups around, who all smiled and shouted at her rides.
I havenʻt surfed three days in a row for quite a while, twice today, once with an extra 50 pounds on my board. I am tired and happy.
June 29, 2020
Strike that. Four days in a row now. I ran down to Kealia around 9:30 for a quick one hour session while my students were working on Lexia. The shore down there is still covered in sticks, twigs, tree limbs, huge trunks, and tiny branches, but the water is clear now, blue and white and green. The large south swell was pushing into the bay, closing out across the middle sandbars, but a few lefts and rights were running at the north end, the landing.
This is the same ocean, the same beach. I have been in these waters for 40+ years, the waves are energy from somewhere, from a storm near New Zealand, from a tropical storm halfway to Mexico, from winds that swept across tundra, across mountains, across places with names I donʻt know, that are maybe lost to English. The water at Kealia has decided to be an ocean, to be a bay, wiikwegamaa. The water at Kealia was once a river, was once a rain storm, was once an ocean somewhere else, and the water there now has decided to be a wave, or a series of waves, crashing across the sands and sticks on the shores of Kealia Kai.
I paddled out, my muscles sore from the last few days of surfing. The waves, the water being a wave, rolled through fast and heavy, most not breaking until the inside shallows, the tide too high. I was lured over to the inside as I waited for my first wave and was then caught out of position when the set finally rolled in, twice as big and well over head, thicker than a building, breaking way outside. I missed that first set. I missed the next, as well. I was scratching around, trying to find the water being a wave I could ride. Eventually I found a rhythm and was able to get five or six fun rides in before my hour in the ocean was up. I took my last wave, a big clean right, all the way to shore, showered, and headed home to finish teaching, where my students were waiting to learn about and practice curiosity and kindness.
The wind and the surfer are in a complicated relationship.
The wind is necessary, sought after, studied, followed.
It brings the waves. It sweeps the water up into water that is being a wave, water that is being a wave crashing across a reef.
The wind is air, molecules, persuaded to move from high to low pressure, running across the sea, from somewhere else, until it reaches me.
But the wind also crosses up those waves, pushes them down into white wash, into disorganized piles of sound and energy.
The wind and the surfer are in a complicated relationship.
“It is July and I have hope in who I am becoming.”
“…never seemed so strange…”
July 2, 2020
Originally the 5th month, quintilis, renamed to honor Julius in the later Roman calendar, replacing the old english “later mildness,” as opposed to the earlier mildness of June.
Today is my birthday, 42 years ago. After teaching my last class of the summer, and a great breakfast and presents, and a foot scrub of coffee grounds and olive oil, we packed up and headed to Mahaʻulepu. The moon is well past half, nearing three quarters full and the tide is exceptionally high, topping out at 2.23 feet around 2:45 this afternoon.
We made it down to the beach by 11:00, me with a body board for the girls, my backpack with water and a book, and my just finished wooden board under my aching arm. 18 pounds seems fine walking around the yard, but 18 pounds is heavy under the arm on a walk down the hill and across the stream and over rocks and down the shore. I paddled that new board out for the first time into an already high tide and decent swell, hoping for the best. It paddles well, floats perfectly, and surfs alright. On a wave, it feels different, heavy, slow maybe, very tight in the tail, and the inside rail wants to dip under the water, but I eventually found a fun rhythm with it and enjoyed the strange, heavy, glidey feel of it under my feet over the water.
I only stayed out for about an hour, just wanting to try it out, to see if all that work was worth it or folly. After a number of fun, head high waves, I floated straight in over the reef to join my family under the trees. We snacked and headed up the shore to swim. The girls decided it would be more fun to bodysurf naked (who can argue). The waves were pounding up where we were swimming, pitching up and barreling across the sand then running high up the shore to the naupaka and iron wood. The water was crystal clear, light blue, and wonderful. We all had fun, Erin floating and letting some waves push her, the girls diving under big sets, body surfing up the sand, and flipping over so their butts popped out of the water, and me riding the red bodyboard into some super fun shore break. Eventually, I joined the girls in some skinny dipping, before we all headed back to our stuff.
It is always ourselves we find in the sea. That is what it says on the underside of the board I built. I donʻt feel like I am looking, but I think it is a true fact.
Today was wonderful. Slow. Quiet, mostly. We got up, had coffee, eggs, and cinnamon rolls, courtesy of Erin. The girls gave me cards and presents, poems, surf shorts, an enameled dutch oven in the shape of a loaf of bread, and sunglasses. We left for Hanalei Bay around 8:30, Erin having planned and packed everything.
We spent most of the day, 9:15ish until well past 2:30 or 3:00, hanging out at the pier, surfing, swimming, flying a kite, jumping off the pier, marveling at the hundreds of tiny oama washed up on shore. The waves were smaller than the last time I took the girls up here, but we walked down to a little sandbar closer to the pavilion and found some sweet little waves. Later we surfed the sandbar on the river side of the pier, but by then the water was crowded. Violet and Evora both did well, surfing through the crowds and still having fun.
Before the third rain squall came in, we packed up and headed home.
June 26, 2020
The moon is waxing now, but still a while away from half full. High tide topped out at 0.66 feet just after 8:30 this morning and a south swell is supposed to be filling in. Our family surf day at Hanalei got scrapped at the last minute because Erin has found a mini Aussie for us to buy and we need to meet the puppy and mama in Kalaheo at 11:30. I decided to leave early to get in a surf before the meeting of the dog, but then Erin and the girls decided to make it a Waiohai day, so we all hurried to eat breakfast and load up the truck.
I drop them off at Poʻipū beach park and head towards Mahaʻulepu, knowing from my glimpse of the east side and south side that the swells arenʻt really here yet. At the last second, I decide to check Keoneloa Bay instead. The water is beautiful, blues and greens, and the breeze is almost off shore. The crowd is light, just one bodyboarder, a big guy on a small soft top, and a woman on a shortboard. I can tell that the swell isnʻt here either, but I know Mahaʻulepu will not be better, so I paddle out into the morning water.
I want to set up deep, over in front of the lava rock point, but the three people already out are floating in my way. The waves are slow in coming through, and when a set does show up, a few waves close out across the middle, one breaks deep by the rocks, and maybe one comes in just right. Eventually, I find a rhythm, and I think the waves improved over the two hours I was out. I found a series of three waves in a row, all head high and hollow, one with a strange bending section on the end. I ducked under the lip of another, made it out, then pulled into a beautiful and bright close out barrel, all the water around me lit up blue and white, silent in that one second, blinding.
There were a few other fun waves today, many barrels of incandescent colors, and one sketchy late drop. I was set up deep in front of the rocks, finally the others out of the way, and a perfect set wave came in. I scratched to the edge and got slightly hung up in the lip as the bottom sucked up. I felt too far forward over my front leg as I dropped in, my fins releasing from the face, but somehow I made it and sped off down the line, too surprised to do much of anything except smile.
There was almost no one on the beach today, either, an ongoing side effect of this virus. One older guy was sitting in the middle of the beach, two young women were sunbathing down near the cliffs, and two other young women walked out and sat right in front of the surf break. The older guy was actually alternating between watching the water and swimming out to body surf. The two girls closest to us were a bit of an odd couple, one in a lavender thong, the other in a baggy black t-shirt and jean shorts. As I walked up the steep sandy shore, I noticed that girl laughing and then I recognized her as was my student, S–. I waved and said “Hi, S–,” without pausing or veering towards them, not wanting to be that creepy teacher that invades the lives of students out in the world. But also, was she laughing at a joke, at seeing me, at realizing the surfer in the water was her teacher?
Later, I put the fin plugs in my wooden board while the kids played with a friend and Erin was writing.
June 27, 2020
M– had to reschedule, so I ended up at Mahaʻulepu alone this morning. The waters were clear and green and the waves were mushy, soft, and a weird backwash was rushing across the reef out into the inside sections. The tide was high by the time I made it to the water, somewhere after 8:00, but I still found some fun rides, like dirt bike tracks unfolding on the fly.
Today, I was surrounded by fish, blues and silvers and greens. At one point, the huge shadow of a turtle or seal floated through the face of the wave in front of me, surprising in size and also its subsequent disappearance. I hoped to see the little head of a turtle pop up for breath, to convince me that I did not see a shark, but all I saw were triangles of light across the tops of the swell.
I headed in after a few hours, and made my way home, after a stop at the hardware store for lumber.
I spent my morning split between teaching the online literacy class and working on the chambered wooden surfboard I started a while ago. I am getting used to how learning might best happen in a virtual setting, figuring out what works, trying out some new ideas, seeing how I can achieve my signature mix of sarcasm, caring, and no nonsense honesty, all in anticipation of a strange return to school. Between sessions with the students, I finally chambered the last few pieces and got the whole board glued back together. I even had time to do a bit of sanding. Next up will be filling cracks and gaps then sanding everything smooth, before epoxy and fins. With luck, I may get to paddle it out before my birthday.
After lunch, and a bit more work on the board, I headed down to Kealia, just to paddle around and cool off, with no expectation of great waves. The wind has been up for a while and the NE swell has been rushing in. The tide was dropping to a relatively high low of 0.7 feet at around 5:50 pm and the moon is a small crescent, on its way to disappearing in a few days. The waters at Kealia were rough, as expected, with swell coming in all over the place. The ocean was mostly white wash from the river mouth all the way up to the landing with not much blue to be seen. The south side of the beach was brown, latte colored, fading to green up near the breakwater rock pile and the shore was almost solid with sticks, obscuring most of the dry sand. As I walked my way through the piles of stocks, towards the far north end of the beach, I passed other sundry debris: broken plastic floats, wads of paper, a sock, dead humuhumunukunukuapua’a, string, slippers that don’t match.
I jumped in and paddled through what seemed to be more sticks than salt water, but made it out to the line up eventually. After growing up surfing at Kealia, I have had enough of the washing machine spin cycle of paddling straight out from the parking lot. By now, I prefer the walk up almost to the rocks to avoid all the white wash. The crowd was light and spread out and the current was running north to south then out to sea. I noticed a sand bar set up closer to the lifeguard tower, its plumes of dirty sand giving it away. I spent about two hours paddling around and catching big walls of water, most breaking way outside. The waves were not shaped well, for the most part, and I was surprised by more than one large chop on a wave face. Nothing was really connecting to the inside and there was precious little in the way of clean sections or face to carve, mostly just hills of water moving towards a closeout. I made it to the inside once or twice, punching through the back of the closeout barrels. A few of the lefts worked nicely, steeper for more of the ride. The sets were head high but a handful of waves came in well above that, one breaking on my back as I tried to pop up, pushing me back down onto my belly. I bounced and floundered my way to the shoulder, hair in my face, looking a total fool. Oh well.
I did manage to find a few decent waves, a right off the sand bar that had a fun drop and the classic Kealia race track vibe. My last wave was also nice, taking me from way out side all the way into the shallows. I tiptoed through the sticks, up to the showers, with no sunbathers to glance at. I rinsed and headed home.
June 19, 2020
There is almost no moon tonight, or tonight I will be able to see only about 3% of the moon lighted up by the sun, but still pulling on the tides inside all of us. The tide was low this morning, negative around sunrise, and there is a building south swell mixed with a solid east wind swell, pushed ahead of the wind itself. The skies were grey most of the day today, raining as I drove Evora and Violet up to the pier at Hanalei Bay. We parked around 8:45, just as some blue sky began to make us hopeful. The bay was calm, as I expected but there was that perfect summertime, shin high wave, breaking off the sandbars on either side of the pier.
The girls and I unloaded the truck, set up the umbrella and started swimming. They do not come up here often, so the clear waters around the pier, and the pillow soft sands, and the waist deep sea for dozens of yards out, are mysterious joys for them to explore. We took out the 8’ wavestorm and the little 5’ sushi board to get the girls up on some waves. Evora was her typical self, explaining how she wanted to swim but wouldn’t surf, though I know how much her body and heart love the feeling of moving through water. Violet paddled the wavestorm out with me walking next to her, always ready to give something a try. I pushed her into a wave, not expecting much but she popped up right away and rode the little peeler all the way to shore. Even Evora jumped up and down and shouted her excitement for Violet’s ride and she was begging to go next before the board was even back out in the lineup. Violet took another one and then two for Evora, just as long and fun. Evora didn’t want to switch back but I talked her into getting the sushi board while Violet caught a few more. Back and forth we switched, Violet getting two, then Evora. Eventually, Violet just started paddling the sushi board into her own waves as I pushed Evora into hers.
After a while, they wanted a break, so we explored the pier and jumped off the lower step. Then we had some snacks under the umbrella in the rain. That peak of sun never melted into clear skies, but the morning was still quite nice. I somehow managed to talk the girls out of wanting to leave and we headed back to the pier, to jump off the high wall. Some boys and two young girls had been showing off their skills and Ev and V were tempted to give it a try. I held Violet’s hand and we all three jumped at the same time, then swam under the pier, another first for them, to climb up the slippery ladder. Back to the edge for another jump. This time Violet went on her own.
Still not wanting to leave, we all piled onto the wavestorm, Violet on my back and Evora hanging on to the end of the leash, and I paddled all of us over to the rivermouth side of the pier for a few more waves. An amorphous patch of greyblack, that I assumed was dirt or sticks and leaves from the river, turned out to be alive, a mass of pinky sized fish, hundreds or thousands, swirling around us, making the water a living thing, more nervey scales than salt. Once again, Violet and Evora rode some awesome peelers all the way to shore, 30-45 second rides each time. A woman jogging by stopped to shout and clap and give Violet a thumbs up on one of her waves. I was able to find a few rides myself, crouching down the line of the glassy little wave.s No real swell, but as I have said, surfing is fun, and today was no exception.
As the rains came back stronger, we ran to pack up, shower off, and head to the truck.
June 20, 2020
The moon is almost new tonight, just a sliver hanging in the black skies. The tide swings are more extreme when the moon is full or empty. I think I know that.
The new south swell filled in overnight, mixing with the east swells. I met M– on the south side just before 8:00 a.m., near the low tide of -0.25 feet. M– checked Waiohai as I parked at Acid Drop. I drove on to Honus, across Kukuiula Harbor, which is where we ended up. He said the swell looked wrong for Waiohai; I thought the crowd at Acids was too big; neither of felt like driving down to Mahaʻulepu this morning.
I locked my key in the truck as I was distracted by talking about and looking at a set roll through, exploding on the lava bench. After a quick call to Erin, on M–’s phone, to let her know about my mistake, we paddled out and across the harbor. I could tell that the sets were breaking farther out than the last few times and the current was strong, sucking us way out the back in just a few seconds of sitting in the lineup. We chatted and mostly paddled against the current. Catching waves was slow at first. Eventually, I found my spots, and found some beautiful rides, with huge faces and lots of sections and turns. M– found a few good ones himself, but the current was definitely keeping him off the right spots.
The breezes blew the clouds in, obscuring the blue sky, then piling up huge black clouds over Poʻipū, then pushing the rain across us. I have always enjoyed the feeling of surfing in a heavy rain, especially that kind of rain that paradoxically seems to calm things down. The air around me fills up with mist, scattered droplets of salt and rain water exploding all around, softening the light, the curves of the waves, even the sounds. As the rains passed, M– caught his last wave and headed in, leaving me with the returning sun, the sets, the current, and the low, breathy grumble of the mo’o in the lava tube, sounding like the whole ocean breathing, or sounding like just my breath.
Every moment you take the time to notice is the moment that is meaningful. Every wave you ride is the wave that makes the day worth it. The tide is just the water being pulled by the moon, the sun, the turning of the earth. Every wave is just a collection of ripples pushed in front of wind. Every breeze is just the air moving from one place to another. None of this means anything. I think I know that. But each wave, each moment, each tide, help us make meaning. I think I know that, too.
After my last wave, close to an hour after M– headed in, my arms tired from paddling against the current, my body happy, I head to shore, back across the hundreds of yards of water, over the rocks and reef. I paused at that shallow spot, in the middle, close to the anchored boat, and waited to catch one of those fat waves into the rocks. Erin and the girls had not yet made their way to the south side, interrupting their plans for their day, to unlock my truck, so I laid my board across the bed of the truck and took a nap under the shadows, listening to the sounds of the day, Saturday, June 20, 2020.
Yesterday, the moon was Kulua, or Kulu, to drop or pass, as time does. Today the moon is one day closer to new and the tides are still swinging from below zero in the morning to almost 2.5 feet in the afternoon.
I met M– on the road in front of Acids around 8:15 this morning. The south swell was gone and what waves were coming through were crumbly, so we headed for Maha’ulepu, where I hoped the east swell I saw on the buoys would finally give us a proper session out there. We were not disappointed.
Two of the Wilcox Hospital crew were out when we got to the line up, around 8:40. They chatted amiably for a bit about how fun the waves were, and then they headed to work. M– and I spent the next few hours talking and surfing. The current was brisk but not overwhelming, the wind was steady but not too strong, the water was clear, blue green, and the waves were consistent, no lulls. Most of the sets were head high but a few came in overhead. This was not a day of weaving from pocket to pocket all the way across the last section of inches deep water; no barrels or ramps today. Just big faces for big turns.
At one point, I took off late on a big set wave. I made the drop but just couldn’t get my balance right to make the bottom turn. I faded, crouched, the whole way down the face, and finally bailed at the bottom, only to be sucked back up and over as the wave passed. I climbed my leash up to the surface and had a split second to breathe before the next one came down on me. This time my feet hit the bottom as I felt my leash snap. Luckily my board popped out of the foam a few feet away as I broke the surface. No damage done, except the broken leash strap, but I did take a slow and wide paddle back to the line up, catching my breath.
M– headed in at that point and I carefully caught a few more rights, leashless now, before finding a nice left and heading for the shore as well.
What do we talk about in the water? Kids, school, fences, dogs, partners, all conversation colored now by the virus. An ʻiwa bird flew over, a perfect silhouette across the blue and white sky. I think about K– and L– randomly, when I am at the river, or the ocean, or see a bird like that and my heart drops and waves pass, as time does.
June 12, 2020
The rain last night was hard and the skies were still wet as the sun woke us up. The plan today was a family beach day at Waiohai, or more accurately, the strip of sand in front of the Waiohai Resort. The tide today was mostly flat, rising from a low of .25 feet at 4:28 a.m. to a high of .7 feet at almost 11:00 and then to the second low of .6 feet at 2:15 p.m. The moon today is just a bit over half full, waning, and the winds were brisk.
We made it to the beach around 8:45, maybe 9:00. The sands were mostly empty, as was the lineup. I immediately saw the large east swell wrapping in around the rocky point off the former tombolo, lighting up the rights out on the reef, with Left Lefts also working. There was one person at the main break and a family pack of bodyboarders headed out to Left Lefts. I haven’t seen the wave at Waiohai this empty…ever, maybe. I quickly got ready and paddled out, into the blues. I paddled over a turtle, over the sand, the reef, noticing that what I once thought was a long haul, seemed short, after all my days at Anchors and Honus.
I spent about two hours surfing and the crowd never got over five, unheard of here. There was the woman we passed in the parking lot, in her purple and black shorty wetsuit, her face painted white with sunblock, reminiscent of Dylan in the Rolling Thunder Review but without the hat. The bald white guy trying to catch lefts, closer to Sheratons, stayed mostly over there. An older local guy covered in tattoos joined us, with his strange pop up style. Every wave, he had a hitch in his pop up, with his feet close together, one arm up and bent, knees almost meeting, until he shifted into a more traditional stance. He looked like a study in retro surf, but somehow here on a modern shortboard. Eventually he told me he was feeling off and he couldn’t get his feet right when he popped up today. So, not style, just not feeling it. A couple of longboarders rounded out the crowded at it largest, one of them that guy with the sides of his head shaved and his sun blond hair on top hanging over, Zach Morris style, except this guy is huge, with a hulking, hairy, somewhat hunched back, and tiny lavender professional wrestling shorts. Everyone was friendly and chatty, normal for out here, as I remember, and every one was sharing waves, not so normal.
I found plenty of fun rides today. The sets were large, well over head, some coming in too close to Left Lefts and closing out, but many were setting up perfectly, with open faces and long rides down the line to the shallow inside sections. I took off late on one set wave, under the lip, and surprised myself with an unexpected, though brief, barrel ride. Another wave set me up to try boosting a little air, like I do at Mahaʻulepu. I carried way more speed into it than I anticipated and found myself well above the lip, possibly with an assist from the wind. I landed it, another surprise.
The wind never bothered the waves but did bring some rain. I saw the black clouds headed our way and thought about heading in to help Erin and the girls find a dry place to hide from the sprinkles, but before I could make up my mind, the rain arrived, not a sprinkle, but huge, fat, heavy rain. Nothing to do but get rained on. The shower passed as quickly as it arrived and the rest of our day was breezy and sunny.
I paddled with Violet across the bay to the little island, a long way for a 7 year old. We found some cool tide pools with rushing water from one to the next. She found some shells and rocks and on our way to cross back to shore, we found a huge sleeping honu, right there with us on the sand. Later, when we were exploring the little tide pools by the chlorinated one, we found lots of tiny fish and a beautiful baby eel. It opened its mouth and sneered, I think, curled itself, and slitherswam away.