22 April 2008

Chun's Reef (Oahu North Shore), 21 April 2008

The swell had dropped substantially by the morning of our last day, so I grabbed my board and dashed down the short path from our rented beach house to the sand. (Nothing beats being that close to surf! Wish it was always that quick and easy.) I walked a short way southwest to a point break off of a public park, and picked my way carefully into the water through a minefield of spiny black sea urchins. I was wearing booties, but was surprisingly alone in that, given the sharpness of the reef and its inhabitants.

Although the break didn't look too crowded from the shore, after a few minutes it began to remind me of Pleasure Point. Several good people were taking most of the waves so I'd have to back off, or else there'd be people in my way and I'd have to bail for fear of hitting them. It was more frustrating than fun, especially as the waves were just about perfect for me, shoulder-high and definitely catchable. I did manage to snag one brief ride, but decided to get out and look for a less popular spot.

In front of the beach house there was an empty break that looked doable although mushy and short, but I was nervous about being all alone out there. Sometimes I think fear is my biggest challenge in surfing: fear of getting pounded, fear of sharks, fear of hitting the reef, fear of being alone in a vast ocean, etc. But I thought about the Litany Against Fear from Dune, which I memorized when I read the book:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

And so I walked into the water and rode the rip current out. I had a brief scare - Don't Panic! - when a creature suddenly popped to the surface about 15 feet away and then disappeared for a few seconds, but it turned out to be a large sea turtle. Cool.

When I got to where I thought I'd seen the breaking waves from the beach, I recalled one of the advantages of surfing with others, which is that they help me to know where to sit. With significant lulls between sets, I paddled around a while before another rolled in and I realized that I needed to be farther out and farther east. By then I was unfortunately getting tired it and was getting late, but I got in a couple short and unmemorable rides before I had to leave the warm Hawaiian waters behind and head in to pack up the Xanadu for the flight home to NorCal.

Photos by guest photographer S. I stayed out too long (!) and didn't have time to take any pix myself before we had to leave the beach.


  1. I took up surfing as a mid-life crisis and have been doing it now for nearly 8 years. I live on the south coast of Western Australia and the waves here are HEAVY. Not always big, but need to be a certain size cos of the weight to even work. I had been doing really well, getting into some stuff I never thought I would ever cope with, but last year hit a brick wall with the FEAR thing. Something snapped in my mind and I suddenly got scared of the heaving swell.
    I have been battling on with it and sometimes making headway but still not back to being confident enough to do what I used to do. I came across your blog while looking for info on what I have been struggling with and it was nice to see someone else has got the guts to talk about it.

  2. The guts to talk about fear - that's a bit of an oxymoron. For me, facing the fear really is the only way, and when it turns out better than my mind had forecast, that gives me greater confidence. Good luck and g'day!

  3. I see what you mean about heavy waves from these pix. Yeah, a helmet's a good idea!