09 November 2010

Bali Hai (Hanalei Bay)

As we drove north from Lihue Airport in Kauai, the first surfer I saw launched himself several feet into the air and did a flip. Later, in the sand-bottomed condo hot tub, I met a group of Canadians on the island for a wedding. The goofyfoot groom told me he'd surfed a 4-5' left called Grampas that day in Hanelei. I was itching to get in the water.

Memorials to Andy Irons were everywhere on the north shore of Kauai, where he grew up. The proprietor of a surf shop near our hotel pointed at the FreeSurf magazine in my hand and rued the irony that he was on the cover. The rental boards at his place as well as a few others were sad wrecks, but outside a shop in Hanalei, a particular epoxy board called to me. I pulled it from the rack and guessed its length correctly at 7 feet. It felt good in my hands, so I made it mine for the duration of our stay.

At the east end of Hanalei Bay, with deliciously bare feet, I walked out on a sandy and silty river bar, then made a long paddle to the reef break. The water flowing from the Hanalei River was cool, but the water over the reef was warm, clear and shallow. It was delightful to surf sans rubber, in a rashguard and boardshorts. The main peak was going head-high+ but was infested with janitors. It seems SUPs were invented so guys can keep surfing when they've grown to fat and/or old to use a real board, but some of them could rip.
I employed my frequent Santa Cruz strategy, taking the shorter lefts when most everyone else was going right, and sitting inside to catch the neglected smaller waves, which were waist- to shoulder-high. The 7' Channin was a perfect fit and I got many, many fun long rides. It was lovely to watch the reef speed by underneath while surrounded by steep green mountains.
 Surfline: 4-5 feet, NNW swell.

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