17 May 2011

One (Poipu)

Ah, Kauai! Warm azure waves kissing hot sand as palm trees sway in the tropical breeze. Such a change from Spring in NorCal. My first surf opportunity came on Sunday afternoon, but the precursive challenge was to find a suitable rental board. With United Airlines extorting $200 roundtrip to transport a surfboard, I was forced to leave mine at home. Steve recommended Tamba Surf Company, just up the road from our rented condo on the east side of the island. Bizarrely, Tamba did not list its open hours on its website, on its voicemail message, or even on its front door, but in any event, it was decidedly and inexplicably closed on the second day of the weekend. We made our way to Poipu, where a surf shop also proved elusive, but on a brief surf check walk I saw that the Marriott had a rental booth just off the beach. Alas, they stopped issuing surfboards at 4 pm (WTF?!), and it was past 4:30. A nearby stand on the beach had only Softops (no friggin' way!). I watched surfers enjoying the sweet south swell, and silently cursed the airline. A Sunday surf was not to be.
Dolphins on the Na Pali Coast
Monday was nearly windless, and we headed out on a catamaran sailboat that didn't sail for a pre-booked tour of the lovely Na Pali coast. The return to port was choppy, and I stood in the bow, "surfing" down the oncoming swell. It was just a bit like making the drop on a overhead wave, and left me smiling and soaked from the spray.
Tamba's rental quiver

In the late afternoon, I found Tamba was open and secured a surfboard that at 6'10" x 19 7/8" x 2 3/4" was a little shorter, a little narrower, and a teensy bit thicker than Emm. I hoped I hadn't made a mistake, but the next alternative was a big step up to a longboard, which would've felt like a step backward, and posed transportation issues as well. As at other surf shops I stumbled upon during our stay, there was a gap in their rental quiver where Emm would go. The Tamba board fit comfortably inside our whiny Ford Focus, where it could live for the rest of the week, available for surf where I found it. Having finally secured a wave riding device, I felt better, and was cheered further when I got carded buying a bottle of wine at Safeway. Do I really look that young in a bikini top and boardshorts?!

At long last, Tuesday was surf day. The tides were negative low in the morning, so we drove south again in the afternoon. Scott had agreed to join me in the warm water, and I'd seen a good beginner spot near the Waiohai Marriott on my Sunday surf check. We picked up a longboard for him at the hotel booth and walked the short distance to what the guides said was a south shore beginner's break. Unfortunately the swell had dropped and the inner peak that had been serving gentle waves near the beach was no longer working well. We paddled out anyway, but the water was shallow over the reef. One of two body-boarders on the inside warned us off of surfing there due to the lack of depth, but the cynic in me wondered if he just didn't want the company. 
The outside was packed, and the left was breaking like at Rachel's Point: a quick jack-up folding back on itself, and no possibility of taking off on the shoulder away from the peak. With conditions not really suitable for a beginner and Scott's ribs already bruising despite a 2 mil rashie, we decided to bag the session.
Party wave
As we paddled back in, watching the reef close below through crystal-clear water, I felt a wave lift past on the inner peak. I sat up and waited for the next. Foolish perhaps, but I just had to get one! I paddled as a thigh-high wave approached, and popped up over water maybe that deep. The board was similar enough to Emm that I nailed it and rode the little wave, hooting as fat fish darted in all directions underneath me. 
A rare Hawaiian monk seal dozes by snorkelers
Kauai Ocean Explorer: More beautiful beach weather today. Surf around Kauai is generally small with South shores topping surf heights as a new swell builds. East winds decreasing, then building again into this weekend. Poipu 2-4+ ft. 5-15 kt. Surfline: 1-2 ft. Very Small short period wind waves from the south-southeast. Light and variable east winds with smooth seas.  Easing Southern Hemi swell mix set up knee-waist high zone waves for south exposures, as top spots saw plus sets. Buoy 51204: (Wave) SWELL: 1.6 ft at 10.5 s SSW 38 / WIND WAVE: 3.3 ft at 7.7 s SSE / WVHT: 3.6 ft / APD: 6.5 s / MWD: 212° (Met) WVHT: 3.6 ft / DPD: 11.0 s / WTMP: 78.8° F. Tide: 1' rising slowly.


  1. I've been to this break over 20 times and can attest to the accuracy of the body-borders account - I've rarely seen a surfer where they must have been (although I'm sure they also enjoy it to themselves :)). Your description of the surf sounds like the norm for this spot. When it's decent not very suitable for a beginner. Thanks for the report! Reminds me of all the fun times I've had there.

  2. There were 3 girls on softops riding gentle waves on the inside a couple days before, but maybe they shouldn't have been there. Do you know where there is a good beginner spot on the south shore, Laura?