06 December 2014


Happily, the swell hitting Kauai's north shore did drop a little - just for a day. Seeking lefts, I parked at the west end of Hanalei Bay and paddled out in the channel between two peaks at Waikoko, opting for the nearer one toward Pinetrees. Still, it was a ten minute paddle across sand and dimly-visible reef. With no sets in sight, I thought to cut the journey a bit shorter and crossed to the other side of the peak while still inside of a clutch of SUPers. There wasn't time. Caught inside, I got to my feet briefly on a broken wave before being reminded of the power of Hawaiian swells. Swept off my board, I dove under the rest of the set, barely catching my breath between waves. I started to feel like I was going to hyperventilate, and forced myself to inhale slowly. When the set passed I completed my trip to the left and rested in the channel while studying the peak. It was an inauspicious start, but things could only get better from there.
About ten other surfers were out, a mix of longboarders and shortboarders plus a couple of janitors. A sea turtle bobbed in our midst a dozen feet from me. Several rockstars were launching into many waves, but others were less bold. The current pushed us all toward the channel, so we constantly paddled back to the peak. Although sometimes a wave would swing wide, the usual takeoff spot was tight with wrapping toward the peak; slim chance of catching any from the shoulder. General disorganization added to the challenge of reading the waves.

The current made it hard to stay in position, and I wasn't sure just where position was anyway. When one of the outliers lined up for me, it was quite clearly a right. "I hope I don’t regret this," I thought as I made the rampy head-high+ drop. Whee! Before I rode right too far, recollection of my beating on the way out made me turn left ahead of the whitewater to try to get closer to the channel, but I still took a few waves on the head before reaching calmer waters.
A Zodiac anchored nearby and two groms paddled over, followed by one of their fathers. (Must be nice to skip the long paddles and motor wherever you want to surf! And also to have a parent who teaches you at a young age.) The boys were maybe seven, and they ripped on their tiny shortboards, charging waves that were double-overhead to them.

There were two other women in the lineup. A grim-faced longboarder caught nothing until she paddled inside of me and rode a right in. Well out on the shoulder, a shortboarder mostly bobbed until her rockstar guy noticed and came over to offer advice. Still, she got nada, and he went back to sitting deep and riding waves. I asked her if she surfed there often, and she replied "Yes, we try to come here once a year" from Portland. (That's often?) I remember when that was me, sitting too far on the shoulder to have any chance of catching a wave, yet too scared to get in the way of overhead surf.
At last an elusive left came to me with no one on it, and I stroked in for a fast drop that blew back the brim of my new surf hat. A few turns later the wave lost energy over a deep spot in the reef, and I ended my ride with a woot and a grin.

It was great to surf one last time this year in only a 1mil vest and leggings, but I was getting tired and began to make my way back across to the opposite channel. This was not without another mild thrashing despite my attempt to stay well outside. Still I found one more clean right to take me farther toward my goal: the distant parking lot at the side of the rural road. My shoulders were burning by the time my feet touched sand, but I was still smiling. Stoked!

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