Jan 25, 2015

From Jay ...

Hi Paul,

This is a story about a day that was awhile back...
The forecast wasn't for a big day, just a medium day.  It's a 1 1/4 hour drive from Hilo to on of the spots on the Kona side.  It's a pretty drive over the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea but tedious as I don't really like driving.  I got up early to make the drive over before the usual bad wind ramped up as it does almost every day.  Life happened in the morning so I wasn't able to hit the road until 8am.  That wasn't great but not horrible as the wind sometimes doesn't get really bad until noon.  I'd still have some time to surf before the surf got too junky
I left the house and drove up the highway and made it to the top of the saddle when I realized that I don't have my wallet or any money.  Ugh.  I have to drive all the way back home, 45 minutes, and then back again if I want to surf.   So, an hour and a half to just get back to the spot where I realized that I didn't have my wallet.  This has soured me on surfing for the day, but I go ahead a get back on the road.  This means that I won't get to the other side until just before noon.  Ugh, again. 
Drive, drive, drive for a long time.  I finally get to the spot and, somehow, the wind has not started blowing yet.  There are only 8 or so people out at the spot.  This can still be a lot, though, as it's a reef that has only one tight take off spot.  I go to paddle out and cut the bottom of my foot in ankle deep water.  I actually don't really even notice the cut because the rocks are razor sharp and I only just grazed a rock on the way out. 
This will be an issue later, though. 
I get out to the top of the point and sit at the end of the line.  Little waves come in and people ride them.  I don't even move.  I just sat there waiting.  People paddle past me like I'm a potted plant.  Even though I've lived in Hawaii for a few years, I realize that I'm still just a visitor so I understand. One twenty or so year old guy literally paddles round me and sits with arm's length just above me in line.  I'm not a super small guy and, at this point, I probably have a grimace on my face from all the driving and watching this impolite surfing behavior, so I thought that was particularly haphazard on his part.  It was definitely an aggressive move, but, whatever, I'm trying to be respectful so I just sit quietly.  In my time here, I've learned that Hawaiians really value courtesy and can be quite vocal if it's not followed or quite giving when it is, so I try to be as respectful as I can. 
He catches an in-betweener and I overhear people telling his friend that he ought to talk to his "frothing" friend about his overeagerness and that it's going to get them both in trouble eventually.  21st century surfing.  It's more about the people than the surf a lot of the time.  At this point, eight or so kids paddle out and the vibe of the spot gets way, way worse.  They're kids, though, so I want them to get waves.  I've caught plenty of waves in my life already.  I decide that I'm going to catch one in and wait for the kids to get done surfing before coming back out. 

While I'm waiting for a wave in, I notice that there is a huge patch of skin hanging off the bottom of my foot from the little cut earlier.  This took a while as the kids were catching every scrap of wave that came in.  Finally, one of the Hawaiian kids paddles around me and turns for a wave upstream of me.  I paddle for it because I need to go in.  He looks sheepish and stops paddling and I catch the wave and go in. My foot has a huge cut in it.  Morning session complete.  As a friend of mine says when the going is bad, "Good times."  

I've driven over three hours and caught one little wave and now have a good cut on my foot.  The cut on my foot is pretty bad so I can't just ignore it.  It's actively bleeding and there's some skin hanging off.  There's only one store in the area of this surf spot and it's one of those Hawaii tourist markets with souvenirs and snacks.  I need some scissors and liquid bandage to get the cut fixed.  The only scissors the store carried were Hello Kitty scissors.   I bought them.  I fixed my cut in the parking lot with spring water, Hello Kitty scissors and liquid bandage.  It bled and bled for quite a while until I finally got it repaired.  Ugh. 

I look up, though, and notice that the palm trees aren't swaying.  They're super still.  It's still glassy.  I decide to go check the spot again, get there and I hobble down the path.  The pack of kids pass me on my way back down the path.  They're leaving.  I watched the surf for a little bit and eat a tuna salad musubi that I bought with the Hello Kitty scissors.   At some point, I noticed a Liddle hull leaning against a tree.  I went over and asked the guy about it.  He was holding a little baby in diapers and standing in the shade of the tree.  We chatted about different types of hulls and eventually got talking about surf mats and I found out that he rides Fourth Gear Flyers.  He's an interesting guy who's lived all over and rides the mats at some obscure spots all over the island. 
While we were talking, quite a few people come in and the spot only has three people out.  I figure I'll risk the cut foot on a second attempt at surfing for the day.  I paddle out the key hole in the reef and make it out relatively unscathed.  With the glassy conditions and being a clear mid day, the water is super, super clear.  While paddling, I can clearly see the coral and little tropical reef fishes.  Shockingly beautiful.  Mesmerizing.  It's like snorkeling from above the water.  I slow paddle to watch the fishies for a while.  I paddled over a pack of about fifty yellow tangs drifting back and forth over the coral and black lava rock. 
I get to the takeoff spot and sit at the end again.  The other guys catch waves and then get back in line.  After a few waves, I'm at the top and I catch a set wave.  This rotation goes on for two hours.  We talk about the big swell that's coming.  One of the guys calls the big wave surfers "gladiators."   A couple of guys go in and then are replaced by a few more people.  All maintain the courteous vibe and it's a very enjoyable afternoon of surfing.  The spot is just beautiful.  The fish are underneath.  A few super glassy sets come in.  We trade off on them and/or get smashed trying to duck under the semi-bombs.  All friendly and chatting.
Anyway, sorry for the long story.  I guess my point is that surfing can still be great, but it's not always when you think it will be.


tuskedbeast said...

Excellent, excellent story- and attitude. You're just the kind of person I want to have in the water, and if you ever come to San Francisco, we'll have to go surfing.

Geoffrey Levens said...

Yes, very cool! Reminds me a bit of one of best sessions of my entire life in Baja. Almost turned around 2X on the way down, first time from stepping large pile of stink (not certain if dog or human) when looking at 1st spot I normally checked. Oh, did I mention I was barefoot? Then flat tire and spare down to white canvas spots showing amidst the baldness. Found a $3 "fix a flat" guy and it was game on. Got amazing surf for hours and hours once I finally arrived. Always hard to read the signs--does this mean "quite trying to swim upstream" or does it mean "perseverance furthers"?

Anonymous said...

Great story!

I´m with "perseverance", humility and good faith.

It´s all in the (m)attitude.

Still don´t know, why we (most) have to get hurt in some sort of way first, to actually realize this.


Scott said...

Yes, excellent. Jay's great. He came down to power-raft with us on a pretty solid day. Had him out at SD's scariest left in the morning, most localized right in the afternoon, and a tricky, chopping-block left at dusk. He was smilin' and savorin' it the whole time, even without a big wave count. Exemplary attitude.