Mar 15, 2010

Molokai Report

Art by Kimi Werner

Aloha from Hawaii. Right, well I've found out firsthand that Molokai is definitely not surf mecca. Which is a blessing these days. Luckily, every real surf spot is scary and treacherous in one way or another. I've yet to see a perfect wave without either the wobbles or lurking nasty hazards. I have had some good rides but no real tubes or flawless peelers. The surf so far is a bit random because this island's waves generally break over jumbled rocks and chaotic lava flows. There is one deadly four mile beachbreak but no classic points. The name spots are on risky reefs with a few having sandy shorepounds inside. I'm generally intimidated by the dangers, have had some really fun go outs, and also some frightful hold downs and reef inspections.

Massive 20'+ tiger sharks patrol offshore. Powerful currents abound because tradewind swells race along both of the long sides of the island. Small days are easier, but the waves are usually still unpredictable and distorted. It's fun but challenging, with a fair bit of staunch localism to cope with as well. I won't even go out at the heavy local spots because they are just that. They can see Maui, with it's thousands of surfers just a few miles away, so often it's not advisable to go out at the core breaks unless you are are invited. The two breaks at the mothballed hotel on the west end, Babies and Boilers, are fairly safe and playful, mushy fun that is open to all, and therefore the most popular surf beach, except that summer is usually dead flat on that coast. Out of the way spots exist, and can get good, but most are quite are fickle due to intense winds, and swells can be shadowed by nearby islands. Plus, only half of the coastline is accessible by land. As a surf destination Molokai is mediocre. As a friendly, behind the times place, definitely.

Because there are few attractions and no upscale establishments, Molokai is an undeveloped environment that suits just being happy (if you follow the local rules). Put on your smile every day, make a quiet entrance, accept what you are offered and strive to give something back. Show respect always, be courteous about eye contact. When meeting people, make it known who you are, where you are from, and when you're leaving, then give appreciation for whatever transpires. True island style requires acceptance, compassion, sharing, humor, warmth, coolness... Aloha is a state of mind, as it doesn't matter who you are, as long as you have the Polynesian vibe.

Polynesia has a lot to teach the world. Poly meaning many, and nesia implying interwoven island nations. This name for the peoples of the tropical Pacific seas does indeed serve to evoke an image of one mega-tribe, from Canada to Australia, united by following the same basic principles of what we outsiders know as aloha spirit. Molokai's population is still around 50% Polynesian, so there's lots of aloha, and a strong will to keep things the same.

Anyway... Get over here (and follow the above) because it will help the locals to continue with their jobs and businesses due to your tourist dollars coming in. No one will resent you if you don't try to take over anyone else's trips. And there is surf, but don't have overly high expectations. BTW, just about every paying job on the island is immediately taken by Molokaians, and the town near to where I'm living on the west side has the highest rate of unemployment in the state, which actually appears to be another good thing in some respects. There are workstay opportunities on people's farms.

Gear follow up: Based on my experience over here, the latest generation Standard 4GF is by far best mat I've ever ridden. And pod PF2s are the most comfortable fins yet (for me). I had to add heel savers and flipper leashes, and they work great too. Now, I don't lose my fins, get no blisters, and the tall side rails allow riding the latest model Standard with high confidence in up to 6' or maybe 8' (but not barreling), at which point I might take out my 7'9" shortboard with a beefy leash, or more likely just won't go out. Oh, and my brother gave me a reversible O'neill neoprene surf shirt with nylon on one side and sort of rubbery traction fabric on the other side that grips 4GF canvas too well for shifting around on the mat in small surf, but provides high security in rough conditions.

Matting here can get really gnarly quite fast, with thick waves on shallow rocks and coral reefs, plus rugged lava shorelines directly inside of some breaks. Also, solo missions to outer reefs make me a bit nervous while flippering around 1/4 mile out in waters frequented by territorial sharks bigger than a Cadillac. (I did mat one 10' third reef peak in front of most of my locale's locals. That was a hoot.)

Overall, I am preferring matting to boarding here, as it is quite fun...


six-toed voodoo kitty said...

Are you still there on the island? It has been four years since your post. I so enjoyed your tone and honesty regarding Molokai. We just got home from Maui and kept looking over there, thinking it was cloudy all the time. Saw the east side over the water. Can't find much real talk about Molokai on line. Looking for details. Thanks a bunch for your post, however long ago it was.

Anonymous said...

Hi six-toes, Glad you like the post. I've not been back since then, but I imagine Molokai is just the same. I stayed on the west end at the ex-hotel there that is now condos. The west side is great because the whole shore end-to-end is open for exploring on foot. Folks on Molokai are very open and traditional. Keep some food on hand to share when meeting people. Everything is based on mutual respect and showing desire to learn from each other. Also, everyone I met was stoked on my surfmat. Aloha, Max