Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Fat Haole goes to Mecca

There is this place that resides in our hearts. No surfer is immune. And some point, we have to decide if we will seek it out, or forever let it live in infamy and fantasy.

I chose to go see it.

We flew in on a Saturday with 300 of our closest friends.

My fiancĂ©’, my bro and his wife, and me, the only surfer in the group.

The plans of each of us, our own agendas, varied. There was a lot of shopping to be done. There was a lot of beach time in the sun to be had, and of course drinks in the evening on some tropical deck. There were tours to be booked and busses to be boarded. But for me…there was only one thing to be done.


More than that.

Pay homage to the birthplace.

If a catholic goes to the Vatican, does he not pray?

So it is for me. I must pray. And pray I did.

The names lay out before me in books and maps. They are spoken of in familiar tones with those that I brush against.

The maps are purely a formality, as I already know where each of these spots rest, or not rest, depending. I have known them intimately for many years.

However, now, it is time to pray.

I should ask your forgiveness for the noticeable lack of photos. There are the usual playful pics, and I shall post some. However, for the most part, the photos one would want to have from such a journey….well… the moment…all is internal, if not eternal.

On the afternoon of day 1 I found myself standing in the parking lot of the Naval commissary. A connection hooked up us with cheap eats for the condo. A rain came upon me. Big fat raindrops that warmed my entire being. I fought the urge to get naked and stand amidst the deluge as some kind of soul cleansing act.

Forgive me, for I have sinned and all.

Later J and I made our way to the other side of Ewa. I paddled into warm water for the first time in 15 years. A small crowd worked the shifty peaks. I guess this spot really turns on under a bigger swell, with an outside section that wraps to the inside a few hundred yards down the line.

Today it is waist to chest, and fun as hell.

We return to this spot in the morning and it is again waist to chest. Itching to get to Hali’ewa I cut my session at 3 hours and suggest a drive up to Makaha and maybe a plate lunch.

J and I loaded up the rental and drove up the west side.

Incredible dry terrain bordered by a pristine beach leading to some of the most amazing electric blues and reef heads I have ever seen.

It was also littered with homeless camps, twitchy residents, and barking dogs.

From Ewa to Kaena Point it was vibed out, and I never got out of the car. Hell, I did not want to stop it in most places.

Seriously. At one point J exclaims something and I turn to see one guy literally kicking the hell out of another guy on the ground.

We see a woman nearly get plowed by a speeding vehicle in a crosswalk.

We turn to each other and start snapping on each other.

Obviously there was some weird Brady-tiki shit going on here.

We come back from Kaena (lacking the clearance in the rental to drive up and around it) and grab the Kam Highway north.

A touristy stop at the Healing Stones was made to at least attempt to rid us of the weird juju from the west side.

It would not be until a few nights later that we would hear from a street vendor in town why the west is so messed up.

For all intense and practical purposes, the North was flat the entire time I was there. Missed pipe breaking (small) by a few hours, scratched a few at Chun’s before I felt the idea that I might be pressing my luck, but that was the extent of my water time on the North Shore.

What I will say is that Waimea is way smaller than I ever imagined.

We drove through the interior, along pineapple fields ( are they fields?) and let the sweet humid air whisk away all the westy bitterness.

In Hale’iwa I am overwhelmed by the simplicity of it all. I stand in front of places, businesses, and surf spots that I have known for 26 years.

Surreal is what it was. Still is. Sunset, Waimea, Pipe, all of it…passes us by and people go about their usual business.

We go back to town.

Town was breaking every day. I surfed the rest of my days here amongst several known breaks. Breaks I have known the names, and contours of, for over half of my life.

A friend told me that the paddle out at most of these places was 5-10 minutes. In some cases, it was much longer.

I will say that I did not encounter one heavy vibe anywhere I surfed over here.

It was there. I am certain others were affected by it, but I slinked in and out of breaks with out flash, without brash or bold ideas. Respect was a given, and was given.

The breaks around the Ala Moana area seemed to be the place that I would get vibed as the breaks closer to the omnipresent Duke statue were usually full of tourists.

Again that surreal feeling overcame me as I paddled out…way out…to these breaks.

Over the next several days I surfed mornings from Bowls, Rockpile, and Kaisers. The afternoons were spent in other means. Evening glass offs were spent at Canoes, Populars, queens, and Publics. Some evenings were spent at Canoes long after the sun had gone down.

I will not bore you with the tourist stuff we did, and the humor we got out of it. However two of the highlights were the visit to the USS Arizona Memorial and an evening of barefoot sailing on a catamaran right off the beach. Complete with a devouring sunset, tropical drinks, and lots of drunken idiocy after reaching land.

With so many details, it is hard to discern, hard to keep it straight.

Every morning someone would come by the statue of the Duke and place fresh leis upon him.

On another visit to Hale’iwa I found myself in a sporty surf shop. Riding giants was playing on a screen over my head. My favorite segment (Mavericks) was on. I stopped and watched. An old Japanese-Hawaiian lady engaged me in conversation. She asked if I knew who Greg Noll was. She produces a large photo album from under her counter and begins to take me on a journey that predated those prison print shorts of his.

Turns out, she hand made all of his shorts in his early days here. And continued to make shorts for him until her hands gave out in more recent years.

That’s the way it is there.

It is a living, breathing, museum of surf culture and lore.

Not a day went by that I was not overcome with it all. I still lay in bed at night and think of it.

On that Wednesday a swell came up. Short lived but a nice bump to the waist to chest.

I thought about where I wanted to surf that swell. I chose my spot and watched it.

Paddling out the channel I could watch the break to the left of me, and the one to the right, and the one to the right of that about 300 yards farther out.

The scene at this spot was different.

Having surfed in Oregon, where when I paddle out, 90% of those in the water are clueless or total kooks, I was now paddling into a break where 90% was as good as me, and the other 10% way better. And they had it wired.

I watched and waited, and kooked it out scratching for the horizon or the channel, or both, on the heavier sets.

I knew paddling out, no…I knew months ago, it would come to a place like this.

After all of these years, do I have what I feel it takes to not only surf amongst this level of talent, but to actually scratch into one of the bombing sets?

I have passed on a lot of swells over the last few years. Getting old. Lazy. Fat. Scared.

I sat there for a while and watched, scratched, and kooked.

Finally, it was time to get in the game.

It was not my Noll Moment, or anything even close, however it was poignant. I was very conscious of it all.

I worked the crowd for a while and got the rhythm of who is who and where is what down a bit better.

When my first set came, I turned and dropped into the rampy peak that was at least a few feet over head. Made the turn at the bottom, and worked it all the way into the channel.

Big fans? Deep tubes? No. but I went, and I paddled back out for more.

I got two more waves that session.

Two hours. Three waves. All of them set waves. All of them larger than I have surfed in two years. Did not bail on any of them.

I went in and J asked me how it was. What it was. It would not be until late that night, in bed, that I would offer her exactly what it all was.

After 26 years, I think it is okay to say it….

I am a surfer. I always will be.

I came to the motherland. I prayed. I knelt before all of it. I was anointed.

And no, there is no Aloha or turtle sticker on my car.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Surprisingly there was not a lot of nerve twitches.A lot going on for certain. There are so many things to be concerned with in a moment like this.

Sit at the bar? Yeah, no. Crap, look at that tall table. Watch how we get seated at that. Nothing like looking up 4 ft to your beloved from bended knee. Why is this place so loud tonight? Do you hear that? How much did she drink when she was out with the girls earlier? Wow, it’s hot in here. What’s that love? Yeah…sure…sounds good.

But at least I was not nervous.

I settled right in, after being seated at the one tall table in this quaint eatery.

Over a drink and some Queso Fondido we discussed what treats we would obtain from the menu.

What’s that special again?

I turned the conversation towards the direction I needed it to go. This may be all about her, but it is going to be done in my way. Right?

I asked of her what the one lesson is that she has derived from her 40-ish years of existence. At this point, there has to be one that stands out before all others.

I am sure her answer was meaningful and insightful, however did you notice how loud this place is? Why are we at this tall table? What is that droning sub-bass beat I keep feeling in my ears?

Thank God I am not nervous, that would have sucked!

So she finishes her answer and asks me to reveal mine.

I do.

I explain the tale about the wonderful canopy ride and what it means to understand a bird’s song, but how to have that, you must first let go of the plane.

Tears welled up in her beautiful eyes and she gasped how much she needed to hear that.

I asked her if she was ready to let go of the plane. If she wanted to let go.

She said she did, however, I do not think she knew just which plane she was going to be deciding to let go of.

I mentioned to her how I know how much she likes to have a plan, to have something to look forward to.

I stood, which was easy from this 8ft high table in this incredibly loud, but suddenly silent restaurant.

I retrieved the circa 1940 vintage ring from my pocket. And there is was, sitting snuggly in it’s green velvet case as I bent one knee and caught her incredulous look above me.

I uttered, through my own watery eyes, how I would like to offer her a lifetime of looking forward. A lifetime full of looking forward to another plan, without ever having to know the sadness of it ending, for it will never end.

And just to seal the deal, Jen….will you do me the incredible honor of becoming my wife and joining me in the incredible journey?

She said yes, I think. This place is loud, somewhere. I rose and we held each other.

Being of a somewhat business mind, I needed to verify. Yep…it was a yes.

The ruby champagne from the proprietor of the restaurant was a nice touch.

We awoke early the next day and went deer hunting.

Thank God I was not nervous.