March 25, 2018

Before coming to the Big Island I kept reading about its remote Southern Region, or South Point.  The area is known for deep water abundant with fish, strong winds, strong currents, cliff jumping and deep water solo rock climbing in which a person climbs vertical rock with no ropes above deep water.  Christian and I have been dedicated rock and ice climbers before getting into surfing, paddling, and kiting so when the opportunity presents itself the rock still calls us.    


During our last week on the Big Island our good friend Mark said we have to go to Green Sand Beach past South Point and he offered to drive us in his beat up pick-up truck as the last few miles past the point are a braided maze of 4-wheel drive roads.  We geared up for a day of multi-sport fun and left early.  Our plan was to stop in Kawa Bay, a little known spot just past Punalu’u down the hill from Volcano to catch some surf, stop at South Point for some cliff jumping and climbing, and then head on to Green Sand Beach to paddle and snorkel.  

Mark, Christian, and I were sitting three deep in the front bench seat while Justin and Nate were cruising in the bed of the truck on make-shift chairs with lots of gear.  After an hour or so of morning driving we made it to Kawa Bay. We had been to Kawa Bay a few times before.  Mark, a dedicated surfer that has been on the Island a decade had never been there.  You park on the side of the road at a yellow gate and then hike in 10 minutes or so to an incredible black sand beach with the foothills of Mauna Loa in the backdrop and coconut palms all around.  Every time we go there is a young local taking care of the property and we talk story.  They tell us of their uncle who always took care of the beautiful spot when they were keiki, the ancient history of the site, and the stories of how the hills behind us came to be. 


 After we caught some clean waist high waves and took a dip in the freshwater spring we continued to South Point.  The winds and sea were relatively calm, so we threw on our climbing shoes and jumped off the point.  The rock in Hawaii can sometimes be loose and brittle but here weathered by centuries of waves the rock is solid and perfect for climbing.  Slightly overhanging with incredible hand and foot holds there are dozens of climbing lines on the 40 ft. cliffs with deep water landings below.  Deep water solo rock climbing is one of the purest forms of climbing.  No ropes or other gear – just some climbing shoes, the rock, and warm tropical water to soften the fall.  Climbing can bring me into the present moment, when your holding on to vertical rock the only thing that matters is each hand hold, foot hold, and breath. 


We climbed for an hour or so and then headed off to Green Sand Beach.  The driving was exciting with spectacular scenery.  We successfully navigated the braided backcountry roads and reached our destination.  Surrounded by high hills and steep cliffs on three sides Green Sand Beach is a beautiful cove that offers some protection from the often rough seas in the area.  After a few minutes’ body surfing the shore break we pumped up our Pau Hana Big EZ Air paddleboard, grabbed our Kialoa Insanity Travel Paddle and were paddling in one of the most remote places on the Big Island. 

Christian jumped on the board first and began exploring the rock outcroppings jutting out into the ocean.  Nate, Justin, and Mark threw on fins and snorkels and swam out into the open water alongside while I perched on the cliffs to take some photos of the dramatic landscape.  The crew went out around the point and into another secluded cove and had the place all to themselves.  We had to leave just before sunset so there was enough light to navigate the difficult dirt roads and we made it out just in time. 


Driving back up the mountain towards Volcano National Park you could see a very strange glow in the sky off in the distance.  As we drew closer we decided to pull into the park.  We first stopped at Thurston Lava Tube and hiked 10 minutes through the jungle at night to lava tube’s entrance.  It was 10 degrees warmer inside the lava tube and we walked through to the other side.  Then we headed up to the Caldera.  Watching the glow of lava bubbling in this crater is an awe-inspiring experience. 


In the chill of the night we stood in reverence and watched Orion rise above the glowing night sky.  Driving the last 30 minutes home I offered to take a turn in the bed of the truck in the very cold night.  Cruising down the road it seemed there were millions of stars and after such an incredible day it was easy to feel the mana of this beautiful island.   


 By Kevin Cullen

Photos by Nate Hill and Kevin Cullen

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