"Makai" To The Ocean
“Come out and visit us in Hawaii! We have a spot for you and access to a car” our friend Sandy said to us while hanging out at her beautiful Air BNB “One Love Rasta Cottages” in the West End of Jamaica this past winter. View 'The Real Jamaica'. Six months later she and Joey were picking us up in their Subaru Surf Wagon at the Kona Airport and we loaded it up with all of gear that we flew with: Inflatable Pau Hana SUPs, Kialoa Paddles, Kite-gear, short boards, some camping and climbing gear.
Within a few minutes of the airport we were pulling down a sandy 2-track with palm trees swaying in the coastal off-shore breeze. We came around a corner and saw out at sea several peaks of perfectly peeling waves and only a handful of surfers. My husband Kevin and I are die-hard surfers braving freezing winter wind-swell back home in Western New York on Lake Erie. You may have seen us surfing in one of Buffalo, NY’s most notorious blizzards in November of 2015. Growing up on the shores of Lake Erie we’ve had access to an epic variety of water sports opportunities due to the long, narrow, and shallow lake that acts as a wind and weather tunnel.
Over the years and inspired by the Hawaiian all-rounded watersports tradition we’ve been pursuing progression in stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, kite-boarding, and whitewater SUP so when this opportunity arose to skip a Buffalo winter to chase warm wind and waves in the mighty Pacific arose we couldn’t resist. While Lake Erie is a watersports paradise with incredible kite-boarding and occasional decent surf we consistently crave ocean swell and dedicated the beginning of this journey to straight up surfing.
In a lot of ways surfing is the foundation of being a Water Man or Woman. Paddle out, duck-dive, paddle-paddle, push down, pop-up and ride a wave of pure liquid energy. Surfing requires endurance, awareness of the ocean, patience, and to be a strong swimmer. Our hosts Sandy and Joey showed us the local surf spots around the Hilo area where we would be staying for the next two months. First stop was Pohiki in South Puna where heat vents from the Volcano mix with the crystal clear saltwater.
Paddling across the warm bay coconut palms and black jagged rocks line the coast. When we get to the line-up Kevin and I smile at each other both thinking, “we are in paradise!” Our friend Justin from Buffalo and also on the island for the season catches a shoulder high cresting wave. Kevin jumps on the second in the set and I on the third. We all get clean rides and paddle easily around the break back into the line-up soaking in the sunshine and scenery.
The next day Sandy and Joey show us Honolii. Cars line the hill on the way down to the break. A local Hawiian throws up a shaka and wide-smiling eyes as we walk pass. It was a small day so we brought out inflatable SUP’s to paddle up the river mouth under a giant bridge and it feels like we are in Jurassic Park where huge palm trees line the river’s edge. After a short paddle we head out into the waves and catch a few fun rides on this beautiful bay.
After a week with Sandy and Joey they depart for Lake Tahoe and entrust us with their home and surf wagon. The pair exhibit exceptional qualities of Aloha which Hawaiians have told me means not just hello and goodbye but literally, “we share the same breath.” It is this spirit of Aloha, of sharing, that particularly drew us to Hawaii. In a world that often appears troubled it seems there is so much here on Hawaii the rest of the world can benefit to learn - from the Hawaiian culture, cosmos, and way of life. As a visitor to these islands we feel grateful beyond words to glimpse this Polynesian paradigm and learn how to incorporate the spirit of Aloha into our everyday lives and interactions.
Serendipitously just down the road from where we stay our friend Mark from Buffalo has been living on the Big Island for a decade. On our way to Mark sharing his favorite surf break we stop at the filling station with a stack of surfboards strapped to our Subaru Wagon. A local Hawaiian pulls up in front and offers a big smile and wave. While his gas is pumping he walks over, looks at our boards and asks, “ever surf the north shore of Oahu?” “No I reply, we’ve never been but heard it is incredible.” “It is brah,” he says, “that’s where I’m from, when I was little all of us keiki would hang with Eddie Aikau and he’d always tell us ‘take-off sideways on the wave.” We hung out and talked story for maybe 10 minutes before parting ways. In the mean-time we befriended a local driving a truck full of Coconuts and Papayas and asked to buy a few. “Just take some the driver smiled.” I smiled back grabbed some fruit and left a tip as a big Mahalo.
Walking the path down to Mark’s favorite break you could hear the waves crashing in the distance. When we came out of the trees there was a pristine black sand beach in a small bay backed by an old mill. The sea was a little choppy but every few minutes an incredible right jacked and spat off the point. Within minutes we were floating into the line-up via the rip along the cliffs. After watching Mark catch a few I saw a wave coming right for me. With Eddie’s words fresh in my brain from our gas station story I pointed my board right and paddled with everything I had. As soon as I felt the push I popped up just as the wave was about to break. Right in the pocket I felt I was going faster than I’ve ever gone on a surfboard, looked high on the wave turned back left then lined back up on the face and caught the ride of my life.
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