Happenstance -- 9/21/97


happenstance: n. [HAPPEN + (CIRCUM)STANCE] [Colloq.] 1. chance; fortuity 2. a chance or accidental happening.

Bummer. All the surf forecasts showed a fair southwest and huge northwest swells coming in right *after* Sunday. The weekend warrior syndrome had bit me again.

Checking the buoys Saturday evening confirmed this with the northwest buoy just starting to ping at 8 ft, 10 sec. Unfortunately, that buoy's swell measuring device went out of commission soon afterwards, leaving us clueless as to the arrival time of the impending swell. It looked like the new northwest would arrive sometime on Sunday.

On the other hand, the southern buoys were doing a funky dance, going from 5 ft, 11 sec, to 5 ft 20 sec. "Wassup wit dat?" Looked like it erroneously doubled up the periods, as it does every so often.

Deciding to play it safe, I targeted the West Side for a Sunday session. The winds were supposed to be calm, so there would be little tradewind swell to speak of on the east side. Just in case the big winter swell started coming, the west would catch the wrap nicely. If the south picked up, at least there would be some places to go to. In any case, I figured we were in for some small surf, so I brought both my tanker and the sponge, just in case.

I planned to hook up with Lance and his dad at Makaha. When I drove past at 5:15 am, they were nowhere to be found. So I continued up the road, and only found ripples through Keawalua Bay.

Coming back, I found them cruising at the Makaha 7-11. We decided to head to Maili, where I saw a bit of whitewater glowing in the darkness earlier.

Dawn was nearing just as we got to the parking area, and I had to do a double-take to convince my brain of what my eyes saw. Small, clean waves peeled nicely across the empty bay. The wind was dead calm, heightening the serenity of it all. Out there!

Paddling out, we soon realized that the surf was bigger than we thought. The empty lineup gave no reference to gauge the size of the waves. What I first thought was chest-high surf became head-high, then overhead beauties. Unreal!

I've never surfed Maili on a southwest, and this swell was definitely coming from the southern hemi. It took me a while to get my bearings, but I eventually readjusted my positioning.

Maili Point has a reef outcropping, with the bay to the right of it. On west swells, the lefts usually peel along that reef edge. However, with the swell coming from the southwest, two peaks were forming. The first kinda followed the contour of the point reef. But the second peak connected clear across the bay over another flat, reefy area. And man, was it connecting that day!

Going backside on my tanker on overhead waves was not on my agenda when I woke up in the morning, but it provided me with an imposing challenge. I didn't want to leave my longboard in the car because of Maili parking lot's notorious break-in rep, so the tank was the call.

Took off on several beauties, but one really stands out. It was a little smaller set, maybe a foot overhead on the takeoff. The wall was just gorgeous, oily smooth, with a concave hook to the shoulder. The flats in front of the wave were boiling in three places from discontinuities in the reef. The wave peeled symmetrically down the line as I cruised along, working the board up and down. Riding backside gave me just a bit more anxiety and thrill because of the limited vision and my awkward body positioning. I did a couple of slow roundhouses at the end, and kicked out cleanly, maybe a hundred yards from my takeoff point. Stoked!

The surf, although a little inconsistent, seemed to rise a bit, with some sets at least five feet Hawaiian (some faces were well over 10 feet). More and more people filtered in as they realized that the southwest swell had arrived.

As far as the crowd, a couple of bruddahs really stood out of the pack. They both pushed 240 pounds, but once on the wave, they rode with catlike precision. Very inspiring.

Towards the end of the session, I was pretty tired. Ended up taking off on the wrong waves because of the increasing number of waveriders. Then got caught inside several times. My 9' leash soon stretched to 11' after the board got ripped out of my possession. Didn't care for the underwater tow-jobs that the board and waves treated me to. I think it was a gentle way of telling me that I'm not quite ready for North Shore action just yet.

I finally dragged myself out just before 10, just as onshore winds just started kicking in. I *know* that we probably caught the biggest and best waves on the island. By the time the swell pulsed into Town, the conditions would've already been less than ideal, with both bad winds and big crowds. Also, the Country hadn't filled in with the new swell, and even wave-magnet Makaha was only 1-3'.

I'd like to think that I do a pretty good job forecasting wave conditions. In reality, many times it's just pure happenstance that we are in the right place at the right time. Sometimes luck is better than skill.

Aloha from Paradise (a sometimes happening place),