Fishing Tale -- 11/2/97

The surf was trashed

A weather front swept across the islands on the weekend, bringing strong north winds with it. So despite the surf being up, it was pretty stormy up north.

Jerry and I were planning to meet Ushi at the North Shore on Sunday, but Jerry couldn't get up in time. I don't blame him for not making it-- his Halloween revelry left him burnt out and on Monday he was scheduled to go on a trip half-way around the world. There are times when you just gotta recupe.

Despite the lousy weather, I decided to chance the North Shore. I figured I'd fare better on a stick in the choppy waters, so I put away my sponge and grabbed my tank instead. Anyway, this would be a chance for me to challenge myself in some large, marginal surf. I was ready.

Miraculously, I found Ushi at Ehukai, and we proceeded to scour the surf spots, looking for something rideable. The surf was big, but really messy, with straight onshores crumbling out everything in sight. Finally, we decided on Pinballs, the inside peak of Waimea Bay, since was a bit more sheltered than the other breaks.

We were surprised to find lots of fishermen scattered across the beach, dunking and spinning for something. Upon closer inspection, we found that they were catching mostly papio (jack crevalle), along with an occasional o'io (bonefish) and lai (something between a jack and a sardine). The fishing must've been good, because there were a lot of fish on the beach--I just hoped we'd be just as lucky with the surf.

It was an easy paddle out from the righthand corner of the bay, as we settled on a spot just off the point. It looked like the predominant swell was swinging to the NNW, but there was a distinct new west swell that bowled the peak up considerably.

My springsuit provided ample warmth, but restricted my paddling a bit. Actually, the (media-hyped) El Nino has kept Hawaiian waters warm in the high-70's/low-80's range--even the usually brisk north winds weren't all that cold.

As for the wave itself, Pinballs is mostly one big takeoff. The rest of the ride is usually about contending with the crumbled section. This was especially true today because of the winds chopping off the wave tops. Only the west peak made things interesting by jacking the wave into double-overhead beasts.

Ushi did his standard Gerry Lopez impressions, casually taking off backside. His recent expoits to Tahiti have made my mouth drool in envy, scoring a week of solid 6'+ conditions.

I, on the other hand, was a bit more tentative. For some reason, I just couldn't position myself into the pit. I think I was afraid of breaking my stick (again!), but somewhere deep in my subconscious there was an underlying angst. I guess Waimea is steeped in a bit of lore that will always make me respect and even fear the place a little, despite it not being all that big or dangerous (at the time).

Anyway, the latest shark attack on Kauai made me all the more apprehensive. I spent most of my time prone on my longboard, rather than sitting up on the board and dangling my appendages.

I caught many waves in the two hour session by hanging in the channel and picking off rideable shoulders. I was playing cat and mouse with the waves, but of course, got tagged a few times with my finger in the cookie jar.

My best wave was pretty exhilarating. I tried paddling into the first wave of the set, but couldn't make it over. Turning around, I found myself right in "the zone", with a bigger peak rearing up behind me. Didn't have to move at all--just waited for the wave to come to me. On the takeoff, I was looking straight down the near-vertical wall, but went anyway. I got unweighted from my board on the drop, but a sideshore gust of wind put the board back under my feet and lifted the nose up. Made a three point landing (three skegs), then the rest of the board followed, lightly fluttering down on the cushion of air. I felt like Richard Schmidt in the 89/90 Quiksilver Eddie Aikau contest!

Upon touchdown, I started carving the board, first left, then right. In my glee, I turned it too quickly and just flipped off my board like I was slipping on a banana peel. Right then, I returned back to reality and felt like myself again--a kook!

My worst wipeout was a late takeoff. Everything looked good until I got to my feet. I think that the pesky west peak just bowled up the wave, turning it concave. All I could do was kick my board out and do a kung-fu fall 8-10 ft into pit. A deep penetration made the wipeout pretty harmless, but it still gave me a great deal of nervous excitement.

By the time we finally paddled in, most of the fishermen were gone. I guess it was time for all of us to be heading home.

Wake up early, go for the big ones, catch whatever you can, talk about the ones that got away... Surfers and fishermen--they just might be cast from the same mold.

P.S. Read about some of my friends in a real fishing tale called Bets Boats and Sashimi.

Aloha from Paradise,