Cold Shoulders -- 1/31/98

Frigid Walls

It was f-f-freezing! We planned to dawn patrol the Westside early Saturday morning, but were greeted with the coldest temperature EVER recorded in Honolulu -- 53 degrees at the airport! I know, all you non-tropical wave warriors are mocking me right now, but believe me, I was cold!

Joining Jerry and I was our longtime buddy, Ushi, who I've surfed with on a few occasions . He offered to drive, using a true, blue beachmobile of a truck. I wasn't complaining.

As we were heading out, I noticed a couple of cars with longboards stacked on their roofs. I thought we were the only early birds around? Then it dawned on me that there might be a contest at Makaha (our targeted surfspot). Oh no!

Sure enough, we got there almost an hour before dawn and already the scaffolding was up and contestants were arriving. Damn! I remember when I was heavily into the contest scene, and we, on occasion, had to deal with angry noncompetitors who didn't like to be chased out of the water. I guess what goes around, comes around.

We did a spot check anyway, and it looked to be pretty good--maybe five feet (Haw'n) on the sets. The swell from the day before seemed to have hung in, although the trend was forecast to be downward.

Just then, I turned and looked at the guys parked right next to us, and recognized one guy as Donald Pahia. He's a good friend from my comp days, and turned out to be the event coordinator. He and his whole crew, a majority of which were the judges at the Eddie (see Almost Eddie), were running the longboard event of the Quiksilver Makahiki games. This was a series of ocean sports events that Quiksilver puts on to give back to the surfing community in Hawaii, completely free of charge.

So we talked story about the Eddie, and I started hassling Donald about this damned contest ruining our surf sesh. But Ushi broke in and asked why don't we go out anyway. Didn't have to ask me twice.

Before you could say "Keaulana and Kanaiaupuni", I was out there! Conditions were excellent, with a peeling swell coming into a dead calm wind. My first wave was an overhead closeout in the dark that I just went straight on with my tank. Nice rush.

Soon afterwards, everyone joined in. After that, I couldn't catch waves for s#!t! Once again, I scratched and missed waves, got caught inside, or just was plain outmaneuvered and outpositioned by the practicing competitors. I felt like I once again regressed into kookdom... maybe when it comes to longboarding, I was always just a legend in my own mind.

However, at least Jerry and Ushi enjoyed themselves, catching quite a few good waves each. We nicknamed Ushi, "Gerry Lopez", for his casual surfing style. He used to surf the North Shore a lot, but is only recently getting back into the sport. Jerry (not "Gerry") turned out to be the only bodyboarder out, but had fun despite some bad vibes from a grumpy, older-type competitor.

I was pretty comfortable in my short-john, but some of the other guys were complaining about the bitter cold. At least there was no wind. Wait, I take that back. After every swell that passed, there would be a soft, but sharply cold breeze folllowing it. I never noticed that breeze before in Hawaii. Is that the cushion of air that pelicans ride on?

My best wave was a pretty silly one. I caught a small, shoulder-high wall that lined up all the way to the beach. At the moment of takeoff, the sun just happened to peak over the mountains, with the glare impairing my vision. I rode high on the face and tried to inch my way into a cheater-5, but my right leg must've slipped (remember, I'm a regularfooter going frontside). With a thud, I found myself on my butt, still on my board, with both legs pointing straight out towards the nose! Picking myself up, my right foot again slipped, this time into the water. With the water rushing by, the momentum turned me 180 degrees around, and I once again found myself on my butt, this time with my feet facing the tail! So I decided to make the most of my posture and began steering my board with my butt--did a pretty good job too. After a while, I figured I'd try to "stand like a man" again, and scrambled to my feet. Just then, a backwash came and unceremoniously bounced me off my board. I guess the wave just couldn't stand me standing on it.

Soon after 8:00 AM, some surfers started coming out to chase us from the water. I felt unsatisfied from my performance and wanted to surf some more, but I relented and caught one in. Jerry just so happened to drop in right in front of me and we had a little "party wave" going. Just at the end, I grabbed his hand to swing him forward, ala rollerderby, but my board slipped and my rail nailed him in the side. Jerry brushed it off, no problem.

I guess the water patrol was getting a bit angered by the laggers in the lineup because Mel Pu'u got on the mike and started hollering, "Eh, all you noncontestants, please clear the water! It's really cold today, and I DON'T want to get wet! Thank you!"

Of course, one of the last guys to come out was our very own Ushi, who'd been given the wrong scoops by the contestants about leaving the water (a likely story). He wasn't complaining, as he caught an unmolested ride in.

We hung out for a little while before saying our goodbyes. Since there was some extra time, we decided to check out the rest of the coast. It was a beautiful morning, with no clouds or breeze to speak of. The surf was coming in nicely at all spots, with some treacherous reef action at the end of the road.

After drooling for more, we eventually headed back home. Despite my poor showing, we all had fun. However, the shortness of the session left me unfulfilled and wanting more. I guess sometimes, everyone gets left out in the cold.

Aloha from Paradise,