Hele on to Kauai -- 2/28/98

Charles snags a good one

Because of one of lifeís twists, I found myself flying back home to Kauai for a couple of days. My wife was scheduled to work some OT, so I brought the (not-so) Little One with me to visit Grandma and Grandpa.

Though Iíve lived most of my life on Kauai, in my youth my surfing world revolved only around the south shore. Winter conditions at the surf spots up north were beyond my comprehension of waveriding. Now that I've gained more experience, I wanted to taste what I was missing all those years and chance those mystical spots.

After taking care of my obligations, I was ready to challenge the surf. Unfortunately, the surf was expected to be micro-sized--probably the smallest its been in three months. Well, just getting wet back home was good enough for me.

I asked my classmate Roy (see "Just Like Old Times") if he wanted to go, but he was busy. Fortunately, his friend Charles wasn't, so we hooked up for a dawn patrol sesh.

Charles is actually an East Coaster who moved here to work at one of the local schools. He had never bodyboarded back East, but picked it up with Roy a few years ago. Now heís hardcore, getting serious water time whenever he can.

We headed out just before sunrise to a cliff overlooking a beautiful, unnamed bay. (If you know, you know; if you don't know, you don't know.) As forecast, the surf was very small. But surprisingly, there were people already in the water, surfing the head-high remnants of a north swell. We decided to press on.

As we were driving the backroads, I felt like I was rediscovering the beauty of the island. There was no sign of the mass destruction that Hurricane Iniki caused back in '92. Kauai was as lush as ever, just like in the days of my youth.

For the hell of it, we decided to check out a secret shorebreak in hopes of at least getting some tube-action. We took a short hike down a "foresty" trail that opened up into a beautiful cove, and discovered some fun-looking waves. However, it didnít look much like a secret spot, with two guys already in the water and four more getting ready to head in. We figured we'd "chance 'um" anyway.

The surf was about 1-3' (Haw'n), with some head-high sets breaking over a hard-packed sandbar. There were several decent peaks along the beach, but we focused our attention on a nice right that popped up on the east side.

Chas was somewhat of a blind mullet without his glasses; he even started talking story with a surfer who he thought was me (at least he didn't talk to a pelican like Arf! The pup, Fred). But he caught some very good rides, including one that he traveled through two tube sections before closing out on him.

I caught more than my share of waves, but one, incredible, shoulder-high tube stood out above the rest. It just funneled forever, warping and compressing as I traveled over the shallow (maybe a foot deep) sandbar, the wave contorting with the mini-sidewash wavelets. I remembered doing real subtle adjustments during the ride, edging ever so slightly up the face, then releasing the rail to gain speed. "Guarans" in the tube for 3-4 seconds before coming out, with the lip just skirting my butt on exit. Sometimes, being on a bodyboard has its advantages.

Eventually, Chas and I traded off snapping photos of each other in the slowly deteriorating conditions. We ended up having the surf mostly to ourselves, not having to contend with the mellow surfer kids out there.

The only not-so-good thing about the session was the "furry creatures" on the beach. I'd rather we didn't have to deal with them.

After almost three hours in the water, we finally made our trek back up to the parking lot. Posted on a tree was a sign of the times--someone offered a reward for items stolen from their car (with the classic response "WHAT'S NEW" scrawled below). Even Charles and Roy had had their cars broken into at that spot. Sad testament to the changing times.

Kauai is far from perfect. But it was a great place to grow up, and a place that I will always call home. I already can't wait to "hele on" back. Maybe next time I'll get it good; or maybe I already did...

P.S. The inspiration for the title came out of a song I used to play on my ukulele back in my "hanabatta days". Brother Iz (Israel Kamakawiwo'ole) recently made a remake of this song. The first verse and chorus go like this:

There's a place
Where I belong
Not too big
In fact it's kinda small
The people there
They know they got it all
Simple life
For me

Hele on to Kauai
Hanalei by the bay
Wailua River Valley
Where I used to play
The canyons of Waimea
Standing all alone
The magic of the Garden Isle
Is calling me back home

Aloha from Paradise,