Channel Surfing -- 6/11/98

Where would you want to surf?

The good south swell in the islands was expected to get even better with a mid-week reinforcement. So I decided to push my weekend session up to a Wednesday afternoon go-out.

As luck would have it, an emergency meeting nixed the plans, setting my session back a day. Thank goodness! The south was late in arriving, and didn't hit its stride until Thursday.

After an early exit from work, I did a quick check of the swell at Point Panic. Didn't see any major sets, but it was looking mighty fine. Towards Diamond Head, however, sweet peaks reared into the Ala Moana Beach Park area, with offshore winds buffeting and grooming the milky green lips. I was on it, planning to meet Ushi at Ala Mo.

But not so fast. First there was the parking problem to contend with. Magic Island was going through a parking lot resurfacing, so half the stalls weren't available. Also, it was Kamehameha Day, so all state and county workers had the day off and I think every single one of them were picnicking at the beach park. Finally, the HASA state surfing championships were scheduled to start Friday, so the hottest amateur surfers from around the state already were converging on Ala Mo. It took me 20 minutes just to find parking! But it was worth it.

Since I still had some time to kill before Ushi got there, I bladed out to the end of Magic Island to check out the action. Met up with some of my photo friends--Boyle, Pugay and Libby. Tom was shooting BetaCam for his next video project, Nick was prepping to shoot stills from the water, and Joey was doing both, shooting both stills and video on a single tripod setup. Didn't dawn on me until later on that they were all taking advantage of the afternoon light to catch frontlit Bowls. BIG, frontlit Bowls, that is!

The surf was pumping in the solid 3-5' (Haw'n) range with some sets over six feet. It was about as big as I've ever seen it. However, the crowd was nuts, with at least 50 people at the two main peaks. Mental as anything!

Finally, Ushi got there so we prepped up and walked out to Magic Island. We had no intention of fighting the crowd at Bowls--there were much easier pickings at the other park spots. However, as we were walking out, a surfer at Bowls caught this INSANE tube ride. Five, six, seven seconds maybe. F@#* it! We immediately changed directions and headed into the fray.

The lineup was a veritable who's who in local surfing. There were Townies Davey-boy Gonsalves and Larry-boy Rios, North Shore guys Liam McNamara and Brock Little, Westsider Mel Pu'u, longboarders Lance Ho'okano and Joey Valentin, and even legend Ben Aipa. As far as the bodyboarding contingent, there were a few others besides me out there. But the only big name in the water was Kainoa McGee, who commands (and yells for) respect in any lineup.

I quickly found that I was most definitely at the bottom 10% of the food chain. Low skill level, no status and not being terribly aggressive equated to no waves. So I tried catching the smaller ones, only to be ridiculously caught inside time and time again. It was a very humbling experience.

But at Bowls, it's always fun just to watch, so I at least got a front row view of the action. Pushing through some of the sets, I felt a bit of deja vu, like wintertime on the North Shore. Big waves marched in, usually in sets of two, with great surfers just taking it to pieces.

Of course, it wasn't all smiles out there. The intense crowd made tensions high, with lots of drop-ins and arguments. A couple of surfers got so mad that they called each other out to the beach. As soon as they were in the channel, still mouthing each other off, the heckling began. "They going be so tired, by the time they reach land, they no going fight," said Lance. Someone retorted, "Yeah, their mouths going be too tired." Trying to maintain respect, they inadvertently lost it instead.

After getting very few waves under our belts (Ushi didn't fare well either), we finally decided to paddle over to the beach park area. That's when I got my weird wave of the day.

As I crossed the channel, a huge set came in. I was still in very deep water, but the wave pitched beautifully for a short, but makeable ride. Caught off guard, I didn't even think about going, but the two-wave set showed me that the wave was rideable, and more importantly showed me where to line up.

So I hung out for just a little while longer, when surprisingly, another big set poured through. I was in good position, so I just took off, going left towards the rocky outcropping at the tip of Magic Island. It was pretty much just a big drop, but the rush of surfing a peak that's rarely, if ever surfed, was exhilarating in itself.

The rest of the session didn't go all that great. We paddled all the way down to Big Rights and back to check out the scene. Ushi did well at Concessions, but ended on a bad note, landing his back on his fins on a bad tumble (he's OK now).

As for me, I had varying degrees of successes and failures throughout the many breaks we traversed, including:

     Bowls-- one nice down-the-line ride with a good cutback, then flubbed it
     Bamburas--a 50 yard speed run right going towards the breakwall
     Over-the-Reef--whitewater wave in
     Baby Haleiwas --aced out
     Americas-- nice down-the-line ride capped with a good air
     Courts--punk left to the channel
     Second Holes--backdoored a wicked bowl section but didn't make it out
     Concessions--one fun ride on the inside
     Big Rights--dropped in on, but caught some fun, solo lefts

All in all, it was a pretty exciting session. The crowd factor was high and the wave quota low, but the big waves had everyone stoked. Though I didn't have the best of sessions, even I was satiated.

My wife always complains about my TV remote control habits. Well honey, it must be in the blood--I'm a channel surfer by heart!

Aloha from Paradise,