Blood and Water -- 9/12/98

Da Crew: Rich, Bud, Fumiaki and Makani

A few weeks ago I received a mysterious fax from Thailand. This guy named Fumiaki called claiming to be my distant Japanese cousin, and was planning to visit Hawaii. Checking out our geneology tree confirmed that he was legit.

With his fractured English and my nonexistent Japanese, we had some very awkward telephone conversations, but still managed to make plans to hook up. One of Fumiakiís goals while in the islands was to do some bodyboarding--I was more than happy to oblige.

When Fumiaki finally got here, it was pretty neat talking story with him. We are blood relatives with common great-grandparents. His side of the family stayed in Hiroshima, while my side immigrated to Hawaii as sugar plantation workers. We are exactly the same age, so thinking about the "what ifs" was a bit staggering. (And yes, some of my relatives did die from the Bomb.)

We soon found that we had more than a few misunderstandings during our initial conversations. For some reason, he thought I was a professional bodyboarder (I get that a lot--nah!). On the other hand, I thought he had extensive bodyboarding experience. In actuality, he had bodyboarded only once... in an indoor wave pool in Japan! It was going to be a very interesting surf session.

I had previously planned a Saturday surf with Buddy, Rich and Makani, so I asked Fumiaki to tag along. However, it just so happened that the first northwest swell of the winter season was to arrive then. Chance Ďum, we said!

We decided to dawn patrol it, planning to meet at the Laniakea parking lot at 6 AM. After going all the way into Waikiki to pick Fumiaki up, he and I headed out to the Country.

We arrived at 6:02 AM (right Buddy?), with the rest of the boys already waiting for us. The swell was well-advertised, as the semi-crowded parking lot confirmed. It wasnít looking all that great at Lanis, so we decided to check out Backyards, Buddy and Richís favorite North Shore stomping grounds.

Guess what? It was absolutely roping! The dawn light saw Backyards reeling down the line--a long righthand wall that headed towards Sunset Point, with some occasional good lefts. We were on it.

But what about Fumiaki? Well, the inside was a big, flat reef where whitewater rolled in. I decided that it was safe enough for his first encounter with ocean waves... I hoped.

After securing some decent parking, we headed towards the beach. Thatís when I noticed that Makani, Buddy and Rich all had the same setup: clear shortboards, black leashes, no shirt, black shorts. Coincidence, or did they unconciously put on their North Shore uniform? Hmmm...

As the three of them paddled out, Fumiaki and I geared up and jumped into the nearshore whitewater. Surprisingly, there was a strong lateral current sweeping towards Kahuku Point. I tried showing my cousin the ropes, but I could see a lot of tentativeness in his efforts.

Trying to put myself in his shoes, I soon realized why he was nervous. There was lots of water moving around us and he was just not used to it. Not just that, we were over some very hard, shallow reef--not the most ideal place to learn. Things that are just second nature to me, like duck-diving small whitewater, could be utterly terrifying to someone who doesnít know how to handle the situation.

So I stayed close by and encouraged him as best I could. I finally managed to push him into a wave, which he proceeded to ride all the way to shore. You shouldíve seen the expression on his face as he turned back to me--utter joy! He was stoked.

We did this several more times, paddling out, getting caught by the current, then riding in. Soon, he was dead tired from all the exertion. I took that as my cue to hustle out to the lineup and join the other guys while Fumiaki caught his breath on shore.

The boys werenít wasting their time. Despite the crowd, the overall vibe was pretty good, with people just enjoying the first swell of the season. The surf was not quite double-overhead on the sets and the boys were all catching their fair share.

I had seen a couple of their rides from shore and they were going off! Rich especially seemed in his element, as he took off deepest and charged backside down the quick wall. I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do.

By the time I got out, the surf had already come down a little, but the zippy walls were still well overhead. I was the only bodyboarder out there, but that didnít bother me (in a way, I kinda like it that way). Caught some fun ones, but nothing great.

After an hour or so, I went back in to check on Fumiaki. Just as I paddled back inside, he swam out for his second round. We went through the same cycle: paddle out, get caught by the current, catch one in, walk back on land. Fumiaki got to the point where he was actually turning the board pretty well. After making sure he was alright, I again headed out to the main break to finish my exercise.

The crowd had increased slightly, but the attitudes were still pretty good. Caught a decent left heading right into the sun: long trim, fair carve, then a small coverup inside. On another going right, I actually got two "small-kine" tubes on the same wave. Tried my patented flips, but gagged on the landings, as usual.

Rich caught some good ones at the peak and used his backside leverage to do some serious snaps. Buddy lithely worked a lot of sets down the line, making the speedy sections. He had a good session despite more than a few "interludes" with this one drop-in-happy kook. Makani said he wasnít doing so hot, but I saw one snap he did from the back--though it was wind-aided, the spray went at least 15 straight up.

We finally came in at about 9:30 AM to find an exhausted Fumiaki sleeping in the blistering sun. After waiting for Rich to catch his last wave in, we trotted back to the cars, and headed over to Ehukai Beach Park to shower. There were some decent sets out at Pipeline, but the crowd was just crazy. We knew we made a good call on the surfspot. A trip to Matsumotoís for some shave ice was a natural finale to a good morning spent on the North Shore.

Fumiaki had to fly home the next day, but a week later I got an email from him thanking me for the time we had. In typical Japanese fashion, he said that the day we spent surfing was the best day of his life. Hmmm... maybe we arenít so different after all.

Aloha from Paradise,