Penance -- 11/7/98

Makani taking off at small, backlit Pipe

I almost cleared him. Instead, I cleaned him out. "You hit me!" was all he repeated over and over. That was the inauspicious beginning to my latest session.

I could only manage a Saturday afternoon sesh, but fortunately, the rest of the guys had to do the same. We met up at Bud's working place and our crew headed for the North Shore at 1 pm. Makani was driving, I was riding shotgun, the Williams brothers were squashed behind our seats, and our boards were safely tucked in the bed of the truck.

The buoys had jumped to 5 ft, 20 secs in the early morn, so we knew a swell was on the way. We weren't expecting much, but were hopeful that the new swell would start to fill before we left.

Amazingly, we met up with Hiram's crew at Ehukai which included: Hiram, Steve, Kalani and Keoni. So the eight of us marched across the park to the shoreline and found... small surf. It was maybe shoulder-high, with "choke" people everywhere. No matter--we were on it!

A pretty decent left was lining up at Ehukai sandbar, so thatís where we targeted first. The problem was, it was littered with big kids and little kids of all skill levels. It was soon going to get a lot more crowded with our crew of surfers and bodyboarder (me).

On my very first wave, I had to jockey off a longboarder and two bodyboarders trying to get in on the shoulder. During my mad scramble, I failed to notice a grom on the inside sitting on his board, oblivious to it all.

I had just gained trim when I realized, "Thereís a kid right in my path!" Only a couple yards away and at ramming speed, I had to make a spontaneous decision. I chose to bunny-hop over him!

I know it sounds crazy, but in that moment of truth, it seemed like the thing to do. And you know what--I almost cleared the kid. If I had less poundage on my love handles, I could've done it. But not this time.

He flinched at the last moment, all wide-eyed with fear as I tried to steer my board over him. My hip hit him in the face and knocked him off his surfboard. It was a bad scene.

I was profusely apologetic, I truly was. In hindsight, of course it was the wrong decision. But sometimes, you just don't have the luxury of time to rationally think things through.

The kid seemed more shocked than anything, and just kept repeating, "You hit me!" The crowd all stared our way, and I immediately felt like a persona non grata.

What could I do? The kid just didn't want to accept the apologies I was extending, so in the end, I just shook my head and paddled back out. I knew that the incident just about blew my chances for a good session. I felt really bad. But there was nothing more I could do.

So I told Buddy, I would get away from this lineup, and headed for Pipeline, where the waves were at least pitching. He said they would come by later on.

Best decision I made. Pipe and Backdoor was small, but still working their magic. On my very first wave, got a decent air over the shallow reef, providing some small comfort.

Slowly by slowly, the waves picked up steam as the afternoon progressed. The sponge-brigade was strong at Pipe, with Manny, Press, WonTon and even Kainoa out. I kinda bounced between Off-The-Wall (OTW) and Backdoor, trying to avoid the crowds.

Actually, OTW had some good ones. Took off on this one left, chased a shoulder-hopper off, settled into a trim, then was faced with a nice backdoor section. I instinctively did a slight stall to get myself into good position, but it mustíve slowed me down too much. Ended up getting bounced while I was in the barrel. Still, it felt good.

Backdoor was unusually shallow--so much so that the one inside coral head was actually sticking out. I got bounced twice off the bottom during paddle-outs, tearing my jersey both times on my right forearm. Of course, duck-diving was sketchy too, doing the knuckledrag on the reef again.

Buddy came by and scored this small, but wicked pit, stuffed well behind the almond eye. Later, he gouged more fiberglass from his board via an extra-shallow duck-dive (thatís two sessions in a row). Auwe!

The rest of our crew trickled in while the forerunners of the swell started popping. I jocked with WonTon for a nice Backdoor wave, snagged it, and dedicated it to Da Hulkís dad.

Towards the end, I was looking for a good wave at Pipe to sign off the session. Finally, a peak headed my way. Rich was on the shoulder, but he graciously let me go. I thought I got in cleanly, but it mustíve just jacked. Ended up doing a weightless takeoff and skipped straight. The lip mustíve caught me just right because the next thing I knew, I was in a full cartwheel, splashing down with my feet pointing towards shore. The wave then picked me up and tossed me like a rag doll. All the while, I was thinking, "So this is what happened to Carol Philips on her wipeout."

So embarrassing--in front of all my peers. Talk about adding insult to injury! Guess that was my penance for my earlier incident with the grom.

We eventually floated over to Gums and farted around till it was pau hana time. Hiram generously spotted us some Doritos and juice and we talked story a little before heading home.

Aloha from Paradise,