Back to the Source -- 5/23/99

Cliffside view of "the spot"

An old high school buddy of mine was finally getting married, so I got a chance to head back home to Kauai. Of course, I took the opportunity to get a little water time in.

The wedding reception was a mini-reunion of sorts. All the boys that hung out back then were in attendance. Amazingly, we all looked and acted pretty much the same--maybe with just a little more maturity and wear.

Since graduation, the gang (of which I felt more a peripheral member) has scattered all over the place--some stayed on Kauai, a lot (myself included) moved to Oahu, and a few journeyed to the Mainland. But our roots/common bond always will be the days of our youth shared on Kauai.

I think I have bodyboarded with all of them before, but Iím the only one who still actively pursues waves. In fact, the groom, Jon "the Oyabun", was the guy who used to drag me to Brenneckes in his huge purple GMC truck, coercing me into liking the ocean. Those weekend surfs followed by the "grinds" at Koloa Big Save will forever fill my memories.

Most of the guys, including Jon, have now turned to golf as their game of choice. They enjoy it immensely, but it is just not for me. Don't get me wrong, Iíll hack away with my bros (even though I shoot in the 120ís), but to me it is the antithesis of the surfing lifestyle that Iíve embraced.

After a night of reliving old times and getting loud and stupid, I excused myself early (in the morning) so that I could catch a few winks before my dawn patrol the next day.

At 5:30 AM sharp, my buddy Charles, came to my house rarin' to go. Charles said that we were going to meet his friend Chris in Kapaa, then check out some places out that side.

Conditions were nice early on, with light variable winds and clear skies. A new NNW swell was supposed to start hitting overnight, so we hoped for some good stuff at places where it would normally be blown out by the predominant trades.

The spot near Kapaa (which I had never known about) wasn't happening, so we decided to head further north and check out some other places. Kealia showed signs of the swell, with some good lines hitting the south side of the beach. Encouraging.

So we drove some back roads and got to this spot somewhere on the NNE coast of the island (another new place for me, to be nameless). From our cliffside vantage point, we could plainly see lines hooking into this huge cove, and peeling over a fairly shallow reef. It didn't look all that big, but the lineups were empty and clean, so we went for it.

At the front of the parking area, there was this wild-eyed local cooking some meat for his dog. He started talking to Chris, who looks like a "local haole", asking him some questions. "What is best about Kauai, the people or the island?" he asked. "Both!" Chris replied. "Good answer," he said. That was slightly reassuring--less chance he'd rip us off when we went to surf.

As usual, I eagerly charged down the hill and into the lineup. I just get all stoked over any session, but being back home at a new break was doubly exciting for me.

The waves were, as expected, pretty small. There were a few head-high peaks, but most were in the shoulder-high range (1-3', Haw'n). The inconsistent swells would march in and swing around the reef, making for some peaky wave action. The lefts were mushy, but the rights afforded a few good hooks to carve on.

Charles surfed well on his stiff bodyboard. He actually snagged a couple of decent tubes. The only bummer for him was that he lost one of his disposable contacts.

Chris was a solid surfer who seemed to be held back a little by the smallish conditions. He got some good ones going both ways, but seemed more stoked on the lefts riding frontside.

He mentioned that he was seriously considering heading back home to San Fran. Living on Kauai can be a frustrating experience because there are few opportunities for business/financial success. Maybe he was drawn home, like I sometimes am.

For me, I didn't have the best of sessions. Sometimes the waves just come to me, but this time it didn't. Caught a few bowling rights and a couple of really long rides left on my bodyboard, but nothing really extreme.

I did get a painful reminder that Iím not getting any younger. Did a poor re-entry and landed right where the water gets pushed back up (after the lip hits the trough). Jarred my shoulder and bloodied my lip on my board on a chest-high wave.

The winds turned on us and crumbled the waves a bit, but no one else came out during our three-hour session. I was giddy throughout the sesh, just chasing peaks and milking rides out. In the end, I was burnt toast--both exhausted and sunburned.

What is it that draws us back home? Is it some primordal instinct that makes us want to return to the source of our beginnings, like salmon returning to the exact ponds where they were conceived? Or is it more a nostalgic draw to a time when youth was king? Whatever it is, it's always nice to go home.

Aloha from Paradise,