Virgin Surfers -- 8/10/03

Ren, trying to lose his surfing virginity

Date: August 10, 2003
Time: 0715--0930
Spot(s): Canoes
Conditions: Light offshores, cloudy, with typical Waikiki crowd
Swell: Slightly increasing south
Surf: 1-2+' Haw'n

Words: For two years my friends Ren and Ken have been pestering me about teaching them how to surf. And throughout that time, we've just never been able to hook up (OK, maybe sometimes I was unavailable due to "conditions"). Well, enough excuses--it was time to give out some lessons.

I met these guys way back in college and have been good friends with them ever since. Ren is a top executive for an international hotel chain and Ken is the owner of a bar/restaurant/nightclub in Hilo. Both of them have lived in Hawaii just about all their lives. And amazingly, both of them have never surfed before.

In the past, they've tried in vain to teach me golf, a sport they both excel in (Ren excels, anyway). They are patient with me when I hit my 10-yard drives and score in the 120's. For me, golf is the antithesis of surfing, so I've never taken it seriously. Bringing them out surfing would be my opportunity to return the favor.

Ren and Ken correctly waxing the top side of their boards

We met at one of the hotels in Waikiki (the pink one) and walked down to Canoes just after 7 AM. I had my own tanker, but needed a couple of boards for them. Fortunately, Willie Grace, my beach boy friend, pointed me to Palekaiko's, who took good care of us kama'ainas. We were styling with two ten-foot fiberglass boards for a couple hours.

Because of their ongoing friendly rivalry, the first order of the day was the inevitable bet. I believe the stakes were for a plate lunch or something; didn't really matter. Each thought that he would stand up and surf before the other, and to them that in itself was worth betting about. I knew Ken had a little more ocean time, so I just figured he'd get up first. But I've been wrong before.

Ken suggested I take a picture of them on the beach as proof that they stood up on boards. Oops, I missed--still no proof.

We started off on the beach with me playing Mr. Waikiki surf instructor. It actually was harder than I expected, explaining the basics, since so much of it has become second nature to me. But I tried my best, talking about the stance (like riding a skateboard), prone positioning (finding the sweet spot), paddling (like the freestyle stroke), and the press-up (practice, practice, practice).

All of us were eager to get wet, so after only a short time on the beach, we jumped into the warm water. Conditions were fair, with a tiny south trying to push in under overcast and slightly windy skies. The lineups were surprisingly congested so early in the morn, possibly due to the contest being held at Queens.

Inside Canoes was overcast, tiny, but fully surfable

We first tried our luck at the inside break of Canoes. I knew that paddling into waves would be one of the hardest things for them, so I decided to help them out by pushing them into waves. Of course, the first few times was just crash and burn, with them being too far up on the board (per my errant instructions), pearling the nose big time.

Despite the wipeouts (or maybe because of them), it was really fun watching these grown men getting stoked on the prospect of riding waves. I tried to be encouraging, but at the same time I couldn't help but feel tickled, seeing them act like kids (even more so than usual).

I may have made a tactical error when I decided to paddle out with my own surfboard and a Nikonos camera. After pushing Ren into a wave, my board was apparently caught by the whitewater and nearly took his head off (surprised that it missed such a big target). On another, my camera strap got caught on Ken's board leash as I pushed him into a wave. His massive momentum actually dragged me underwater from my neck for about 15 feet.

But despite it all, I tenaciously kept at it and so did they. Ren actually surprised the heck out of me with his ability, and (ta-da!) was the first one to ride a wave. He screamed so loud in his triumph that I think people at Ala Moana Center heard him.

Ken, making sure his board still has wax

Ken, on the other hand, was more physically challenged. He was actually getting into quite a few waves, but for some reason couldn't make it up to his feet. Several times he ended up on his knees with some mental block stopping him from getting all the way up. He gallantly kept at it despite the obvious frustration.

Eventually, they both decided to venture further out in the lineup. It actually was a good idea since it gave them a bit more breathing room compared to the tight quarters on the inside. It also gave them access to slightly bigger and more powerful waves to propel their physiques.

I used the opportunity to temporarily abandon my friends and paddle out to the very outside, and was fortunate enough to stroke into a couple of really nice lefthand sets. Eventually I went back inside and cajoled them into more waves.

"Take my picture, I'm surfing!" Ren seems to be exclaiming. Not quite Ren.

Ren and Ken couldn't get enough of surfing (or at least attempting to surf). They stayed out for the full two hours, and then some. In fact, I had to rush in to Palekaiko's and assure them that we weren't trying to squeeze out some extra time on the boards.

I waited on the shore for a long time before I saw them making their way back in. Thought they were trying to catch one more in, but the reason for the delay was that they were struggling to paddle back in. Welcome to surfing!

As if on cue, a small gallery of our friends and family arrived on the beach just as Ren and Ken got into the shallows. What timing!

The great watermen return from the sea

The day after, both of them found that they had strained muscles they never thought they had. But they also admitted that they couldn't wait to go surfing again. Ren and Ken even talked about buying their own boards.

Took a few years for me to take the boys out surfing, but after their first "experience," it looks like they already have the surfing bug. Regardless of what happens in the future, you can be sure that Ken will always hassle Ren, I will still suck at golf, and we'll continue being friends for life.

True surfers/true friends, circa 1992

Aloha from Paradise,