From Irie to Ire -- 6/28/97

All photos taken on Friday, 6/27/97

On Tuesday, rumors of an incoming south swell started circulating in the local media. Had to use one of my daughterís bibs because I started drooling, waiting anxiously for the weekend.

Thursday evening brought reports that the swell had arrived. I drove down to Ala Mo in the early afternoon on Friday to find Bowls going off! It was almost double-o with lots of riders partaking in the action. The Park (Ala Moana beach park) was also loaded with people--south swells bring everyone out of the woodworks. The winds were expected to increase to the 15-30 mph range, but it felt like it was already up in that neighborhood. Despite it all, I was fully expecting to have a great session the next day. I was styling, feeling good.

So Saturday finally arrived. I woke up to the Taryn alarm--she cried for her morning bottle. For some reason, Taryn was extremely fussy and slow--mustíve been able to sense my tension--and so she howled more. Losing precious water time...

I finally got to Magic Island at 5:00 am. For some reason, the parking lot chain was gone, so I scored a great space. Hustled out to the point and jumped in. It was 5:10, surf was up, and me and an old bodyboarding competitor of mine (Troy) were the only ones in the lineup. We knew we had to enjoy the solitude while we could because it wouldnít last for long.

It was still very dark, with overcast skies camouflaging the incoming waves. The sideshore winds were kicking and generating a small, but annoying chop on the surface. Waves didnít look all that great--maybe shoulder high--probably partly because of the low tide.

Suddenly, a set started building out of the darkness. My friend caught the first one, a nice overheader that peeled halfway to the inside rocks.

The second wave of the set jacked up and called my name! I heard it distinctly whispering, "Neal, Neal, please ride me..." So I did.

I took off left, stalled a bit on my tail, and got slotted nicely. The direction of the swell was from the southwest, so the wave hooked into a sweet concave bowl. I was simultaneously stoked and bummed: stoked for the great ride and bummed because I knew I probably wouldnít get another wave as good on this day.

Surfed there for an hour and a half as the crowd went from empty to ridiculous. The sets stayed fairly small at about head high. I finally paddled west towards the Park, in search of a better scene.

As I crossed the channel, I noticed that both of the channel markers were gone. Found out later that the swell knocked them down sometime Friday eve. Whoah!

Each peak at the Park was pretty distant from the next, but there were lots of people (20-40) at every single one of them. I caught a few waves at all these spots, right down the line: Bowls, Bamburas, Baby Haleiwas, Americas, Courts, Big Lefts, First Holes, Concessions, Big Rights.

Each spot was a lesson in frustration, with so many people fighting for the few good waves that came through. Dropping in was the status quo. There were shortboarders, longboarders, bodyboarders, even a few knee- and paipo-boarders sprinkled in for good measure. And I gotta say that most were of marginal skill level.

Wipeout of the session for me happened at the left of Big Rights. A surfer couldnít get into a small, head-high set, so I whirled around and took off late. Ended up going straight and got stomped by the lip. I was caught in front of the whitewater, skipping forward on the surface. I only took in a quarter breath before my lungs inhaled some ocean splash. After I penetrated and went underwater, I found myself not quite deep enough to kickoff the bottom. So I scratched for the surface and hacked up salt water. Total time underwater was only about 10 seconds, but it felt like an eternity. Lesson learned: humility. Even south shore waves can spank you if youíre not careful.

Of all the spots I rode on my round trip (besides Bowls, of course), I enjoyed Baby Haleiwas the most. The lineup was pretty spread out, so you could catch a few without incident. The waves themselves had nice shape, with long walls, despite closeout sections.

I donít mean to offend anyone who fits this description, but at Baby Haleiwas, several middle-aged, beer-bellied, rednecks on longboards were making fun of a couple of young, local bodyboarders. I quietly watched the loudest one, made eye contact, then calmly ignored him. Not realizing there was another bodyboarder behind him, he stopped soon after he saw me. I couldíve made a scene and responded, but it wasnít worth the stress. Anyway, they couldnít catch waves for s#!t.

When I got back to Bowls (about one mile, round trip!), I found a crew there that you couldnít crack with a jackhammer (lots of "black shorts", if you know what I mean). Drop-ins were the norm, as only selfish aggression guaranteed a high wave quota. Michael Ho (39) was out there putting on a clinic for us youngíuns. I stayed out of the way on the inside and caught a few tiny tubelets before paddling in.

My total water time was over four hours, well above my usual. My ankles ached from kicking so much, and my face felt leathery from the early morning sun and wind. However, it was a very good workout for me--better than a "Gut-be-Gone."

I didnít realize it at the time, but for many hours after my session, I was in a very angry mood. I drove aggressively going home, honked at a guy blocking my way, bumped my car against a fence, and was in a generally foul demeanor with everyone for the rest of the day.

Usually surfing has a soothing effect on my system, calming me and making me feel at ease with life. This time, however, I was totally flustered. Even though the surf was good, the crowded session was ultimately frustrating. So much so, that I didnít even want to go surfing again for the rest of the weekend.

With age comes wisdom. You start realizing that itís not worth it to put up with this kind of crap. Next time, Iím going to a less-crowded spot. Even though the quality may not be as good, itíll be better for my soul.

Aloha from the Irie-man (most of the time),

P.S. For those that donít know what "irie" means, check out the Brian Talma (aka Irie-Man) website. Stay cool!