Surf’s Up

Kauai has so much to offer.

From mountain to ocean, mauka to makai, there are many adventures, beautiful places to relax and wonderful people to meet. The sun shines down often, with just enough rain to produce bountiful fruit and vegetables for fresh healthy living. The same rain keeps the mountains lush green with steep ridges that mimic a dragon’s back. As for hiking, you could spend a lifetime trying to see the compact 25 x 33 miles and not even scratch the surface. Especially, if you are heavily distracted, like I am.

As with life, the ocean's only constant is change.

I cannot stay away from the ocean.

I’ve always had an inner battle: am I a mountain person or an ocean person? The mountains allow me to embrace the rugged nature of life, their ancient stones speak to me about eternity and mortality. But the ocean. Ahhh the ocean. It soothes my soul like nothing else. It’s the mystery that intrigues me. It’s true we know more about the surface of the moon than the seafloor. The ocean combines beauty and power in a way unmatched in the natural world. For me, there is nothing more mesmerizing or thrilling than the spiral of an ocean wave breaking.

Barrels at Pinetrees in Hanalei Bay...someday I will be this good (maybe.)

Barrels at Pinetrees in Hanalei Bay…someday I will be this good (maybe.)

Surfing might be one of the strangest sports in the world.

I’m honestly not sure why people love it so much. The only explanation must be because there are so many stubborn people in the world. Everyone sucks when they start. Everyone gets pounded in the shore break and finds sand in their ears days later. Everyone feels the burning of their sinus cavity to later have saltwater run out of their nose mid conversation. And even the pros fall down. Wanna learn, yet?

In fact, instead of learning to surf, you could just drink 5 gallons of saltwater, slide around on your stomach like a penguin until you vomit, have someone punch you in the face, spin you around while being held underwater upside down and then take a light jog on a bed of sea urchins and fire coral.

Let me clarify: surfing is hard.

Surf superstar, Bethany Hamilton. She surfs better with one arm than most people do with two.

Surf superstar, Bethany Hamilton of Kauai. She surfs better with one arm than most people do with two.

Despite all this, you will find me near sea level if the surf’s up.

Traditionally practiced as art rather than sport by ancient Hawaiians, known as he’enalu or “wave sliding,” surfing was reserved for ali’i, or the chief of the land. Now commoners like you and I have the honor of using inertia of a wave to propel us forward with great speed. To be weightless and flying forward on a powerful wave is one of the best feelings in the world.

It all starts with the paddle out: I choose my board for the session, longer if the waves are less steep or small.  I rub wax that smells like tropical fruit on the top side of my board for friction. I stretch my arms behind me and bend side to side. I attach my leash to my right foot, take a deep breath and charge into the ocean.

Once past the breakers, a calm sensation fills the body. Staring towards the horizon, waiting for a set to form, a sense of inner peace fills you. Sitting up right on your board, floating, and gazing up at sleeping giant green mountains, everything feels right in the world. Your worries drift away with the tide. It’s hard to explain how surfing gets at the core of your being, connecting you directly with the ocean that surrounds and sustains us.

All this happens before you even catch a wave. Once you learn to catch and ride waves, you will see very clearly what it means to live in the moment. No time to worry about tomorrow or about that stupid comment you made last night. You must react and think in that very moment that you are living.

Charging.

Charging.

So I admit, I know why people love surfing:

Surfing is good for the soul.

Barrels in Hanalei bay!

Barrels in Hanalei bay!

7 responses to “Surf’s Up

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