Circumnavigating Part 7: Making Like Magellan

Day two at Hanalei. Mike is exceptionally patient and encouraging, so I’m not sure what I’m hoping Alouette will do for me in the water, but I do have hopes of a better outcome than yesterday. I suppose on some level, I’m thinking that Alouette is a woman and, maybe, more my speed. Mike is a gristley guy with a lifetime of surf experience, ranging from New York winters to pumping Hanalei and beyond. I’m also hoping that the waves will be a size that I consider more fun than, say, deadly, since everyone keeps saying the swell’s going down.

Alouette turns out to be just as dauntless as Mike and just a little less nurturing (in the lineup). The swell is still up.

I do a better job of staying out of the way, but it’s so difficult to read the water. Some sets break on the flats, some wrap around the bowl, some are downright monstrous and break wherever they please–usually way outside. The constant paddling leaves me too exhausted to catch any of the “smaller” waves that I go for. I decide–for myself, this time–that moving to the inside looks smart, since the bigger waves will break further out, right? I head in and immediately have to dodge a wonky one that swings around from the northwest, making an escape in that direction impossible. During an odd moment of quiet, I breathe, think, try not to think. This guy who reminds me a lot of a former Editor of Surfer tells me that I’m in the right spot; I’ll do well here. It soothes me for a moment–until I see that he has blood trickling from his ear. I want to tell him, but I don’t want to be rude, and a moment later, I have to rush to avoid a clobbering from another renegade set; my logic about the big ones proves fallible. I try to duckdive, but still no luck with that. For the next 10 seconds, I’m submerged (with my board, which is still firmly in my hands) and spun viciously. As I kick for the surface, I slam my heel into the reef, an injury that must be ignored for moment because–shocker–another wave is about to crumble on top of me.

If you’ve never surfed Hanalei, I’m not certain that the description of my board and I being whipped about as a single entity beneath the sea is enough to convey the power of these waves, so I’ll provide another image: With a bleeding foot in sharky waters and arms that are far too tired to be at all useful, I conclude that Hanalei is not really my style. I grip my rails and hang the entire bottom half of my body over the tail of my board, as to avoid pearling, and brace for impact. I’ma ride this thing as close to the beach as I can. That, or, the eight feet of whitewater will still send me nose-first into the depths and spin-cycle me yet again, before I finally resurface and manage to feel the awesome speed with which I am being flung at the shore. This wave has long since broken and it is far too fast for me to ride with anything resembling grace.

The next day, I practically break down and beg for Alouette to bring me to Pine Trees. She drops me off for two hours and heads to The Point because Pine Trees is “too small.” Ah, to live in a world where overhead translates to “small.” Anyway, I’m fine by myself in consistent seas over a sandy bottom. I have much better luck here. My first Hawaiian session, actually, where I don’t feel that some sort of bludgeoning is a danger to my existence.

At one point over the next few days, I run into JoAnne on dry land and she assures me that “only teenage boys paddle shortboards out there” (to The Point). I feel completely validated a couple of months later, when I read an interview in Eastern Surf where they ask the guy something like, “Where have you come closest to dying?” and his answer is “Hanalei.”

On my last say in Hawaii, I drive myself to Pine Trees. My fight is at 8:46 p.m. and I have to drive across the island to get to the airport, but I schedule some time for surfing before heading back to the still-cold East Coast. My last day in Hawaii is like my last day in California: sunny, warm water, surfed-out.

When I first arrive at the beach where countless legends have surfed, it’s waist to chest-high and deserted. (Waist to chest-high and light wind in Hawaii-land = refuse.) After five solo minutes, these kids appear and start snaking my waves. Why does this always happen to me? Now there is this hyper tanned guy sitting exactly where I want to be. By all means, let’s collectively inhabit as little space in the empty lineup as possible. He eventually asks me if I’m from Kauai and seems to be surprised that I’m not, which is oddly satisfying. I ask if he’s from Kauai and I’m surprised that he’s not. His name is Al. He asks if I want to trade boards after ogling the penguin and I fall madly in love with his 5’3” Gravy. When I’ve got to leave, Al asks if I’d mind giving him a ride into town, so that he can go for a job interview. I tell him I’ll drive him as long as he doesn’t shank me; he agrees to those conditions. At this point, there are about 25 surfers in the water: “Insta-crowd,” he says, “that’s Hawaii.”

When I pull over on the side of the road, Al gives me a kiss on the cheek, which obviously catches me completely off guard, as I have literally just met him. I must look perplexed, because he suddenly looks embarrassed and manages to say, “Uhh… it’s… a Hawaiian… thing… thanks.” With that, he tumbles out of the car.

I was supposed to get out of the water and head home to shower/pack by 2. Or 2:30 at the latest. That did not happen. Duh. I clearly stayed in the water until like quarter past 3.

I might have to break down and invest in a wetsuit when I get home. I will go through withdrawals otherwise.

I see a couple of rainbows (no double rainbows) on my drive down from the North Shore.

In the Starbucks at Lihue airport, which is one of the few places to hang out besides the gates, I’m contemplating buying some Hawaiian flowers and then realizing straight away that that would be an immense waste of money that I don’t have. I’m also still absorbing the fact that Delta charged me a $200 fee for my board. People had been been claiming my streak of free excesses was thanks to “the cute girl factor.” While the validity of that “factor” is questionable, the fact that the streak has broken is not. I guess I shouldn’t have been bragging all over Kauai (and elsewhere) about my gratis board transportation.

My mother keeps telling me that I haven’t truly circumnavigated, since I flew out of JFK and into Newark. I started in Jersey, Kel. I left Bayville in January and returned, via New York, Reykjavik, Paris, London, Bangkok, Sydney, Coolangatta, Cairns, Canberra, Melbourne, Honolulu, Lihue, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Newark in April. I’ve flown (approximately) 27,200 miles. The circumference of the globe is 24,859.82 to 24,901.55 miles, depending on where you measure. Coincidentally, it took me (80 + 6) days to get around the world.

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One thought on “Circumnavigating Part 7: Making Like Magellan

  1. […] as close to the beach as I can. That, or, the eight feet of … … See more here: Circumnavigating Part 7: Making Like Magellan « Water, Water … ← 4 Favorites: Best Beaches on West Coast, USA | […]


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