saltwater therapy

earlier this month, i went back home to oahu and spent a day surfing with eric and janelle at our homebreak in waikiki. we’ve had our fair share of surf days in california, but it’s been about 3 years since we’ve been able to surf together in this special place. 

being here makes me happy. since i started surfing seven years ago, waikiki has shifted from a beachy, concrete jungle of tourists, to a charming, charismatic place i hold in my heart. i mean that. i’d never spent as much time in waikiki as i did during the summers of 2010-2014. my parents work in the hotel industry, so as a kid, trips to waikiki often meant mom was picking up or dropping off dad, and vice versa, or that mom was going to give me and my sister a tour through halekulani and give us a box of chocolates before dad took us home. when i got older, trips to waikiki meant roaming down kalakaua and kuhio with friends, and prom season. 

on this day, i took a moment to reflect on how this place has blessed me with countless memories. i think about the first handful of times i paddled out, unable to catch a wave. i think about the next handful of times after that when i went out and spent those days kneeboarding. i think about the day i caught my first wave after the sun had set, feeling accomplished. i think about all the nice people i’ve met in the water – people who’d just moved there, already in love with the island, visitors from all over the world on their way out, and locals who were there most days we were out. all the funny flirting, all the talkin shit about some tourist who crashed into your board, all the simple conversations about yesterday’s and tomorrow’s surf conditions. it’s funny because im no pro but i get excited and real passionate when it comes to the last two. i also think it’s hilarious how confusing it is to see someone you know from the lineup out on land – sometimes it’s hard to recognize people with clothes on. 

i get attached to places and people, leaving is bittersweet and feels like quitting. i think that’s why i stay in places and with people for long periods of time. one of my favorite days was when we had a barbecue on the beach, cooked up some of the fish and tako the guys caught, and surfed between meals. on another day, we met up with david night fishing on the shore. one of the very last times i surfed in waikiki, i remember paddling after a sunset session back to shore as the moon appeared. i’d just graduated college and was spending some of the summer at home before looking for a job in san francisco. i floated on my back in the waters close to shore for a few minutes, looking up at the moon, thinking about how much i was going to miss those carefree mornings, days, and nights being so content with playing in the warm ocean. 

there is a spiritual cleansing i feel being in the water. if there’s one way to feel humbled, small, and human, it’s by getting tossed around and being fooled by the unpredictability of the ocean. waikiki is a forgivable place to surf - i learned how to paddle, get up, and turn on little 2-3 feet waves. but the one summer the waves hit 10-12 feet, i learned how to hold my breath for a long time, how to stay safe under violent waters, and how f ing painful it is to get smacked in your mouth by your own damn board. 

this past trip brought back a lot of good, old times! i’m thankful and still so obsessed. 

shot on fujifilm quick snap waterproof disposable camera
waikiki beach, oahu, june 2017

writing this was inspired by something i recently found on my old blogger, much of it still relevant, some of it funny to read in retrospect. :-)

November 19, 2013, 12:03 am

i’ve been thinking
i write this to remember because i like the way it makes me feel.

i’ve been thinking about how much i want to turn the dial back to the summers of 2010, 2011, and 2012. driving out to the beach around sunset, 9’0” in tow, picking up janelle, sitting in rush hour traffic for about 20 minutes, eventually reaching the parking lot, scouring the car for coins to feed the meter, stripping down, finding a smart place to store my key (either knotted in my bikini or a secret compartment in my car or in david’s lockbox), and walking down to canoes to paddle out to an already packed line up.

the sky is hazed a gradient of orange, pink, purple, and blue — the kind of sky that’s so pretty that every time you see it, you kind of forget about it a little less and less until one day, you leave and come back and realize what your eyes had been missing. we paddle out for some nice 3-6 foot waves, wading around, trading boards, soaking in what’s left of the sun. a set kicks in and everyone paddles for the first, second, third party waves. every now and then, janelle, eric, david and i catch the same wave. a few times, i tried hopping onto david’s board. i did it right once, and the other times i bailed and lost my balance.

i think about all the nice people i meet in the water. the ones who come in from out of town, after a work shift, or are there every day. 

i don’t care how packed it got from all the surf lessons and the canoes riding waves in. 6 pm rolls around, lessons clear out, and the hula show on the shore starts so we can hear all the live hawaiian music playing while we’re out in the water. waves start picking up, and slowly, people start disappearing. there are about 5-7 other people out there surfing with me past sunset, and each of us get our own wave. it’s nice. it’s peaceful. it’s surreal.

i remember surfing on friday nights, when the fireworks show would come on at 8 pm. i remember surfing on new year’s eve. i remember surfing on christmas day. i remember surfing at night on a full moon with the gang, and catching waves i couldn’t see too well; our marker was the way the moon shined on the wave’s peak, a two-second preview, then you sort of just trust yourself and start paddling to catch a…well, rogue wave. i remember the overwhelming fear that came over me every time i had to paddle back to the lineup, unsure if i would pull up my arm with each stroke because maybe a shark would get me. i remember the rush i got catching what felt like a huge wave. standing far back on my board, leaning back as much as i could, gripping the board with my legs bent, back straight, zipping down the line, and nearly running into a short boarder with a glow stick wrapped around the tip of his board. he was cool about it

i remember dawn patrols, and finding the best parking in waikiki at 6 in the morning. it’s pitch black, the moon is still out, and i’m paddling out with janelle, eric, and david into cold cold waters, and we have a bunch of waves to ourselves and probably 5 other people who were out there too. once, i went out alone and passed by a drunk couple walking home from the night before. waikiki leftovers. lots of folks think it’s a grody, kitsch part of oahu, but i love it. i’ve learned to love it.

i also remember leaving the house at 5:30 in the morning to drive out to waianae with david, eric, janelle, and joe to catch what we thought were gonna be some amazing waves. but it was flat. janelle and i slept in the car for about an hour, driving in the dark to get to the other side of the island. we were tired and sleepy, but i guess we’d do anything for that stoke. the beach was on some military ground, but joe was able to get us through. we surfed there until the afternoon and i got a really bad sunburn

once, we surfed at tong’s, right behind diamond head, a view that’s slightly different from surfing at canoes, and a lot more untouched. that day we went out, we surfed with scott caan, who was pretty good. there’s a huge rock that kind of sits to the left of the break and the reef there is a bitch. i scraped my fin on it, and bumped my tail on the rock. apparently, there’s a resident shark who lives there too.

i think about the days i go out with eric, janelle, and david, and the days i go out by myself. to think, to feel better, to feel good, to get better, to enjoy the ocean. some days, i bump into joe and catch up with his life. i remember when joe used to work at a surf shop, he let me borrow the in the pink takayama board and i thought i was dreaming. one, two paddle, and i was up. that thing was a floater, and i barely had to do anything to get in a nice ride. even on a two foot bump

i think about the days we used to go out to rockpiles. i never looked forward to driving around that parking lot to find a spot. i never looked forward to paddling out. all that reef and vana (sea urchin), and those steep drops. i couldn’t handle it, and i’m pretty sure i’ve only caught a handful of waves since i first went there. most of the time i’m out there, i psyche myself out thinking about scraping my back on the reef a second time. this is also where i stepped on vana for the first time and lodged a few needles in my toes.  

when i went back home in september i upgraded my board to a 9’0”chronic. something that was barely used and custom made. a green yellow white blue marbled board. it’s nice to look at and to ride, a bit different from my old yellow 9, my first board, the one i bought for $100 off a craigslist ad. that yellow board was my baby. i decked it out with pink wax and on a day i was feeling especially tacky, i’d also wear my rainbow rash guard with it. green bottoms on select days. there’s no doubt you wouldn’t not see me in the water from the shore.

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