From artistic inspiration to legends of shipwrecks and mystical creatures, the sea continues to offer Hawai‘i residents inspiration, fear, and a home away from home.
Editor Letter: I have a confession: I never did like the ocean much. I guess you could say I was more of a pool kind of child. In a pool, I never had to worry about what I couldn’t see below, and aside from the smell of chlorine, it never left me with that sticky salty feeling like the ocean did after not rinsing off nearly well enough because the beach showers were always so cold. The worst part about the ocean was the whole getting in part, wading up to my hips and waiting to adjust to the water’s temperature, oddly chilly for it being so sunny, just to have an annoying brother or cousin splash—and spite—me.
In elementary school, my father started taking me bodyboarding at Kewalos. He thought it would be a good opportunity for father-daughter bonding, I suppose. I hated it. Hated navigating down the rock wall; hated the long paddle to get out to the break; hated duck-diving and the impending feeling of being caught inside on a set; hated the feeling of sitting in wet clothes on the drive home.
Eventually, when I got old enough, I started going to the beach on my own (mostly, I think, because all my friends were doing it). Bodyboarding gave way to longboarding, which gave way to short. I surfed all over the island, from Mākaha on the west side to Rocky Point up north, from crowded breaks on the south shore to empty ones on the east. I even surfed around the world, in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. I’ve seen fireworks light up the reef while nightsurfing at Kaisers, been spooked by the flap of a surfacing stingray, had my brow split open in Bali.
And then I stopped. From 2010 and for the next five years, I paddled out a total of three times. I had just started this magazine, and like I said, I never liked the beach all that much anyway. (Read: I never did get that good at surfing.) But the sea has a way of pulling you back. In July, spurred on by my fiancé, who had recently taken up standup paddling, I purchased a 9’4” board off the rack at Surf N Sea in Hale‘iwa—and have been hooked, in a way that I had not been before, ever since.
The ocean works in mysterious ways. It teaches you all of life’s lessons, as the dynamic young waterman Kai Lenny, featured on page 20, says. Despite the sea’s ever-changing temperaments, from churning furor to placid calm, it remains a constant in the lives of those featured in this issue, their faithful companion in work, play, and everything in between.
Despite our recent reunion, my relationship with the sea has changed little since my younger days: I’m still horrible at pushing past breaking waves; I still sit as far out in the lineup as possible to avoid being caught on the inside; I still hate the sticky salty feeling left on my skin and in my hair after a dip. But now that I’m older and wiser, I always, always make sure to bring an extra change of clothes for the drive home.