The hot discussion topic that dominated conversation as I headed out to the North Shore with AlohaBruce and Yaling was Hurricane Felicia. When I suggested that after nearly seventeen years without a serious hurricane in Hawaii, we might be do for one, they both bristled. “Don’t say that!” they protested. At any rate, Felicia has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, a tropical depression, a tropical malaise, and, finally, a tropical ennui. As soon as we crested the hill heading down to the Mokuleia Polo Grounds, any thoughts of inclement weather fluttered away on brisk trade winds.
I had once again stumbled into day-long adventure with AlohaBruce. This time the mission was to take in the experience of the Mokuleia Polo Grounds , the strange and wonderful mix of down home barbequing, country club champagne flutes, ladies in big hats and a dozen frothing polo ponies thundering past with men swinging long mallets on their backs.
We were invited by the Equus Hotel, which had provided a fine spread of wine and tasty comestibles in a private area at midfield. Dozens of cars lined the polo pitch on both sides as a smoldering breeze brought savory smells coming from the grills on the other side. And the occasional whiff of horse manure. It was pine.
The format for the day’s competition was a handful of teams playing in a round-robin tournament, with each match lasting two six-minute “chuckers.” The easiest way to explain a chucker is to compare it to a quarter in football or basketball. I had secretly expected the matched to be tame affairs, more for show than for true competition. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. The players and their mounts chased the white wooden ball all over the pitch, which is a few hundred yards long, their horses colliding as mallets flashed. Every one of the players was out there to win, and the polo ponies were clearly every bit as intent as the riders. Those horses are magnificent beasts whose dignity is not diminished by the fact that they have no compunction about pooping in front of everyone.
And fans of the sport can be as equally passionate as the riders. One excitable lady in a big straw hat was evidently the wife of one of the riders and a rider herself. She cheered and jeered with an exuberance that could rival that of any Chicago Cubs fan in the bleachers at Wrigley Field.
As the day turned to late afternoon and the tournament ended, the mood became considerably more festive. A long time drummer friend of mine was on hand with his classic rock band (I’m constantly running into fellow musicians, even at a polo match way out in the country). There was a brisk business at Ed’s Polo Bar, and everyone was clearly feeling good. As the sun dipped behind the Waianae Mountains, we decided to head back to Honolulu.
My overall impression of the whole day was that a day at the polo fields (there’s another polo field in Waimanalo) is a brilliant was to spend an afternoon. I got the feeling that most of the people there on Sunday were there more for the atmosphere than for the spectacle of the sport. Whatever the case may be there is plenty of both at the Mokuleia Polo Grounds.