Shortly after moving here, I was slightly amused to learn that an evening TV weather forecast of giant surf was underground lingo for an island wide call in sick’ day. But who can resist the desire to experience firsthand one of the legendary gifts from Mother Nature that the North Shores of Maui and Oahu provide each winter. Last week provided a once in ten year swell, bringing momentous waves to both islands. I was in my car before dawn to see these giants IRL, and I was not alone, as crowds of locals and tourists headed up to the country. Only really early birds got legal parking places but local police tend to loosen up parking restrictions in the spirit of the event.
The swell that moved in last week on Oahu did not quite hit the 50 foot predicted size, and was too sloppy to be surfed, but was wonderful to behold anyway. It was a visual display only as all beaches were closed to all swimmers and roped off with yellow warning tape. Waimea Bay was so dangerous the entire park was closed, even to parking. My favorite snorkeling spot, Tables, was unrecognizable, as was its neighbor Shark’s Cove (Pupukea). In fact, both were completely underwater, with a total wash over that covered all the rocky ledges that are their landmarks. Waves breaking onshore were dangerously high. While I was walking down the sidewalk on the ocean side, a rogue wave came up and swept over the pavement, knocking a tourist right in front of me completely off her feet. She lost her shoes and got soaked, but was luckily uninjured. Further down the road I saw a man come running out of the public restroom as it was inundated by a giant wave. And I wish you could hear the sound. I’m sure news bureaus all over the mainland covered the event with striking images, but that roar has always made a big impression on me.
Winter surf is something I look forward to every year. Only the most experienced surfers are allowed in the water when it is deemed safe, and the lifeguards do a superb job of managing the beaches during this period. I’m always happy when the person next to me on the beach turns out to be a tourist who is seeing this for the first time. Most are on the phone calling someone trying to describe what they are seeing. If travel to Hawai’i during this time of year might be in your future plans, there is no guarantee that you’ll hit it just right, but certainly don’t miss watching the local evening surf report, cause – hey – your calendar is already clear!
Posted by: Katherine Finch