Sandy Beach: Waveriding Paradise and Obama’s Favorite Wave

Sandy Beach on the south shore of  Oahu has it all. Great sand, crystal clear water, big park, lifeguards, an incredible shorebreak and a few slabby reefs for surfing. And the beach scene is something out a reality show: South Shore Beach Scene–Glee meets Point Break meets North Shore.

The water at Sandy Beach is crystal clear.

President Obama at Sandy Beach. People love to criticize Obama as feckless. But let me tell you, pulling into a wave at Sandy requires cojones. And the Tea Party hacks wouldn't even be able to drag their pasty blubber past their knees before being knocked down by the whitewater.

This is where President Obama went to bodysurf during his campaign for President. And when surfers worldwide saw him put out his arm in the classic bodysurfing position, we knew we was the real deal. And let me tell you-Sandy Beach is legit brah!!!!! I can guarantee not on of those Tea Party goofballs would last a minute out there in a one on one with our Bodysurfing Prez!

My youngest son Daniel on left on the east side of the beach. Rocks everywhere just below the surface.

Sandy Beach is a bodysurfing haven. The key is to find something to use as a hand planer.Daniel and my oldest son Israel share a fun wave. When it gets big the risk of injury is high. According to the lifeguards, there is nowhere else where more necks are broken in the U.S. I believe it.

Daniel driving into the barrel.

The bodyboarders are amazing. Many are standing up and just surfing their bodyboarders. One told me that he was "a surfer surfing a boardyboard." These waves require committment to get over the hump and into the face.

This guy was ripping. These were not easy waves to make. The wave boils over the reef. The right off this wave is a crazy barrel. A guy was backdooring it all afternoon (no photos though).

DIY bodysurfing tools--a swim paddle, homemade hand planer, and a McDonald's food tray.

What seals the deal on President Obama's bodysurfing street cred is the fact that he can go left and right. The man knows what he is doing. Looks to me like he is a "goofyfoot" and favors going left (as I do).

Oh yeah, when you get hungry, you just stroll over to the Wahoo's fish taco truck--the only one in the world!

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Surfing Kauai

My first paddle out on Kauai’s south shore reminds me of the difference between surfing coral reefs and the sand bottom beach breaks and points I have surfed most of my life.

At this coral reef, waves come of nowhere, bendover the reef and slam in front of me. I can’t quite figure out what is going on.

The wave is a classic A-frame breaking on a shallow reef a couple of hundred yards from shore. My sons, Israel and Daniel, are surfing a left down the beach. Another wave that is even hollower breaks just a bit west.

Surfers paddle around me as if I am not there. As a first timer to the reef, I am  just in the way.

I catch a few rights and remember the sound advice given to Israel by South Bay Union School District Trustee Dave Lopez before we departed.

“You have to really paddle over that hump to get into the wave. You have to be committed,” said Dave,who is an excellent surfer and lived in the islands for years.

My strategy at this particular spot is to sit inside the main crew, a tight group of older surfers (okay—my age—fortysomethings) who surf very well and have the lineup dialed. A younger core group of rippers sits inside and snap everything up the older guys can’t get into.

What I fail to realize is that the current sweeps across the reef. When a set comes I am smack in the middle of the impact zone.

Three surfers paddle for the first wave of the set. All three take off.

Normally I would have been okay. In any other location three surfers would not have dropped in on the same hollow wave breaking over a shallow reef.

The guy closest to the whitewater, who should have had priority, doesn’t see me inside of him. I hope he will decide to go left to avoid me.

No such luck. He is heading straight for me. At the last minute I bail my board and dive deep. He completely runs me over.

After bouncing around underwater I emerge and see his board but there is no surfer to be seen. After what seems like eternity, he emerges from the foam. Luckily we are both okay and our boards weren’t dinged.

And then two more set waves hammer me.

Welcome to Hawaii.

The boys and I surf with only a few other people each morning. The locals know there is no need to dawn patrol. The trade winds blow sideshore-offshore all day, everyday.

A couple of days later the surf picks up again. I notice a group of surfer girls paddle out at the left where Israel and Daniel  are out surfing.

One of the girls, a tall blonde, has an odd way of paddling. It is as if her arm is tucked below her board.

Photo by Noah Hamilton

Image via Wikipedia

It is Bethany Hamilton, a professional surfer and the subject of the film Soul Surfer. When she was 13 and in the waters of Kauai’s North Shore, she was bitten by a 14-foot tiger shark and lost her arm.

Bethany Hamilton

Image by Kanaka Menehune via Flickr

When I saw her she had just recovered from an injury she received while surfing in Indonesia.

By the way Bethany rips.

What most impressed me about our time on Kauai was the passion locals have for the ocean. The old guys are ripping on short boards. The young guys are shredding.

People are paddling into critical waves, paddling their outriggers outside the lineup and everyone seems to have a smile on their face.

One evening just before sunset, a local paddles out at the reef. He looks like a UFC fighter, ripped, arms covered in tattoos, with long bleached hair.

This is the local I’ve been dreading. The one who is going to look at me and tell me to leave.

But as he enters the lineup he is grinning and warmly greets his friends, and smiles as he paddle by me.

I smile back as the heavy local paddles hard for a wave but doesn’t quite make it. “There will be another one brah,” he says to me. “There will be another one.”

Blue Hawaii

Duke's board that he traveled with and surfed in Hawaii on. From the Bishop Museum, Honolulu.

I’m on a family trip to Kauai and Oahu in Hawaii. It has been a great opportunity to enjoy ocean recreation and culture. There is no place like Hawaii to experience real ocean culture and people who are so passionate about their relationship with the sea.  Historically, the people of Hawaii  had one of the world’s most advanced ocean cultures.

My son Daniel with a 19th century alaia surfboard from the Bishop Museum. These boards were thin and about five feet long. The original surfboard and required a native surfer to have an exceptionally high surfing ability.A shark hook and other fishing hooks from the Bishop Museum.

A traditional sailing canoe from the Polynesian Cultural Centeron Oahu.

Traditional shark and fishing hooks displayed at the Bishop Museum.

A replica transoceanic saling canoe built by the Hawaiian studies program at BYU. Students and their teachers take the canoe out to learn traditional sailing methods.

A sign at Poipu Beach on Kauai about protecting native Hawaiian monk seals. It is great to see Hawaiians take pride in protecting these nearly extinct seals. Hawaiian seems to cherish their ocean wildlife rather than fear them as in La Jolla where residents seem to relish assaulting seals and fear a wild ocean.

A sea turtle conservation sign at Poipu Beach. It has been great to see how sea turtles have become an icon of Hawaiian ocean culture. I have surfed and swam with some really big turtles here. Awseome!!

My eldest son Israel surfing a wave on Kauai's south shore. I am always reminded of the power of the oean in Hawaii and the complexities of surfing coral reefs. Very different than surfing the beaches and sand-bottom points I grew up with and am used to.

Just another day in Kauai. Blue Hawaii.

Haleiwa on the Oahu's North Shore is quite a scene--even in the summer. Packed with tourists and surfing is really sold. But it is still a cool place. Equivalent of a ski town in Colorado.

Spring Surf and Endless Summer Adventures

My Southwest Surf column from May 11, 2011:

I paddled out this morning at around 8 a.m.

From the end of Elm Avenue the surf looked fun. After watching a glassy and clean 3’ set roll in next to the pier with left and right corners, I put on my wetsuit and grabbed my board.

Unfortunately it was one of those days in which it looked much better than it was. After catching a few waves on the north and south sides of the pier I caught a wave in.

The surf was horrible.

Sometimes spring can bring consistent and surfable waves up and down the beach that break all day. A plethora of wind swells can come together to create A-frames up and down the beach.

Add either

Beach camp in Baja.

southerly and northerly sideshore winds and you have the classic springtime surf scenario.

Unfortunately the lack of any large swells this winter has meant that the bottom along the beach is almost uniformly flat. That is not a good sign for the south swell season. No inshore holes can mean long lines and closeouts.

The only good news is that the water is warm. It has been close to two years since we’ve experienced water in the normal range. With temperatures hovering in the low 60s’, it is time to dust off the springsuit or short-arm fullsuit.

So while Southern California can be so-so in the spring, destinations to the south, in the southern hemisphere and across the globe, are receiving lots and lots of southern ground swells.

A reef slab somewhere in NSW, Australia.

So get out the map and plan a trip to either a warm water or cold-water summer surf destination.

Your best bets for the south swell season include:

Baja: South of the Border vets know that early season southern hemis consistently pound the East Cape and places like Scorpion Bay and Punta Abreojos.

Mainland Mexico: If you like long lefts, head to Sinaloa and northern Guerrero. If you are into getting giant barrels, surf either Pascuales or Puerto Escondido.  Michoacan offers up cobblestone rivermouths like La Ticla and Nexpa, but Narco-violence can make travel there sketchy.

Surf camp in 1982 at at La Ticla, Michoacan.

South America: Lots of cold-water power is on tap in Chile and Peru during their winter. Southern groundswells offer up consistent and overhead waves. There are waves everywhere and few crowds.

Indonesia: Perfect waves, tropical waters and non-stop surf. What more do you need?

Hawaii: Warm water, lots of surf and Aloha. We’re heading to Kauai and the South Shore of Oahu in August. For me, even the leftover waves in the Islands are fun.

Australia and New Zealand: If you want rugged coastlines, friendly people, insane waves of every variety and tons of wildlife and national parks then head Down Under.

Beachie in NSW, Australia.

South Africa: This is arguably the coolest surf destination on the planet. Where else can you see elephants, lions, wildebeests and surf J-Bay.

So get off the couch and start learning why there is nothing better than spending a few days or weeks surfing perfect waves somewhere on a coast that is not your own.

A-Frames and Ice Cream Headaches

My Imperial Beach Patch column of March 9th.

Like most of you I haven’t been able to keep track of the the non-stop weekend rain storms followed by Santa Ana conditions with good clean surf.

IB in the winter. Photo: Rob Hurlbut, Theworldisraw.com

“After such a great January and first half of February, the rest of 2011 thus far wasn’t quite so epic,” said Wildcoaster, IB surfer, and Matuse team member Zach Plopper. “Nonetheless, on Tuesday, the south side of the pier finally lit up providing tube time and ice-cream headaches all around.”

I dawn patrolled with the groms on Tuesday morning at 5:50. Alex Yepis soon followed. I scored a few hollow rights and a cool barrel. Dave Thomas was of course ripping. I caught a wave in at about 7:30. It was cold and I was cold. Later I watched Zach and Kyle Knox rip it up when the tide got higher and the offshore wind cleaned it up.

By the way check out Zach’s cool new video with Matuse family members Chris Del Moro and Luke Rife ripping it up in North County.

Despite the odd conditions, IB locals are keeping fit and preparing for the OAKLEY Surf Shop Team Challenge on Friday March 11th at Seaside Reef in Solana Beach.

“I have been training for the Challenge,” said Sean Malabanan. “I will represent The SurfHut and surf with Sean Fowler, Matt Field, Keith McCloskey who will represent our hometown shop.”

On Tuesday Sean and Matt Field were getting familiar with Seaside.  Friday’s event is the Southwest Regional Qualifier, winning team to compete at H.B. for $10,000 purse.

“Wish us luck,” said Sean.

Luckily a few surfers are traveling and meeting up with their IB bretheren around the globe. “Mercedes and I had a wonderful time on the North Shore last month visiting IBer’s Kim and Lynn Dodds at their Sunset Beach home,” recounted Jeff. “They are the most incredible hosts. The surfing highlight of our trip was a go-out at Leftovers with Terry Gillard Kim, A.J. Hubbard, Javier Mata, and Kristyan Stjerne. We spent another week on Kauai at Abram and Jenine’s coffee farm in Kona, helping out with coffee production from picking to roasting. I caught some classic overhead waves at Lymans, a great left in Kailua.”

Terry Gillard, Kim Dodds and Jeff Knox on the North Shore. Photo: Jeff Knox

When you stop by Katy’s Café ask Katy about her epic trip to surf the secret spots of Guerrero, Mexico with Cat and Kristy of Siren Surf Adventures.

“I had one of the best days  in my life surfing a left until I couldn’t surf anymore,” said Katy. “I saw whales, watched sea turtles swim under me, and even saw a shark. The wildlife was abundant, and the water was about 90 degrees in the shallows.”

Ben McCue and I will be hosted by Cat Slatinsky and Kristy Murphy next week as we tour the coast of Guerrero with the WiLDCOAST team that is based out of Acapulco. Lots of swell is on the way and according to Cat, “The surf is firing right now.”

I can’t wait to surf and hang out with two of my favorite and most stoked and positive IB locals. Cat and Kristy never seem to tire of doing good things and connecting people to look on the bright side of life.

I’ll be at Coronado’s Bay Books on Thursday March 10th from 6:30-8:00 PM talking about my book, Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias. Hope to see you there.

And thanks to all the IB locals and good friends who lent their support at my mother’s wonderful and laughter filled memorial service at the Dempsey Center last Sunday.

See you in the water.

As Good as it Gets

I’m working on my life list for surfing. So far I’ve scored great waves at Hanalei Bay and Bell’s, but the other  wave that remains is Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa. Heading to S.A. in the future with my family for waves and wildlife is in the plans. Here is an amazing video of perfect J. Bay and one of the best waves on the planet.

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