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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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.

Wild Sea Excerpt: Waterman-Tales of the Tijuana Sloughs

This is an excerpt from my new book, Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias.

A small day at the Sloughs. Photo: Bill Gove

Beginning in the 1940s, when north swells closed out the coast, surfers from all over Southern California made the journey to a remote and desolate beach within spitting distance of the Mexican border. Before the Malibu, San Onofre, and Windansea gangs began to surf Makaha and the North Shore, they experienced the thrill and fear of big waves at the Tijuana Sloughs, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in Imperial Beach.

Surfers interested in riding big waves would get a phone call late at night: “Surf’s up.” The next day, they would show up at the county lifeguard station at the end of Palm Avenue in Imperial Beach. Dempsey Holder, a tall and wiry lifeguard raised in the plains of West Texas, and the acknowledged “Dean of the Sloughs,” would greet them with a big smile. For Dempsey, the phone calls meant the difference between surfing alone and surfing in the company of the greatest watermen on the coast.

Dempsey's Sloughmobile Photo: John Elwell

Boards were quickly loaded into Dempsey’s Sloughmobile, a stripped down ’27 Chevy prototype dune buggy that contained a rack for boards and a seat for Dempsey. Everyone else hung on for dear life as they made their way through the sand dunes and nervously eyed the whitewater that hid winter waves that never closed out. The bigger the swell, the farther out it broke. Surfers not uncommonly found themselves wondering what the hell they were doing a mile from shore, scanning the horizon for the next set, praying they wouldn’t be caught inside, lose their boards, and have to swim in.

If you liked big waves and were a real waterman, you would paddle out with Dempsey. No one held it against you if you stayed on shore. Some guys surfed big waves, others didn’t. It was that simple.

Bill Hadji: When the winter storms came in, well, people know what it was like down there. The first thing they talked about was, “Let’s go down to the Sloughs.”

Mickey Muñoz: It’s some of the biggest waves on the coast. The outside surf break is pretty awesome.

Peter Cole:   The Sloughs had the biggest waves of any place in Southern California. It doesn’t have the jack-up of a place like Todos Santos or the North Shore, but it’s comparable to the outer reef breaks in Hawaii. It’s really an impressive wave.

Richard Abrams:   Way outside where eelgrass and kelp won’t grow, its just big boulders. It’s all in one pattern and it focuses the wave. The whole thing is just bending around and hitting cobbles that are way the hell out there. When you get inside, there are smaller cobbles with some bigger cobble, and some eelgrass. That whole river valley contributed to that break. All those cobbles

Dempsey Holder in Imperial Beach. Photo courtesy John Elwell.

Dempsey Holder:   I had told the guys up north about the surf down here. They were asking about it. One day I stopped at Dana Point on my way back from L.A. with a load of balsa wood to make surfboards. It was the biggest surf they had here in six years. They wanted me to compare it, and I told them, “Well, the backside of the waves were bigger than that, bigger than the frontsides.”

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