The water surges and begins to fold under its own weight as it rolls over a shallow

blockage. Gradually, it rounds into hollow tube as the wave forms. Eventually it crashes, rolls into shore and then recedes, vanishing back into blank waters. Like steady ticks on an ancient clock, the Pacific Ocean measures time with these beats along the coast.

With humble beginnings in the storms of the Bering Straits and the South Pacific, waves set out on a slow path to the Hawaiian islands. When they finally make it, they form perfect and unique swells, powerful bait for droves of surf bums with heaven in their minds.

A year ago, I lucked out and spent the turning of the calendar outside the white room and under equatorial skies. Under the pretense of visiting in-laws, we made for a small chunk of rock in the middle of the Pacific. The main draw was the opportunity to see waves in action and catch a few rides.

As snow storms pounded Colorado, Maui’s barometer was perpetually lazy, the mercury was climbing and the south swell was holding steady. The conditions had lulled us into a comfortable daily ritual. A couple of familiar longboards, our rust-ridden “Word of Mouth” rental car and memory of old stomping grounds were the tools of our trade.

Early every morning, we dipped into appropriately named breaks. Thousand Peaks presented multiple breaks and a rest from overcrowding. Ladyland frequently offered up a perfect wave, long enough for a seemingly endless ride. At Ho’okipa, dogs ate dogs in a tight line-up for some of Maui’s most notorious swells. The best of all worlds, Tavaris Bay, was strangely forgotten by all but a few. In the pristine north shore bay, a shallow reef captured waves that jacked up at the last minute and propelled the solitary surfer toward a lava studded beach. A proper take-off offered the reward of ecstasy. Less-than-perfect technique resulted in agony.

During our time in Maui, Rachael and I frequented these breaks and learned their nuances. Getting trounced at Ho’okipa, catching Ladyland at the right tide and riding the smooth, 6-foot face of a Tavaris crest became high points in a high journey. We burned the hours away, paddling our boards out to breaks, waiting for the rollers to arrive, stroking over the peak and riding supreme moments.

However, on a particular day at a particularly tight Ladyland, another side of surfing revealed itself. Paddling out to the break, squeezing back into line and awaiting another crest, the mob got aggressive. A swarm of junkies nudged and bitched their way toward another fix. Catching was tight and nasty, and fists nearly flew. Without regret, we loaded up the “Word of Mouth” and bolted.

Back in the solitude of Tavaris Bay, magic returned to the experience. Respectable but not intimidating, the sets came in frequently. Hollowed and smooth, the waves neared perfection.

I only caught a couple rides that day at Tavaris. After Ladyland, my mind was elsewhere. The ride no longer seemed that important. Bobbing under perfect skies, straddling the board and staring out to sea rendered a sense of true peace. Waiting for the messenger to arrive, we immersed ourselves in the ocean, lulled into sleepy meditation.

Glancing back on our times on Maui’s north and south shores, I definitely remember some great moments. But, I long most for the sensation of bobbing over the rollers and staring off and taking a deep look into the Pacific. I miss few things more than the rush of slipping down the face of the wave and being chased by the tube. However, one of them is straddling the board and feeling the rhythm and pulse of a living sea.

– Will Sands






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