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
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
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
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