Hawaii

 

The ancient Hawaiians believed that the sacred waters of Waikiki bay had great ‘mana’ - spiritual healing powers. With a head that still thumped – from a combination of Longboard beer, gin and tequila – I was hoping that there might still be some truth in this. I had been at a party in a house full of students from University of Hawaii.

Even apart from a fairly raucous round of the student drinking game known as King’s Cup it had been a strange evening. The puritanical 21 year-old age-limit on alcohol had led to a couple of unusual (mis-)adventures. Early in the evening the excessively law-abiding staff of a 7-11 refused to sell me beer because I didn’t have ‘the correct ID.’ I pointed to the ample signs of 41 years of hardship and toil in the lines around my eyes and wondered aloud that although I respected their rules ‘was there no possibility whatsoever that common sense might prevail.’ There wasn’t.

An hour later the party was raided by a convoy of no less than six squad cars and most of the drinkers were forced to leave. The few of us who were left in a house full of booze decided to make up for the absence of the others.

It was mid-morning by the time I paddled out into the gently rolling swell for a rendezvous with the spirits of Waikiki. Surfing is perhaps the best cure in the world for a hangover. As the first wave broke over my head I felt it washing my ills away in a rinse-cycle of white-water.

Waikiki is often said to be the birthplace of surfing. Even today, with the busy boulevard and high-rise hotels overlooking the beach, it is still a magical place to surf. An oversized statue of Duke Kahanamoku – the man who took modern-day surfing to Australia and California and pretty much Hawaii’s surfing god – looms over the promenade. He stands with his hands out as if making a blessing, yet it is strange that the Waikiki authorities thought it logical that he would ever have done so with his back towards the sea. Legend has it that ‘The Duke’ once caught a 35-foot wave and rode it a mile and a quarter right across the bay. Looking at the little peelers that roll into Waikiki most of the time this is hard to believe. But, after all, just because Duke Kahanamoku was once a living legend doesn’t mean that all parts of that legend need to be true. The Waikiki waves in general fall far short of the epic proportions of Oahu’s legendary North Shore but for a mellow, hungover longboarding session Waikiki can take some beating.

As I paddled out into the line-up a big turtle – another of the great Hawaiian spirit animals – rolled onto its side and raised its flipper in what appeared to be a greeting. I was still smiling to myself as the shadow of a set of glassy 3-foot rollers cruised onto the horizon. The ten-foot balsa longboard paddled easily and I slipped down the face of the wave, stepping back and dragged a lazy hand into the face to crank the board around and chart a course towards the great volcanic crater of Diamond Head at the end of the bay. The wave walled up sweetly, but slow enough so that you had to milk it for speed: chase the lip, pumping the board as much as possible, but then pull into a big cutback to get back into the inside section.

The ride was only perhaps 50 metres and was never going to make a place among the legends of Waikiki…but by the time I kicked out I was one happy haole. The spirits of Waikiki had done their job yet again.