November/December 12022 HE
Before the coronavirus pandemic, we used to travel with what had become an annual fall tropical getaway. Remember those times? In fact, in November 12019 HE, we last visited Hawai’i. At the time, there was no way of knowing it would be our last international trip for the next three years! In the broader human historical context staying close to home isn’t all that strange. It just really feels that way to our modern Romantacised hedonistic impulses.
What is fascinating to me in the context of this blog is that it was on that last pre-pandemic Hawai’i trip that I first really put my inflatable stand up paddleboard (iSUP) to use. I was doing multiple outings per day, in the morning, afternoon, or evening, and a few times even all three. Ultimately, these warm water paddling experiences were my welcome into the world of SUP. So it was particularly nostalgic to get back to the Big Island for a tropical family getaway this fall.
After arriving on a late-night flight and reaching our accommodations well after midnight local time, the first full day was slow-moving and getting the lay of the land. I was itching to get out on the water, but thought better and played it safe as a full family day. After all, that is what this trip was. Warm tropical water nearby was just an added tempta…er…bonus.
So, our first day was a family walk down to Anaeho’omalu Bay with a short swim for me and wade for the boys in the morning. Followed by a pool play in the afternoon at our accommodations.
On day two, I got out for a morning paddle. For this trip, I was keen to SUP surf. But I was aware that Hawai’i (the Big Island) is not the ideal spot. Particularly, where we are staying, close to Waikoloa Beach. From what I could find online, the better beginner surf spots were further south, closer to Kona. From the shoreline at Anaeho’omalu Bay, I could see what seemed like surfable waves near the south end of the bay. I made my way out there, but with no one else out on the water in the morning and some pretty large rocks visible at the surface, I was reluctant to try my luck in the surf.
After making my way back into the bay, I decided to check out the northern side of the bay. From memory, I knew there were a few surf spots up this way. I made it to the edge of the surf zone, and things looked better here. But with my morning time running out, I decided it was better to head in and relegate the morning to a reconnaissance mission.
Below are a few sunrise photos and the route that I took. The first image looks southward, with Hualālai rising up in the background. The second image looks more eastward overland at the sun rising, with Mauna Kea on the left.
In the afternoon, we did a family trip down to Anaeho’omalu Bay, this time intent on being beach-goers. The boys built sand structures (it wasn’t your typical sandcastle but rather a sort of seashore security compound) and boogie boarded along the shore. The boys didn’t have any interest in going out on the SUP to search for turtles. But I did. I saw one from a distance coming up for air but wasn’t able to find it again when I paddled closer. I settled on messing about with some pivot turns in the building wind chop. The image below is the view into the bay.
The following morning we visited the Aiopio Fish Trap in Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park. In the past, we’ve seen green sea turtles along the shore and shoreline resting and feeding. This year was similar in that we saw several turtles feeding with the added benefit of catching a beachside presentation on green sea turtles by State Park Ranger Craig.
Unfortunately, I did not bring my board along for the trip. Previously when we’d visited the fish trap, the water levels had been low. However, this time the water was higher, and some surfers and foil-boarders were at the north end of Honokohau Bay. I consoled myself with my apparent decision error, with the fact that Ranger Craig was quick to point out that the turtles hang out in the shallow waters of the fish trap to feed and avoid tiger sharks! I know there are sharks in the tropical pacific waters and that in the majority of cases they are not a threat to humans. But there is another level of irrationality when you are reminded that apex-level predators are swimming about nearby.
From there, my holiday health took a turn for the worst. Back at the resort pool in the afternoon, I was freezing cold in the water. Unable to stay warm even when jogging on the spot. It was only later that I realized I was sick with chills. Thank you, pandemic, for keeping my immune system out of practice. In hindsight, I guess I was ill with influenza, though it could have been RSV or some other infection (I did test negative for coronavirus at a later date). In any case, it was the sickest I have been in recent memory. I needed to sit out the next two days (reluctantly) of holiday to recover. I missed out on our glass bottom boat tour and checking out the dolphins at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
The only excitement for me during my illness was on the morning of my first sick day. I woke to news headlines of the largest active volcano in the world erupting! The headline caught my eye as I perused the daily news stories on the BBC. I took a second look when I realized the volcano was in Hawaii! Which island, I thought. My heart rate rose when I realized it was on the Big Island. As I skimmed the article, I was slightly comforted when I read there had been an earthquake overnight associated with the eruption. I hadn’t felt anything. Hopefully, that meant it wasn’t that bad, rather than what was known to me already. I am a deep sleeper. As I searched more local news sources, I was ever more comforted that there weren’t any active evacuation orders, and there didn’t seem to be an imminent threat to us or any locals.
Later that evening, I was confused by what appeared to be the sunset. It looked like a sunset, but from what I could tell was not located in the west. Slightly unsure of my geographic orientation, I decided to double-check to see if the sun was still setting later. At the same time, I double-checked our location orientation. The sunset-like colour palette scattered across the non-westward sky well past sunset confirmed that the glow was lava light from Mauna Loa reflecting on the cloud cover. Below is the faux sunset.
By the following afternoon, I felt recovered enough to get back on my board. I paddled from Anaeho’omalu Bay to the waters nearby Akahu Kaimu (Lone Palm Pond). Unfortunately, I only learned about Akahu Kaimu after my paddle, or I would have made a more concerted effort to reach the palm or pond. The waters were relatively calm, and there was solid cloud cover. But in the distance onshore, I could see a rising smoke plume from what I could only guess was Mauna Loa. The photos and video below are the sights from offshore.
The next day we went to Mauna Kea Beach. The swell was bigger than from memory. More akin to what we had recalled from Hapuna Beach. I am not sure what was different, my memory or the swell. In the end, it made for some super fun wave play for the boys. They wore their PFDs and got pummelled in the waves and whitewash. I brought my iSUP and managed to get the boys to paddle out to the point, at the north end of the bay, in search of tropical fish. I saw a few schools of fish there earlier on a solo paddle, but there wasn’t much to be seen with the boys. We made a quick stop on the floating dock on the way out.
And coming back into shore was a bit of a kerfuffle. Kieran decided to disembark and make the solo swim into shore just before the break. That caught me off guard. I was torn between rescuing him and staying with Elijah on the board. As Annie came out to meet Kieran, Elijah and I had drifted into the break and were swept up from behind, making a less-than-stable landing as we flipped off the board in the surf. Fortunately, I kept the board from bashing into anyone, and everyone came away physically unscathed. But it was a good lesson that I should have prompted the boys in advance about what our landing plan would be in the surf. Elijah later chastised me that he warned me the waves were big. But then, he also confided that crashing into the surf was “so fun.” Phew!
The next day I had a great morning paddle in calm waters.
And later in the afternoon, I played around in the bay in choppier conditions working on some SUP tricks using a video from Rapid SUP with Yehor Tarasko as inspiration (the video has since been removed but was a compilation of eight SUP tricks). The video below gives a sample of some of the tricks that Tarasko performed in the other video. Tarasko is Ukrainian, and last year I first came across his content. I found it harrowing to see his content go silent at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 12022 HE. I have now come across evidence that he is fighting against the Russian invasion, and my heart goes out to him and all Ukrainians fighting for their freedom and state sovereignty in this senseless conflict. I can only try to find solace contrasting my current situation by having gratitude for the good fortune of my lot in the ovarian lottery. It doesn’t change the harshness of the global geopolitical situation, but I think awareness of injustice is the first step to combatting it.
And I did the same the following day, our last in paradise. We had a night flight back to Vancouver.
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