Apr 22, 2008

Surfing the Big Island of Hawaii

This story was originally published on the now-defunct Fuel.TV, when they were the official website for an action sports cable channel that turned into a MMA network and now, who knows what's going on there.

It had been exactly 12 years since my first visit to Hawaii. I knew that because my last trip was with my mom and sister for my 18th birthday. Only back then, we first went to Maui (amazing island, fun waves) and then to Oahu (not as nice due to the big city feel, great waves though, and it's still the tropics). 12 years later, with my 30th birthday only days away, I again embarked on a journey out to the 50th state, only this time my journey took me to the biggest island, the Big Island of Hawaii.

I chose the Big Island for a few reasons. I was researching different places to travel to for the big 3-0, and noticed that there's hardly any coverage of the surf scene on the Big Island. Yet countless people have told me that the surf there is actually really good. Plus, an old high school friend of mine Jenny moved out there years ago and told me I could crash at her house. The warm weather, adventurous-terrain, and surf didn't deter my cause.

I forgot how long of a flight it is. Five hours is relatively short compared to a lot of other destinations, but it's still a long trip and at least on the voyage there, the leg room sucked. Still, I made it, and decided to grab a hotel room that the lady at the rental car agency recommended, a cheap yet delightful spot called Kona Seaside. Relative to the prices of hotels at Kona (the main tourist town on the Big Island), it was cheap, and I got a room on the top floor with a view of the ocean. Really nice place (except for the bugs crawling around in the bathroom at night). I grabbed dinner that evening at a place called Quinns, and it was one of the best meals I have ever had. Filet mignon in a bowl of warm teriyaki sauce with veggies, garlic linguini and salad. Yummy. Passed out hard that night at 9 o'clock.

Woke up really early the next morning due to jet lag, around 5 AM. After shaving (which was a brilliant call because later I would realize that there are no bathroom mirrors at my friend Jenny's place), I decided to drive south to check out a few surf spots. There were a lot of crazy little breaks near sharp, jagged rocks that a couple of locals were shredding here and there, but after driving for 10-15 minutes I stopped at a spot that looked pretty good (with a lot of surfers in the water, shocker). A local from Oahu who was taking a vacation of his own told me this place was the legendary Lymans. And a short distance to the right was Banyans. This was the primo surf spot on the island.

I stayed there watching the break and the surfers for a while. At first it was small, then a surge came in and it actually got really big. I watched a ton of stand up paddle boarders (more there than I've ever seen in my life) take off wave after wave, big ones at that. Just ripping. I stood around and checked it out for around a half-hour, and finally decided to go for it.