The Social Diary ~
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Sports News from Hawai'i
the Social Diary Hawai'i & Water Sports Columnist Sonja
Column #1, February 8th, 2006
is probably the island most suited for any of our water sports…with
the best waves, variety of breaks for all levels, and enough wind
for kitesurfing. I might go out on a limb to say that it sometimes
rivals Maui for windsurfing, (Backyards is practically empty these
days) though Maui has long taken the seat as the Mecca for windsurfers.
here - Norwegian born, now a Hawaiian local, Sonja Evensen charging
down an overhead wave off of Diamond Head, Oahu)
far as waves go, there is no such thing as a secret spot anymore,
but there are numerous less-known breaks all along the way that
used to be people's backyard favorites. Those days are over. Well,
at least the local residents get the first crack at it before
the word gets out. To name a few of those cherished spots, I will
rattle of some names such as: Silver Channels near Mokuleiea,
Rainbows on the NE side, Mokuluas, Toes, "Secrets" (no
secret anymore), China Walls, Rabbits, and Suicides to name a
few around the island. (It will be your job to figure it out.)
Some spots are easily accessed but others might either require
a boat or a long paddle, or a local knowledge of where to get
Surf News Network (596-surf or surfnewsnetwork.com) gives
updates three times a day plus a forecast, taking the
guesswork out of it…except if you want to visit those other
spots not mentioned in the standard reports. Generally you can
count on North shore guys under calling wave heights, and south
shore surfers sometimes getting carried away with a tad bit of
exaggeration. Not long ago, the National Weather service here
finally switched over to calling wave heights by the faces, which
is what California has done for years. However, switching over
was as unappealing to locals as the metric system to most Americans,
so most radio stations are still running "Hawaiian"
sized wave heights (calling the heights from the back of the wave).
Most surf reporters will specify which system they are using to
call wave heights.
has become so mainstream that almost anywhere you go will be crowded,
with a fair share of aggression happening when people feel territorial.
Typically the North Shore or even the West side has been
known for fights in the water, but it happens everywhere. Who
doesn't know what "stink eye" means? It's probably the
last look you'd get before getting "cracks"---and the
old movie "North Shore" and others has made almost caricatures
out of those types. Indeed it happens, but it is mostly about
respect. Most people are still very friendly, if approached respectfully.
Newcomers will hopefully follow some sort of etiquette that is
expected in the water. If you don't know, ask someone or ask the
lifeguard. Know your limitations for surf size and check the water
for currents or other hazardous conditions.
Surf schools have sprouted up everywhere, and some of them have
ventured out of the typical Waikiki scene to Diamond Head and
other less crowded breaks.
me switch gears and talk about the kitesurfing scene, the
last of the -'surf' vehicles to hit our waters. Windsurfers have
become a rare breed and most of them have switched over to the
newer version. There is less to carry, it's easier to travel,
and you can go out in more conditions. You need less wind than
a windsurfer, and it takes less time to become proficient. But
wait, there is a catch. It is very expensive (though prices have
come down a bit) but still a kite will cost in the $800 range.
Then you find out you need 3 of them!
Kailua has a long, white sandy beach and ideal wind directions,
with consistent sideshore winds of about 10-20 mph regularly.
It has become one of the most popular kitesurfing spots on the
island, and most lessons take place there. However, there has
been a bit of an uproar within the past two years, and the Kailua
Neighborhood board has convened several meetings to discuss the
issue. Some unhappy residents would like to see the sport banned
altogether. Neighbors fronting the kite launching spot in Kailua
complain of kiters landing in their yard, cutting down trees to
retrieve kites, dangers to beachgoers, and other potential hazards
created by the sport. Kite surfers would like to self-regulate
and have proposed several safety measures that they think should
alleviate the problem.
The latest development in the discussion of kite safety
has a proposal on the table to certify who is "competent"
and who needs to be referred to a school. Who knows where
that discussion will end? Until then, lessons continue to be offered,
at a price of approximately $100 a lesson. It is definitely one
of the most thrilling sports to try, or even to watch.
Sonja Evensen is an ex-pro windsurfer who moved to Hawai'i
from Norway over 25 years ago. She competed professionally for
a little more than a decade. Currently she divides her time between
windsurfing, surfing, and kitesurfing, not necessarily in that
order. Besides her love of the water sports lifestyle, Sonja works
as a program evaluation specialist for Pacific Resources for Education
and Learning ( www.prel.org
), a job that takes her traveling throughout
Micronesia and good surf spots.
She windsurfed across the Molokai Channel 3 times, "once
out of curiosity, once for a race, and once for transportation."
The last time she got stuck in the doldrums for hours in an unanticipated
drop of wind. Her most exotic windsurf story was when she nearly
ran into a hippopotamus while windsurfing in Lake Malawi (Africa).
Important people in Sonja's life
Rell Sunn was one of my best friends. She taught me how to surf!
"Heart of the Sea is an hour-long documentary about Hawaiian
legend Rell “Kapolioka'ehukai” Sunn who died in January
1998 of breast cancer at the age of 47. Known worldwide as a pioneer
of women’s professional surfing, in the Islands Rell Sunn
achieved the stature of an icon — not only for her physical
power, grace and luminous beauty, but for her leadership in a
community that loved her as much as she loved it. Named one of
Hawai’i’s most influential women of the 20th century
by ABC television, Sunn - whose Hawaiian name means Heart of the
Sea - was eulogized in the New York Times for having “captured
the heart of Hawai’i during a 14-year battle with cancer.”
of the Sea.
More of Sonja's friends ....
Artist Jeannie Chesser, mom
of former pro surfer Todd Chesser, who died surfing several
years ago : www.surfingarts.com
Here is a video clip of one of my best
friends, Erik Eck. I think this is probably the
most radical footage of how kitesurfing can go wrong. At a 2001
event on the North shore, Erik caught a gust of wind when he was
trying to land his kite on the beach and was lifted up two hundred
feet in a thermal. But he managed to bring the kite back down
and only dropped hard the last forty feet, walking away unscathed.
Thankfully his cool-headedness saved him. This is the guy who
taught me how to kitesurf. I almost quit after this happened to
This is the link to Surf News Network (SNN).
I do radio reports for them a couple of days of the week. SNN
is the most information-rich surf reporting site in Hawaii. Surf
My favorite charity is to send some kids
to a good school in Micronesia. There is no fund yet established
for this. I do this on my own. My favorite organized charities
to New this Week.........Sonja
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and Margo Schwab.
reproduction of any part or parts is allowed without written permission
by Margo Schwab