Hawaiian Odyssey - Part 1 Kaui
By Dave Sparkes | 18 June 2010
Somewhere along the way ‘Hawaii’ has come to mean the stretch of sand, reef and surf-company houses between Velzyland and Waimea Bay. Every year surf magazines bring out their Hawaiian coverage and every year pages are filled with photos and tales from Pipe, Backdoor, Sunset and Off The Wall. Sure there’ll be a story on Waikiki if the swell gets really small, or a couple shots of Jaws if it goes the other way. And don’t get us wrong the North Shore of Oahu is amazing and deserves every page it gets. But all we’re saying is that there’s a lot more to Hawaii than a seven-mile stretch of sand. After all they used to be called ‘The Islands’ for a reason.
Dave Sparkes knows this (the autophobic Haole, spends hours dreaming of what life would be like if the ancient Hawaiians had conquered us whiteys instead of the other way around). He’s spent years traveling through the island chain, meeting locals, riding waves and generally just trying to capture the essence of every volcanic rock that makes up this place. Here he’s collected a few of his favourite photos and tales from his journeys for a little Hawaiian Odyssey. We’ve only shown you one part of Hawaii so far, here is the rest…
PART 1 - KAUI
When you looked back at them from the ocean. As for the waves, it was game on from that first afternoon, my opening surf more of a warm up, and a way for Steve to gauge what I might be up for in the next two months. I had a pretty good surf, even got a little tube in front of him.
A BEAUTIFUL KAUAIAN LINEUP SNAPPED OFF BY DAVE SPARKES ON THE FIRST OF MANY HAWAIIAN SOJOURNS
After that session, at a fun wave called Waikoko’s, I commented on the power. He just laughed at me and told me they nickname this place “Why-Go-Slow’s.” Holy shit, what was I in for? It turned out I was in for plenty, and looking back it feels like we surfed different waves almost every day. I was riding around in Steve’s slipstream, his amazing affinity with the locals greasing the wheels of my Hawaiian apprenticeship in a unique way, and some of his tips definitely saved me from catastrophe. Like taking the low line through the North Bowl at Cannons. Coming into it, the Bowl looks like the most whackable section you could imagine, but without warning the bottom drops out of it, and if you attempt an off the top of any kind, you’ll be mincemeat, launched onto the razor sharp lava pinnacles just a foot or two below the water. The first time I encountered this section, I somehow remembered Steve’s counsel, stayed low and miraculously found myself slotted, taking an ultimately easy, straight line onto the safety of the shoulder. Steve’s nous was no guarantee though, and over the next couple of months I still managed to chalk up 20 odd stitches to the head. One batch of twelve was at BoBo’s, another hollow left named after a local legend who pioneered the break, and the second instalment of eight was at the aptly named Tunnels. That session featured some blond guy, about seventeen years old, just destroying the grinding six-to-eight foot right tubes. Later he was introduced to me as Laird Hamilton, a name which took on increasing significance as the years went by. Unfortunately for local surfer, Bethany Hamilton (no relation), Tunnels’ notoriety also emerged years later when the then thirteen year old lost her arm to a huge Tiger shark whilst surfing there. As a friend of Bethany’s, and a fellow shark attack victim, (though miraculously an injury free one, considering I was hit by a small Great White), I have a very slight understanding of her experience. But the waves!
Being only a kid, my favourite was the glorious Hanalei Bay, a classic right point that holds 20 foot plus, but is a beautiful wave from three foot up. I had some dawn patrols there, while Steve attended to domestic duties, all alone in six-to-eight foot glassy perfection. Between waves I sat on the outside looking back towards the massive, vertical escarpment that enclosed the bay. Immense, rose tinted cumulus clouds dominated the sky, reaching right down to merge with the volcanic summits. I was pinching myself, thinking of distant Bondi, but not for long. Here and now ruled like never before, and my 6’10” Michel Junod pintail felt perfect. I felt perfect.
Kauai, the Garden Isle, is so scenically, heartbreakingly stunning, you are constantly overwhelmed by the vistas that open up in front of you. Little wonder the number of major movies that have utilised it as a location, or the increasing numbers of rich and famous types that have bought up property there, virtually creating an impossible dream for any local with aspirations of home ownership. No wonder either that there has evolved a strong feeling of solidarity amongst the locals, as if they are trying to hold out in a last stand against the tsunami of money that is washing over the island. Seems as though those carefree days I savoured with cousin Steve are sadly numbered.
Although they lived in a sweet little A-Frame, tucked into the exquisite Wainiha Valley, Steve’s relationship with his American wife, Kim, wasn’t so carefree. Many was the time that, after a raucous fight, he would storm out of the house with a tense aside to me of: “Come on Dave, let’s go surfing!” I would skulk along, all sheepish, but secretly stoked that we’d be going to surf some other incredible, brand new outer island gem. Steve and Kim just seemed to clash somehow, their love was a classic rollercoaster, as tender one day as it was volatile the next. I suppose she felt threatened by the constant competition with the best waves in the world.
The two months went by like a surreal dream, and after I returned to Bondi, I never did have the heart to tell my brother Jeff just how incredible the trip really was. About four years later, Steve came home to Australia, Kim long gone, and him far gone with cancer of the tongue; he was obviously dying. He was holed up at his mum’s place at Maroubra, and it occurred to me that he’d never seen the photos from my trip to Kauai. In his darkened room, I set up the projector and started showing slides, transforming him from his sick bed back to his Island paradise, back into old tubes and old times. He made me show them over and over. We were both in tears, and after he died a couple of months later, I hoped and prayed he’d take those re-booted memories with him, wherever he went.