Kauai Photo Essay
By David Sparkes | 18 July 2012
1. Andy Irons Tributes
Andy's shock death in early November 2010 totally spun out the surfing community worldwide, but nowhere more so than on his home island of Kauai. His loss was felt especially acutely on the North Shore of this stunningly beautiful island, the place where Andy and younger brother, Bruce, developed their outrageous surfing talent. Around the town of Hanalei Bay, the epicentre of Kauaiian surfing, the lush and leafy Kuhio Highway is still peppered with memorial tributes to Andy, mostly in the form of surfboards draped with leis and decorated with personal messages from bereaved locals.
2. Bali Hai Mountains
These exquisite mountains overlook the last stretch of accessible coastline on Kauai's North Shore. They are literally the end of the road, and mark the beginning of the spectacular Napali Coast. These particular mountains were made famous by the classic musical, "South Pacific", which actually depicted them as a mystical offshore island. In reality though, they are no less impressive than the enhanced and artificial movie version.
3. Green Turtle, Ke'e Beach (1 pic)
Green turtles, Honu in Hawaiian, have been protected in Hawaii since 1974, but weren't seriously left alone until they were listed as threatened in 1978. Since then they have become something of an icon in the Islands, much loved by tourists as well as locals. They are making a solid comeback, and can be seen regularly around the reefs of Kauai and all of the Hawaiian islands. The main threat to their future these days is ingestion of plastic shopping bags, which the turtles mistake for jellyfish (their favourite food), often choking on them.
4. Hanalei Bay
5. Hanalei Valley
This pristine valley has been the bread basket of Kauai for over a thousand years. Irrigated by the Hanalei River, the valley was the focal point of Taro cultivation in ancient times. Taro is a starchy tuber, a staple of the Hawaiian diet, and is used to make poi, a purplish paste. Oranges, peaches, pineapples, guava, coffee and other crops were also grown here, but rice was later to become the dominant crop in the Hanalei Valley. Eventually however, it's economic viability diminished, and once again Taro became the main crop grown in the valley.
6. Kalalau Valley, Napali Coast.
The Napali Coast is 26 kms of spectacular, contorted volcanic bluffs, valleys and beaches. Accessible only by boat, chopper or by a torturous, 18 km hiking route (The Kalalau Trail), this gem is one of the most breathtakingly scenic areas on earth. Whether viewed by air, sea, or from deep within the hidden valleys themselves, it feels out of time, ancient, untouched and essentially other worldly. At one time, it supported over 10,000 Hawaiians, who fished, hunted and cultivated crops here. The population was decimated by Western contact however, and this spectacular series of ridges, valleys and waterfalls has been uninhabited since early in the 20th century.
7. Lumahai Beach
This magnificent white sand beach has regularly been rated in the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world. The gorgeous backdrop and clear water contrast with the thumping left and right wedges (on the right day of course) - and the occasional deadly ocean currents.
8. Secret Cove
The wave shown here is one of the best right handers in Hawaii. It is ruled by locals, and whilst it looks quite easy in this photo, on days of solid north west swells it is transformed into the thickest, most perfect slab imaginable. Backless, spitting regularly and running close to the vertical lava cliff, it offers up tubes of radical proportions. Consequential yet life changing, it is truly a Jekyll and Hyde experience. So that I may permitted to return to Hawaii, it's location will remain nameless . . .
9. The Green Chapel, Hanalei
Founded in 1834, The Waioli Hulia Chapel was one of the first stations of the Hawaiian Protestant Mission, and has been in continuous service ever since. It seems to blend in perfectly with its lovely green surroundings, and is much loved by locals.
10. The Wet Cave, North Shore.
Originally a sea cave, this impressive cave was formed by centuries of wave action at a time when sea levels were considerably higher than today. Standing inside it feels like being in a huge natural cathedral.
11. Hideaways, North Shore.
This right hander can be fun, breaking out around the back of the Point proper at Hanalei Bay. On days like this, with north east swell, the Bay itself misses out, but a dedicated crew of Hideaway locals paddle out through a keyhole behind the Point and ride shifting peaks like these. These sort of swells are more like Aussie wind swells than majestic Hawaiian groundswells, but this is just another crop from the extensive Hanalei wave garden, which is as fertile as the actual gardens back on land in the valley. Hanalei boasts at least 6 different breaks scattered around the bay.
12. Waikokos BeachOn my first trip to Kauai, to stay with my older cousin Steve in 1982, Waikokos was the first place I surfed. I had a ball in the left and right A- Frame peaks, and when I came in I commented to Steve about the power of the wave. He just laughed at me and told me they nicknamed this place "Why-go-slows". But I loved it and I still do, and when there's no surf it is a great little cove to hang out in and just watch the beauty of the Bay. All day, preferably.
13. Waimea Canyon
The largest canyon in the Pacific, Waimea measures 14 kms long, a kilometre deep and a kilometre wide. Carved and created by the endless runoff from Mount Waialeale (the wettest place on earth), the different sedimentary layers on the canyon's walls reveal details of the numerous volcanic eruptions that have occurred during Kauai's history, a long one since Kauai, at over 5 million years old, is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain.
NOTE: For a load more of David's photography and carefully measured words look for his book 'The Wave: Tales from the impact zone' with its foreword by Tom Curren. Availble at all good book stores.
For more details visit his new website HERE