Early in the morning the clouds were dark and low. We arrived at the Byodo-In Temple before the rain, but it started as I entered the temple – I’ll write a post about it later. As we drove up north, the sky started to clear up. Some guys in a pick-up gave me the “shaka” sign, meaning that everything was “cool.” It is used by Hawaiian locals to convey the “Aloha Spirit” of friendship and it also refers to surfing. Around here, in Georgia, it would rather mean that we are on the telephone.
We followed the scenic shore of Kahana Bay, stopping at the Kualoa Beach Park for a few minutes to get a good view of Mokolii Island and the coast. Mokolii Island is known among locals as “Chinaman’s Hat” because of its cone shape which looks like the hat worn by peasants in rural China. It was early and the clouds were still menacing so the park was a bit deserted.
Click on collage to enlarge then on individual photos to biggify
On one side a long sweep of the windward coast is open to view but when you turn around the tall cliffs seem to be very close.
I was able to take the pictures of the Pacific Golden Plover and the Brazilian Cardinal (or red-crested cardinal ) but I could not get too close to them. The Pacific Golden Plover is also called the Kolea. This bird returns here in winter from his summer nesting grounds in Alaska. During its migration it flies 50 hours non-stop from Alaska to Hawaii.
As we drove close to the sea I tried to take some photographs from the car, but it was not easy and they were blurred.
We kept driving on the Kamehameha Highway going north.
Map from a free tourist brochureIt is not easy to remember the Hawaiian names of these beaches. They also have nicknames like “Pipeline Beach” and “Police Beach” which are easier to remember. It was a Saturday but the traffic was not too bad. In winter the waves, or “swells” as they are called, roll in the North Shore of O’ahu bringing surfing enthusiasts from all around the world.
Don't forget to click on the collage then on each picture to enlarge themAs we arrived at Sunset Beach we could hear music and a voice on the loud speaker. The surfing “Stand Up World Tour Championship” was in full swing.
The stormy North Pacific provides massive swells that are loved by pro-surfers. All these beaches with towering waves are magnificent really. I understand that the TV show “Lost” was filmed almost entirely on O’ahu – I have not seen this show but I can certainly understand why it would be a great setting for any outdoor program.
By now the sun was really out and it was warm. Many people were watching the event.
The surfers were quite a way back and it was hard to follow them.
I used the telephoto on my Sony to try to get closer shots.
To get real close-ups one has to be in the water near the surfers I imagine. I found some good photographs on the internet as you can see below.
Photographs courtesy of Ron Dahlquist and sickshotAt that time their boards were made from the best local trees, such as koa and were 15 feet (5 m) long and very heavy. Nowadays they are made of polyurethane foam covered with layers of fiberglass or other modern material. They are light and buoyant measuring only 5 to 7 ft long (1 ½ to 2.1 m.) Although the fellow in my picture below has a surfboard which is longer than 7 ft – he must be a pro.
I frankly do not know much about surfing. I was surprised to find out that this is a very old sport, not started in California but was part of the Polynesian culture for centuries, before European contact. In 1779 one of the crewmembers of the HMS Endeavour on the first voyage by Captain James Cook described surfing – you can read about it here.
Sunset Beach and other beaches on the North Shore of O’ahu are notorious for offering the best Hawaii surfing swells, some of the best in the world in the winter months. When the National Weather Service issues high surf warning for the North Shore, surfers from around the world fly to this area to take part in the fun. Some of those giant waves – up to 60 ft tall - are very dangerous. Hundreds of surf boards are broken each year on the shallow reef and surfers are injured, some fatally, even hardened professionals. The giant waves are impressive and offer great photo opportunities, too.
After watching the surfers for a while we left and kept driving along the coast. We passed more pretty beaches with big, glassy waves, such as in Waimea Bay, another popular surfing beach.
We stopped briefly at Turtle Beach, also called Laniakea, where green turtles crawl ashore. Their skin is not green but they get their name from the color of their internal body fat. They crawl there to get away from the large tiger sharks which prey on them. Volunteers use red rope to mark off the “no-go” zone around the turtles so they will not be bothered by visitors. Banners in English and Japanese give information on the turtles. I only found the Japanese sign.
We passed the famous North Shore shrimp trucks. People will drive the one hour from Honolulu to eat shrimp from these trucks.
Before driving back to the interior of the island we reached the more than a century old rustic town of Hale’iwa. There are galleries, surf shops, a surf museum, eateries and other little shops housed there in plantation era buildings. One of them, Matsumoto, is very famous for its shaved ice. It was still very sunny, close to 75 degrees (24 C.) – a long way from the winter snow in the northeast of the US.
I tried to take a small video with my camera but somehow I cannot place it on this post. I found a surfing video on YouTube to give an idea of the big surfing waves on the North Shore of O’ahu.