Monday, February 21, 2011

Along the North Shore of O’ahu

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 brochure

We stopped briefly at some small beaches around Ka’a’awa, such as Kahana Bay Beach Park, Panalu’u Beach Park and Hau’uhla Beach Park – all very scenic.

It 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 them

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.

As 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.

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 sickshot

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.
At 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.

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.


Jeruen said...

Ah, was this the reason why you were in a pre-programmed blogger break these past few posts? A vacation!

I miss Honolulu; we lived there for a year back in 1988-89. I went to first grade there and loved it. Your pictures reminded me of the place I used to call home about twenty years ago.

Pondside said...

What a fabulous place Hawaii must be! The surfer culture was so attractive when I was a teen, but I never saw a real surfer until I moved out here and watched them on the beach at Tofino.
Looking forward to more island posts!

Lonicera said...

On my bucket list has always been to photograph the waves of Oahu - and I see now that it's done from platforms, and by braving the waves yourself. Much enjoyed this post.

DJan said...

I am in Florida visiting my sister and enjoying the warm sunshine, such a change from the Pacific Northwest weather. I have never been to Hawaii (yet anyway) and really enjoyed your description and pictures, VB. Glad you are home safe and sound.

Rosaria Williams said...

Oh what a treat coming here, never knowing what part of the world I'll land in. Great shots of Hawaii.

Elaine said...

Lovely Hawaiian tour! I do love going to Hawaii in the winter, as do many Alaskans, but it's been several years since we've been there. That might have to be a "roadtrip" destination next winter.

Ann said...

thanks for this wonderful post!! the photographs are breathtaking! Reminds me of my one(hopefully not last) visit to this part of the Hawiian Islands. I would love to visit all of them someday!

Anonymous said...

The pictures are interesting! Finally something that looks different from travel brochures. It's good to see Hawaii under dark clouds, less boring than the sun! Okay, I do hope you got some sun as well, I'm talking from a photographer's perspective :-)

I find strong waves fascinating. I can stare at the sea for hours, especially if it's a bit rough.

livininlb said...

I am just getting ready to read "The wave : in pursuit of the rogues, freaks and giants of the ocean" by Susan Casey. Your surfing pictures and stories are a great precursor! It looks like some of your pictures also feature a paddle boarder?

Anonymous said...

Ahh, those Hawaiian beach photos look so good from here right now. I have never been to Hawaii, but would love to visit sometime. Did you have a favorite place?

BJM said...

Most enjoyable! I visited Hawaii some years ago. My strongest recollection is of the many varieties of flowers falling from balconies, in the parks etc.

claude said...

Toi et ton mari avez fait un beau voyage. Nos amis Julia et Larry sont aussi allés en voyage à Hawaï, ils en gardent de très bons souvenirs. Julia m'a envoyé une magnet pour mon frigo. Crois-tu ce que c'est ? Une planche de surf!
Le temps là-bas est un peu comme à la Martinique. Assez changeant.
J'aurais peur, moi sur la vague et surtout en-dessous.
A bientôt et bises !

Fennie said...

As Pondside says, surfing was part of popular culture when we were teenagers - the Beach Boys, Surfin'USA and songs like that. A lot of people surf here, on the south coast of Wales, though I have never done it (I am no fan of cold water). Hawaii has a lonely beauty and thanks for taking me there. I had only seen a few pictures before. A couple of friends travelled all the way from here to there to get married. Oh and I suppose there was Elvis and Blue Hawaii which I must have seen but don't remember much about.

Marguerite said...

You do lead such a charmed life, cher! What a wonderful trip and your photos are outstanding! I enjoyed all of them, but especially the surfer ones. Merci beaucoup for the lovely tour!

Friko said...

You certainly get around; this seems to have been another exciting and interesting trip which you have done full justice.


Margaret said...

Welcome back! I am cooking dinner and enjoying the family tonight. But I can't wait to read all about your latest vacation! I even need to catch up on a few of the blog intermissions... I'll sit down tomorrow night with a glass of wine... or maybe two considering how much wonderful reading I have ahead of me.

Jeanie said...

Well, I hope you won't mind my saying how profoundly envious I am of your wonderful journey. As we huddle in heavy sweaters, looking out at a world of white, your words and photos transport us. With great delight? Yes. With more than a wee bit of envy? You bet!

I look forward to more about your tropical vacation! I hope you savor every moment -- though you aren't returning to the tundra, it will never be so grand as Hawaii!

Vicki Lane said...

What a pleasant trip! Thanks so much for taking all those beautiful pictures. (I love that red-faced bird.) I've never been to Hawaii -- it certainly looks worth a trip!

Welcome back -- where will you be off to next? One never knows with the Vagabonde!

Deborah said...

This brought back memories of several trips I made to Oahu in the 70s and 80s, the last time with my kids when they were quite small. I'll never forget the feel of warm, moist air that envelopes you as soon as you step off the plane.
Very interesting to learn that there's nothing new about surfing! Watching the surf videos, I have a little sense that I'm missing out on something. The sensation of being in such a dynamic, natural world, using all your skill and strength to be equal to the ocean must be incredible. And hugely satisfying when you ride it out.

Ruth said...

I have memories too, from a trip with my parents when I was a senior in high school. When I stepped through the door of the plane, facing the stairs down to the tarmac, I thought: This is the air that was made for human skin. Delicious and perfect temperature. But it looks as though you had stormier, cloudier skies. I think it rains almost every day there, which is why everything is so lush.

It must have been wonderful just driving along the coast like that, stopping wherever you wanted, eating anywhere (the shrimp trucks!). We were part of a tour group in 1974, and I disliked it intensely. It was something my parents wanted, but I longed to be on our own clock and free to do whatever we wanted.

You are a marvelous traveler, and I love to learn from your experiences.

Reader Wil said...

Quel beau voyage, Vagabonde! Surfer m'a l'air dangereux. Les vagues sont formidables, très hautes. Je n'ai jamais vu vagues comme ça. C'est aussi très imposant. Merci pour cette poste!

Shammickite said...

I think I'll stick to watching surfing from the beach. Those massive waves look very scary. I got knocked over by a big wave when I was at Myrtle Beach many years ago... yes, I know they are only tiny waves compared to Hawaii, but it was a scary experience and I would rather stay in calm water away from those waves.
You have had a wonderful time... I would love to stroll along those beautiful beaches.

Ginnie said...

You did indeed bring back so many memories, Vagabonde, of a place that is clearly dear to many of us. My daughter was married on Waikiki in June of 2008 and I spent a week there another year earlier. To drive all around the island and even fly in a helicopter was just wonderful...and to climb Diamond Head with Nicholas!

Can you imnagine any bird that flies 50 hours non-stop from Alaska to Hawaii? Unbelievable.

And surely you know about the surfer of all surfers, DUKE KAHANAMOKU, who even has a USA postal stamp in his honor: from Hawaii. There's a webcam on his Waikiki statue where you can see visitors. We did it once with family back in Atlanta. So fun.

Vagabonde said...

Linguist-in-Waiting, Pondside, Lonicera, DJan, Rosaria, Elaine, Ann, Zhu, livininlb, BJM, Fennie, Marguerite, Friko, Margaret, Jeanie, Vicki Lane, Deborah, Ruth, Shammickite and Ginnie – thank you my friends to have come and checked my last trip. I’ll have more posts on Hawaii. I appreciate your leaving comments. Thanks again.

Vagabonde said...

Claude et Reader Wil - Merci de votre visite. J’apprecie beaucoup vos commentaires. Merci encore.

Vagabonde said...

Alwaysinthebackrow – you asked if I had a favorite place – from the little I saw I did like Kauai Island the best because of its lush vegetation and its more natural state. Thanks for the comment.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Hawaii...Such a FANTASTIC place. I think I mentioned to you that I spent 14 weeks on The Big Island, back in 1974--in a rented house right on the water. It is a very healing place, or was...God knows it has probably changed a lot in these many many years....But, it was BEAUTIFUL and lush where I was, back in the day. I am very much enjoying these Hawaii posts, my dear.

✿France✿ said...

je viens de regarder tes photos et je trouve les plages magiques des endroits superbes pour se reposer
je ne suis jamais partie à l'étranger mais un jour je pense aussi que je ferai des voyages*
Ton blog est magnifique aussi j'aime beaucoup ta présentation de tes photos
Je te souhaite une belle journée bise

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