It was our 6th day in Maui January 2016 and the waves were 2 to 3 foot mush – fussy weak phantoms. When we first arrived in Kihei the sets at The Cove were 4 to 5 feet – just enough to be slightly scary but manageable with my beginner abilities. I went out every morning until my surf instructor prescribed a two day rest. At my fitness level if I surfed every day I would be dead by the end of the week. If the sharks did not eat me I would dash against the rocks out of sheer exhaustion.
Now I was back. I wanted to make most every moment of surfing in a 10 day stretch where utility bills and needing a sitter so I could paddle out did not exist. Despite the bad surf report and the wind, I put down my biography of pro surfer Kelly Slater, dropped my man and kid on the sand, took my rented foam surfboard and walked toward the ramp.
On a typical day this beach would be crawling with breezy low key surf instructors trailed by exuberant tourists desperate to be cool or widely grinning as their stand up paddle boards wacked them in the head. Today the only person I saw was a man sitting on a bench attaching a bulky zoom lens to his camera.
Crap. That means someone who knows what they are doing is here.
I paddled out past the rocks and past the lone surf instructor with two tourist in tow. And there they were, sitting on boards, in the best spot. One average looking guy with intense eyes wearing a ball cap. One beautiful woman with dark hair and perfect body barely covered by her bikini. And one sidekick who had skill and a playful spirit. Back on the shore the long range lens pointed at them.
Did I mention they were in the best spot?
In surfing there is this rule that you do not steal a wave from someone. Whoever has it first or whoever has the best chance of paddling into the sweet spot, he or she gets the right of way. Less official but more intimidating, if you are low in the pecking order and you crowd someone’s position, you could get hazed. That means “Mr. I know what I am doing,” his lovely company and his pal took every wave. They sat on their boards in the only place rideable waves were forming and waited. They took every one.
I tried to take the leftovers for a while. I paddled pointlessly and never made it to my feet.
Surfing is like fishing. If you catch one wave the thrill is so deep you remember it and keep trying the rest of your life to recreate that feeling. Two days before I had ridden a nice wave at least 50 feet, adjusted my position on the board to pick up the re-form, and leaned forward shouting “More!” as I rode all the way to the rock wall – maybe a little too close. When I turned back to give my surf instructor the sign for hang loose he looked a little green.
Today I needed my surfing hit. I looked for a different wave to try. I paddled out and to my right. Some movement was happening there. I almost made it up several times.
Steel-eyes surfed past me finishing up a wave he caught further out. With no effort in his stance he called out suggestions to me in a surprisingly strong southern accent.
Whoever the king of the waves was, he was giving me pointers. For a few minutes I felt pleased, as if a celebrity had admired my courage and made small talk with me. But I still couldn’t get my fix.
The lone instructor had pity on me and helped me pick up a few while his charges were paddling back out. A few drops of water to someone dying of thirst. Then he took his tourists and went in.
I never got my one good wave. Why did Mr. Professional need to come to this beach and monopolize the few wimpy waves? I could have had the beach to myself. Surely he has giants to carve on the North Shore.
I was pissed.
I barely made it to the beach where my two peeps sat. I was angry, ready to scream and cry, and with noodle arms I could not force my body to further comply with my mind. I tried to calm my rage by getting my daughter to take some rides in the protected area of the beach. She whined, hugged the board and pressed her cheek against the white and blue stripes, but she took a few waves. I tried to convince myself the session was not a total loss.
When we got into the car to head back to our VRBO condo, I pulled my cell phone out of the glove compartment. I spoke briefly to a friend back in CA at our house. There were police helicopters hovering over my neighborhood.
It was a manhunt.
While I was cursing Snazzy Surfer, less than half a mile from our home four suspects entered a bank and waved a gun. They shot out a window. Police showed up and caught one. One went into a store I shop at weekly and pretended to browse. A customer noticed his odd behavior and called the police. That suspect was apprehended in a store I would have been at if I was not on vacation. Suddenly the surfing hit seemed less important.
You never know what could happen.
It could be the biography I was reading, but I am now convinced that surfer was Kelly Slater. He grew up on pathetic surf in Florida. He is the king of taking a nothing wave and making it into something. Maybe he was homesick. He was actually very pleasant. I was the one with the attitude.
What was I thinking?
After he tried to help me, I could have just said, “Hi, I’m Jamie. Clearly you know what you are doing and I do not. Could you teach me some stuff?” I could have taken surfing lessons from a World Champion who has surfed JAWS. I could have ruined all the photographers’ shots.
Mr. Slater, (or whomever you are) if you remember the short blond with ponytails in a long-sleeve light blue and white rash guard giving you ugly looks on a mushy day at The Cove in January 2016, let me know the next time you are in LA. Maybe we could paddle out. Drinks are on me.