Three strikes and you’re out… of the water

I’m going to take a moment to skip ahead in our adventures. We will get back to stories about finding our quaint lodge by the sea, underground mole-people, and vampire oil paintings.

But for now, I would like you to know there is some friction between the members of team Gobi or Home. In particular between me, Shane, and our team captain Hans who isn’t even in Hawaii with me.

Hans, if you ever encourage me to go surfing again I will leave you in the most mosquito ridden wasteland in Russia.

You see dear friends, I have been surfing five times in my life and I always forget that “surfing” is just another term for “letting the ocean kick your ass”.

We rented our surfboards, Roberta a nice longboard and a little dagger board for me. I’d never ridden a short board, but i do reasonably well with a longboard, so it didn’t seem a stretch that I would earn my short board wings.


When the rental lady asked what our surf level was I told them we were exquisitely mediocre. They referred us to the easiest surf beach with lifeguards, just south of a tiny historic beachside church called St. Peter’s. The recommendation came with a stiff warning, don’t go north of the blue and white church or the current will dash your body on the lava rocks and your spirit of aloha will die along with the rest of you.

We arrived at the beach to find that there wasn’t much of a beach. The big island, youngest of the Hawaiian islands, has not undergone the erosion typical of the others and doesn’t have the resulting sandy beaches.

Roberta put on our wetsuits and dive booties to walk across the lava rock. We waded out into the water past the people and just as we got to where it was deep enough, the lifeguard called us back. We stumbled our way back to find we were on the swimmer’s beac, and needed to use the surfers beach.

They pointed us kindly to another set of volcanic rocks and we tried again. I should mention I was wading out without a board to try and help get Roberta started. The water was rough but with me touching the bottom barely, we got her a good few runs and she stood up like a pro.

Having achieved success and Roberta being ready to take a break we started back. The tide had come in so I was just hanging on the back of her board and it was really slowing her down. I gave her a push and told her I would swim.

Away she wisked and I began to do my worst, but easiest back stroke in the world. Wouldn’t you know it but the current was strong like the signs warn. Even if I had missed the sign I would have learned about the current as the lifeguard started lecturing me on her speaker phone.

I gave her the international divers sign for “okay”, hand on your head and elbow up and kept paddling. I made it back to the lava beach and sat on my bright yellow surfboard taking a little break.

Soon I had the urge to join Roberta in her surf success and went paddling out while she continued her break. The swells were breaking further out and I meandered out after a middle-aged Hawaiian woman who I thought would know quality, easy places to catch a wave. I was wrong, she was almost as bad as I was. Nonetheless I made some clumsy attempts to get up on the board. Two flops later I looked up to find myself way north of the church.

“Oh, son of a bitch.” I said. I try not to swear but there was no one around to hear because they were all in a nice place south of the church.

I began paddling away from the rocks. No wait, I began paddling and moved nowhere. I kept this up for a few minutes to find the church hadn’t moved.

I did not feel good about this. Joking aside, I had gotten myself in serious trouble. Serious trouble. A few minutes later with still no progress, I got the initial panic feeling. I quelled it with imagining griping about Hans in this blog and continued my limp noodle paddle.

A few minutes later I had made no progress and realized I needed to change up my tactic. So I laid on the board and rested.

I waited and thought about my predicament and everything I knew about rip tides. You were supposed to swim parallel to the beach right?

I saw the fallacy in that and realized I need to swim perpendicular to the current, not the beach. Perpendicular meant into the rocks or out into the Pacific. I sighed and turned the board towards the horizon.

This brought progress. Not great progress, but progress. Shortly after I saw the lifeguard lady near me on her lifeboard.

“Paddle harder” she told me.

I took the moment to ditch my pride and instead of saying “Really, ya think?” I said, “Keep an eye on me okay?”

“You’re doing it right. I’ll help you if you need it but I have to rescue those guys first.”

I looked where she was pointing and saw two surfers well and truly screwed.

I paddled on. And on. Eventually I saw that I was south of the church and tested heading to the beach. More snail speed progress. I realized the church founders had made an ingenious decision in the placement of St. Peter’s. I’m sure many, many prayers are made by tourists on surfboards here.

I kept at it and eventually made it back into the main bay. The lifeguard came swimming by with her huge polynesian muscles. “I was worried about you.”

“Not as worried about me as I was.” I smiled, then told her thanks. It was still ten minutes before I was back on the beach.

I took a minute to rest and figured I had made the best of really a horrible mistake.

As I showered off the equipment the men who were towed back to safety by the lifeguard were talking about how they hated surfing and wished they were back in Utah snowboarding. I agreed except for the snowboarding part, and I looked at my pale, noodle arms in comparison to their weight lifting physique. I felt a little pride that they had brought me home without a tow.

But, to make a long story short…

I’m going to beat you when I get home Hans.