Hawaii Week 3
This past week has flown by, and the highlight is definitely the surfing and big wave watching! As hurricane Ignacio came by I had a chance to surf at ‘Bayfront’– a spot that usually doesn’t get waves. I wasn’t sure where to park, but as I spotted a few people with boards I stopped my car, and quickly followed two guys out. It was a long paddle out to the wave, but well worth it! I surfed for at least two hours, enjoying the beautiful sunset over Mauna Kea.
The next day, the surfing exhilaration was accentuated when I headed over to my regular surf spot at Honoli’i. There were at least a hundred cars parked on the side of the road on a cliff overlooking the beach. I thought to myself ‘this is surf culture in Hawaii!’ I watched for a few minutes, surrounded by people laughing, drinking beer and commenting the sights through their binoculars.
I looked closer to shore if there was anyone surfing the smaller waves, and sure enough there were! It was time for me to surf!
As I began my paddle strokes I noticed debris in the water: a stick, a leafy stem, a coconut… and then… a gigantic log moving back and forth through the waves. Surfing seemed dangerous today. Was it worth it? I headed back to shore to re-evaluate the situation. As the waves get big at Honoli’i, the water level in the river mouth rises and all the debris moves out to the sea. I chatted with a guy on the shore and he said it wasn’t too bad, as long as I watch out. Restless for exhilaration, I headed out.
This was without a doubt the best surfing session of my life (and most exhausting). It was not the regular surfing I’d done where I wait for the wave and catch one that looks decent. This time, every wave was decent and I paddled through the crushing waves, eager to catch another.
After 2.5 hours of battling the waves I dragged myself up the beach to sit and watch the surfers out back. Then, out of no-where, a tiny little kid came surfing out like a pro. I later found out that his kid is 7! He is good enough for the 20 feet waves out back— absolutely astonishing!
As I got up to walk up the cliff I spotted a shell and picked it up. As tired as I was, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to collect shells that had washed up during the storm. I returned to my car (Ruby Suby) absolutely starving when two little children asked me if I wanted to buy a bag of Lau Lau- a Hawaiian speciality for 20$, I told them regretfully that I didn’t have any cash. A few minutes later, a surfer walks past with the same bag of Lau Lau and offers me one! Lau Lau is made of pork, sweet potatoes and chicken and is wrapped in Taro leaves and Ti leaves. I could tell by the taste of it that the pork was wild and caught recently. Indeed, these ferrel animals are invasive species in Hawaii, just like deer are in the North-East US.
This hurricane swell lasted for nearly a week, as Hawaii was surrounded by four category-four hurricanes!
Apart from this fantastic surfing I’d been doing all week, research-wise things advanced a little as I worked on my new research proposal. I also helped the project team with Leaf Area Index (LAI) measurements. Since we are working on a restored site that has had all the invasive species removed, we record the degree of shade in the research plots on a monthly basis. As vegetation grows, the canopy closes and the shade levels go up. LAI measurements measure the amount of shade at a particular location. (An open field would be 100% sun)
This particular measurement consists of the following: one person has to go to an open field near the site with the machine set up on a tripod, while a team of 3 moves from ‘treatment’ to ‘treatment’ with the LAI instrument, a compass and a telephone. At each spot (the middle of the treatment), we must take 4 light recordings at 45-degree angle intervals. Meanwhile, one person calls the person in the open field (with a phone) so that this is done at the same time. The point is that the instrument must be calibrated to the amount of sun in an open field. Since clouds can interfere, it is important that 2 measurements are done at the same time: one in the forest, one in the open field.
My Saturday was a relaxing, work-free day. I spent most of it at the Queen Liliuokalani festival. I enjoyed learning about the native Hawaiian festivities and traditions as I listened to an amazing band all afternoon. I also returned to childhood for a while as I sat and painted with children and made bamboo flutes! To my delight, there was also a tent with plants and books and friendly Hawaiians explaining ethnobotany practices.
I realised I had done a little too much surfing when I got an ear infection and had to stay out of the water for a week.
Read more about the hurricanes here.