I got a chance to cover the big surf on Oahu's north shore today. While it is big, it was a bit smaller than the original forecast of 30 to 40 foot face waves, with the occasional 50 footer on the outer reefs. But there were still some pretty good 3o footers that started rolling in and closing out Waimea Bay. They also weren't as big as the waves I saw on Big Wednesday in January 1998. But there's still the possibility that could happen.
What hasn't changed is the big crowd that shows up to see the waves, and the occasional experienced and hardy soul that tries to surf them. I asked former big wave rider and University of Hawaii oceanographer Ricky Grigg about what would draw someone to a wave like that. Sometimes, he said, you want to find out the limits of your human endurance, to find the ultimate thrill. And with big waves, some pay the ultimate price for finding that thrill. As for the crowd, I just thought what a bummer it must be for the people who live on the north shore, who have to put up with being stuck at home, or taking forever to get anywhere (it took me more than an hour to get from Haleiwa to Waimea Bay).
When I was on the north shore last weekend, one of the Vans Triple Crown of Surf events was underway at Sunset Beach. I noticed that some residents nearby were offering parking, on their property, for five dollars. Today, some of the folks who live near Waimea Bay were charging twenty dollars (gulp!) I didn't see many takers for those. But then again, today you could find quite a few empty spots, like in the lot next to the fire station at Pupukea, across Kamehameha Highway from Foodland.
And finally, I have to mention what an honor it is to know George Downing, Another legendary surfer, and now the guy who watches to see if "the bay calls the day" for the Eddie Aikau invitational surf competition. Uncle George was up at the Waimea Bay lifeguard station with his grandson, eyeing the waves all afternoon to see if the conditions would be right to run the event. He spotted me, waved, and then said, "Come on up." It's like being granted an audience, but really, we just sat around talking surf, and occasionally about work and whether I'm enjoying my job. I am, I say. It's nice to spend a December day, wearing slippers to work, at one of the most beautiful places I can think of, even if it took forever to get there, and there are thousands more there who want to share the experience.