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Hunting and Gathering in Hawaii


Sandy Beach



A relatively small day at Sandy's. You'll be lucky if you find the waves this easy.


In no Hawaiian sport does the surfing expression "thrills vs spills" come into play more than body surfing. The thrill of body surfing is easy - all you do is jump in the water. The waves are close, and you can get by with no equipment. But the spills can easily chip or break teeth (done that) or break necks or backs (almost done that).

A good body surfing wave should have the power to pick you up and move you. Fins are a huge help, both in fun (catching the waves, steering once you do) and in safety (scrambling outside when the big sets come). However, the waves will rip the fins right off your feet. You can usually get some fin holders or tethers when you rent the fins.

(A good place to rent fins and snorkeling stuff - about $30 a week - is "Snorkel Bob's". I might not get time to tell you about snorkeling so real quick - August should be great for "Shark's Cove" on the North Shore.)

The best beaches are (in my opinion) Sandy Beach and Makapuu (out on the east end close together - check both out for the safest that day) and Pounders (near Hauula, hard to find, not as consistent). Timing - you will have a far greater chance of surviving if you go when the waves are smaller, which is usually before about noon. As the breeze kicks up in the mid afternoon, the waves can get pretty intense. Especially at Sandy's. (Great watching, though.) Ask the lifeguard, or at least look at the flag colors. The lifeguard can usually tell you the safer parts of the beach. Definitely avoid the "Gas Chambers" area at Sandy's.

Technique. There are two main tricks at your stage.

First is "get to the bottom" of the wave. What you DO NOT want to do is start to catch a wave, see how far down it is once the wave jacks, and then "hair out" (try to not go down). This will leave you hanging at the top, the lip, of the wave, which is the part that takes the full impact when the wave goes over. Did I mention these waves break in about a foot of water? You'll hit the sand like a pile driver. The idea is to commit, then kick like mad to get down into the safer barrel area, where the wave will break over you.

The second trick is to turn. You want to get going sideways as soon as you can, usually on the way down or even as you first take off. That way, when the wave closes out (they all do), you'll roll with it instead of getting broken in half.

(Two quick "next level" tricks for you fast learners: ride on your back, as opposed to your stomach, so you'll fold the right way; and "go for the back door" once the wave is closing.)

One final safety note. Big sets will come. When they do, the safest way to run is out towards them. If you are going with the water flow (out), I swear you'll make it every time. If you try to get to the beach, against the water, you'll get smashed at least half the time.