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Expat's first experiences in Hawaii's ocean
01-15-2011, 10:42 PM (This post was last modified: 01-15-2011 11:05 PM by kaniamea.)
Post: #1
Expat's first experiences in Hawaii's ocean
I have always loved the ocean, even as a child. But where I lived there was no ocean, so when in the summer my parents and I went on vacation, my one and only question always was how far it is still until we reach the ocean.

So when I moved to Hawaii, I loved the fact that no matter in which direction you drive, you always have the ocean in front of you. That's the beauty of living on a small island! The ocean that I knew from my childhood is different though. Here in Hawaii, the ocean is much rougher and the water looks so amazingly clear and azure blue, like in a swimming pool. For me, it is like one huge playground with so many things to explore.

Naturally, when I arrived in Hawaii, I spent almost every day swimming, snorkeling or bodyboarding. Within my first months here, I went to Waimea Bay and the waves there were on the way up. It was November and wave heights were around 5 feet. I loved to play in these waves. I had never seen waves like this before in my life and this was still low for Waimea Bay. The waves there break very close to shore, in shoulder-high water. As each wave approached, it was like a wall of water approaching me, washing over my head and swirling me around.

I took an oceanography class in a college here. The teacher asked us if we wanted to do a fun field trip. He said we could go to Lanikai Beach and I right away signed up and so did my best friend. Strangely enough, no one else from my class showed up, and there were about 25 students in that class. So on that Sunday morning, it was just my friend Sally, my teacher and I. My teacher had a friend in Lanikai from whom we borrowed an outrigger kayak. I had never kayaked before, but thought it must be fun. I told my teacher I would paddle out to the Mokulua Islands. I was so excited to get to these islands, which seemed like another little world to explore, just waiting for me.

The ocean appeared calm from the beach. So I took the kayak and paddled out. About halfway between Oahu and the Mokulua Islands the waves suddenly got bigger and bigger. And then, a large wave came and flipped me over. So there I was, hanging on to my kayak, drifting inbetween these islands and unable to turn my kayak around again! It was just too difficult and I had no kayaking experience whatsoever. Luckily, after about 15 min. of drifting there, wondering if I may look attractive to any sharks, another kayaker came to my help. On that day I gave up on the idea of reaching these offshore islands. I was glad to be able to make it back to Oahu's shore. My teacher also seemed relieved, lol!

On another day, Sally and I decided to go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. The lady at the check-in booth told us that that day was a special Saturday. Hanauma Bay would be open until 10 pm for the monthly night snorkel. That sounded very exciting, so we decided to stay there all day. There is an equipment rental where we rented a huge waterproof flashlight.

When it got dark at around 7:30 pm, we went into the ocean, wondering what to expect. I had never snorkeled in the dark before. A handful of divers also made use of this opportunity, but Sally and I were the only snorkelers. No one else was on the beach. So we went in and stayed close together and shared the light. We swam out toward the reef and saw all kinds of critters that only come out at night, such as octopus. The reef looked so different in the dark and was literally glowing when the flashlight beam fell on it. In the light the salt crystals of the ocean were dancing in front of our eyes. A few other divers were near us and had lights too, so with the stars above us in the night sky, it looked like there were stars above us in the sky and below us in the ocean. A really unique experience!

But then came the spooky part. The closer we got to the reef, the higher the waves got. Suddenly a set of waves swept over us and water filled our snorkels. We suddenly lost our orientation and were scared to set foot onto the reef, not knowing if we might step into an octopus or other critter with sharp teeth! It scared the heck out of us. We tried to catch our breath and slowly move away from the surf break. There was nobody near us anymore because the divers were all much further out in the ocean and no lifeguards were there at night.

We managed to swim back to shore and were almost there when suddenly something white touched our face out of nowhere. It scared us so much we almost screamed. It turned out it was a plastic bag, lol! When we finally made it back to land, we were shivering. We had spent quite some time in the water and we were freezing. Since we didn't have a car and at that time there was no bus anymore from Hanauma Bay back to Waikiki, we walked all the way to the nearby town of Hawaii Kai. It was pitch black on Kalanianaole Highway. Sometimes when I think back to this day, I wonder what the drivers must have thought who passed us on that evening, two girls walking in the dark along a major highway.

Anyway, we made it to the bus stop in Hawaii Kai. Because we hadn't planned to stay all day at Hanauma Bay and we hadn't brought any food with us, we were starving by then. So we figured, before taking the bus home, we better go to Foodland to get food. We got a piece of cheesecake and shared it. Then we waited an hour for the bus. In Waikiki, we had to transfer to another bus and waited another hour or so. I finally arrived back at home at 1:30 in the middle of the night. What a snorkeling trip that was!

Another day I went bodyboarding in Makaha with another friend of mine. I had bodyboarded many times in Waikiki before, in waves of about 5 feet high, so I thought I can take on Makaha, where the waves in the winter months can get much bigger than that. On that particular day though, they weren't very high. Maybe around 3-4 feet (luckily if I think back now!).

There's a shallow reef and when the tide is low (as it was on that day and hour), then it's kind of tricky to bodyboard over it because the reef is very close to the surface. And if you're new to this sport, as I was, it can be a bit dangerous. But I didn't know that yet. My friend and I caught a few waves when suddenly a bigger one came and I tried to catch it. I couldn't, but the next thing I noticed was that surfer coming closer and closer toward me. I was unable to get away, so he surfed right over my head. My neck cracked a bit, but luckily, I was ok after this frightening experience. My friend then told me that he cut his foot on the reef, so we went outside. It was a very small cut and hardly noticeable. But we decided that we both had enough for that day. My friend didn't disinfect the cut because back then, we both didn't know that the reef is alive and has bacteria on it. And when this stuff gets under the skin, it can cause an infection. So about a week later, his cut got infected and he needed surgery. He spent a week in hospital.

So these were my first experiences in Hawaiian waters. After all that, after I had gotten to know the rough side of it, I decided it's time to enjoy more relaxing ocean activities, so these days I simply enjoy long swims and occasionally go snorkeling, but during the day, lol.


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01-16-2011, 03:15 PM
Post: #2
RE: Expat's first experiences in Hawaii's ocean
Wow,sounds like a string of bad luck since you moved here to Hawaii. I am surprised that no one told you about the strong channal current that runs between the islands here. If you know the waters well,it would have not been a problem at all. That is one of the reasons I had put the tide charts on this forum. I have a friend that I will invite to this forum that will explain some of these things but I will need to translate into plain English so that everyone understands,lol.
I love Makaha also. It's the best place on the island right now to go whalewatching right now even though I have seen them a least once a week from my lanai for the past month. Who would think you could whalewatch here in Waikiki.
Getting back to this thread,I pray that you have no more of these surprises. Not many people experience these things and walk away to tell about it here. I'm big on fishing here and I love to try new things. Sometimes, I sense things are not right and I listen to those little clues that tells me to "get the ell outta there",lol. Shore fishing is a great sport but sometimes a very dangerous one if you don't check the tide charts before going. You can get washed off the rocks in a blink of a rogue wave and you will lose everything if not your life.
Don't get me wrong here though,Hawaii is a fun place to live and visit and have to remember that you in the middle of the ocean and the ocean is a very powerful force even on a calm day. That is why you should always believe in the buddy system around water. This is a proven method of saving lives including your own.
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01-16-2011, 07:10 PM (This post was last modified: 01-16-2011 07:11 PM by kaniamea.)
Post: #3
RE: Expat's first experiences in Hawaii's ocean
Well, I don't consider these experiences bad luck. Back then I didn't even consider them dangerous and now when I think back many of them make me laugh Smile I have learned a lot about Hawaii and the ocean here in the meantime, and these days I'm a bit less "adventurous" when it comes to doing things in and around the ocean. It's true Hawaii's ocean is powerful and unpredictable. Many people who move here or who visit are not aware of so many things and often times get in trouble. That's why I hope the info on this forum will be useful to many people.

For example, there is this place called Queen's Bath on Kauai's north shore. It has become a popular visitor attraction in recent years. It's basically a natural pool surrounded by lava rocks. Many people like to swim in this pool, but this is only a good idea if the ocean is calm. There have been 29 drownings within the last few years at this location alone. To give an example, in 2008 two woman walked too close to the edge of the cliff when a rogue wave suddenly appeared and swept them off the cliff. I was at Queen's Bath last year in the fall and saw that many visitors don't heed the many warning signs that have been erected all over the place there. The warning signs tell people to not go near the edge of the cliff, but I saw many who did just that.

Here are some pictures from Queen's Bath.


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07-16-2011, 07:30 AM
Post: #4
RE: Expat's first experiences in Hawaii's ocean
I was raised in Lanikai and some people have been killed hiking the backside of Mokulua (da big one, Mokumanu I believe) when swept off by waves. Even my brother, a surfer and waterman, went back one time with Sandy A. during a lull and endless big sets started and they had to climb over.

And here in Puna two days ago a man died after falling off the cliff on the Paradise Park shoreline....
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07-16-2011, 02:22 PM
Post: #5
RE: Expat's first experiences in Hawaii's ocean
Aloha Patfrompuna and welcome to our ohana forum!

Yes often times people don't pay attention to warning signs thinking that nothing bad will happen to them. Unfortunately when they least expect they become a new victim. Just like this past week, when a visitor from California got sucked into the Nakelele Blowhole on Maui.
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07-18-2011, 09:00 PM
Post: #6
RE: Expat's first experiences in Hawaii's ocean
Easy to remember, Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean.
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