A Day At The Beach Is Much More

Keola Wong goes toes to the nose during the Pine Trees Longboard Classic | Mugs Kaneholani photo

Keola Wong goes toes to the nose during the Pine Trees Longboard Classic | Mugs Kaneholani photo

The sun is warm, the breeze steady, the ocean glassy and the sets are rolling in. Even a nonsurfer like me knows that these are ideal conditions for everyone arriving at the annual longboard surf contest at Pine Trees in Hanalei.

I am usually prepared when I arrive at the door of nature’s splendor. Stashed in my car: beach chair, towel, hat, sunscreen, water, extra clothes, sunglasses, rubber slippers, nuts, stand-up paddle paraphernalia and Dave Barry’s I’ll Mature When I’m Dead.

I even have a bicycle strapped to my car in case I need to run into town to pick up supplies, so I can keep my parking space.

But today, I feel like I’m missing something. Figure that out later. Up ahead I find a few friends settled at the edge of the high-water mark, where the purple morning glory begins to spread its vines. At the far end of the encampment is the elder of our group, a fisherman and surfer extraordinaire — a local Renaissance man, if you will.

He’s already prepping some cauliflower and carrot crudites for the healthy sort, and for the not-so, a box of Foodland glazed doughnuts sits on a table. Invariably the guardian of us hungry souls, he is widely known to break out his handy folded grill to pulehu meats and veggies, or to set up his portable gas stove to deep-fry some fresh fish he might’ve just caught and cleaned at the beach only hours earlier.

Today, however, was not that kind of day. Oh, no, now I know what I forgot! I didn’t think to bring a special potluck item even when I knew we would hang out with our friends all day.

How presumptuous of me to think that there’s always going to be tons of food! Mom would be appalled at my lack of manners. Unlike me, she would diligently prepare her popular manju, a steamed dumpling made of mochi flour filled with mashed sweet black beans wrapped in ti leaf, an adaptation of her native Japan recipe that used lily pad leaves.

Or she will spend half a day baking her exotic lilikoi chiffon pie with the laboriously strained homegrown passion fruit. The thick, hearty shortbread crust is a dessert in itself, reminiscent of Mrs. Brandt’s cafeteria-baked cookies that brought so much joy to Kapaa School students back when hot lunches cost 25 cents.

To top that off, after Mom turns the dishes into nice presentations, she would hand them off to someone else attending an event! Now those are big shoes to fill. I need another lifetime to reach that level of love.

Meanwhile, I put that thought aside to watch the surfing heats and to relax amid blasting stereo music and barbecue aromas wafting from neighboring tents. I am mesmerized by Kauai’s skilled longboard surfers performing handstands, hang tens, helicopters and coffins on surfboards as if there is no water underneath hurling them forward. A classic surfer on a leashless vintage board glides on a wave with such grace, like an image of Duke Kahanomoku on a sepia print.

During a break in the heats, my girlfriends and I walk the beach toward the river. Wind in our faces, we of course waste no time in thoroughly talking about all matters encompassing everything while being guided by the loving spirit of the turquoise bay.

On the way back from our walk, hunger strikes. The crudites are appetizing, but we have to fend for ourselves today for lunch. That brings us to salivate over one restaurant’s chili pepper chicken with brown rice and fresh greens. We take orders, walk into town and split a plate, being that the deep-fried skin is too irresistible to abandon.

As I drive back home that afternoon, I think fondly of the camaraderie of friends, delectable eats, spectacular home-grown surf talent, music and nature’s beauty surrounding us. Even though I didn’t bring my potluck dish, Kauai still offered ideal conditions on which to feast, and the day is not going to skip a beat because of me. The island’s forgiving nature simply encourages me to do better the next time around. And though I may have big shoes to fill, maybe, just maybe, I’ll mature before I’m dead.