-The following is a post from Kyle the Vagabond’s ongoing matriculation through the Matador U Travel Writing Program. I have chosen to post a number of the course assignments here on Kyle the Vagabond as a way to highlight Matador’s program and convey travel-related tales at the same time.-
Surfboard wax won’t harden at 77 degrees. Smears of the white goop are already attaching themselves to my bare right forearm as I carry the big red board down the drive. Yawning, I glance down at the black Freestyle watch that occupies my left wrist.
5:55 am. Low-tide.
Although on foot, I should still be in the water by 6:05. No more than an 1/8 of a mile, in those ten minutes I’ll walk past 500 years of history. Once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the shuttered souvenir shop I stroll past reveals that the tourists have long since usurped the monarchs.
Rounding the corner, the top of the old smokestack comes into view, now the only surviving remnant of the sugar plantation days. Staffed by immigrant laborers, their children’s children now work the other side of the souvenir store desk. Some build luxury homes on the land their grandfather used to till.
Before the workers came the whalers, their promiscuous lifestyle of great moral concern to the early island missionaries. It’s those same missionaries who are responsible for the massive Banyan tree I’m currently strolling under, the shoulder to head-high surf outside the harbor just starting to come into view.
“It’s firing out there!” comes a cry from across the harbor.
A close friend who drives one of the charter catamarans in the harbor is wiping last night’s dew off the stainless steel railings, his gaze more focused on the surf than on the rail.
“You want my shift today?”
Shaking my head, we both know he’s only half-joking.
Perhaps odd to some, my friend’s only possessions are a bicycle and a surfboard, yet he’s one of the happiest people I know. Less seems to be more here in Lahaina. After all, things are just that. Things. We lead a pretty simple life.
Smelling the sea spray —ehukai as we call it—I reach the rocks past the harbor and tightly strap the board’s leash above my right ankle. The lingering scab on my shin reminds me of last week’s encounter with the reef. In a place where the ocean is your playground, wounds never seem to properly heal.
Gingerly stepping over the algae covered rocks, small black a’ama crabs scurry from the approaching thunder of my large white feet. Just prior to launching myself from shore to sea, my eye catches sight of a stone jutting farther out than the rest. This is the hauola stone, a large, smooth table that was the birthing site of Hawaiian royalty, or ali’i. Before the whalers and missionaries, plantation camps and tourist traps, this land belonged to the Hawaiians. Considered by many to be the world’s first surfers, it was the Hawaiians who gave this town its name: La-haina—cruel sun.
That same sun now causes the wax to stick to my chest as I paddle out to join 8-10 other early risers, each of us unknowingly building this town’s history one day at a time.