Any day on Waikiki Beach can bring a variety of ocean-goers to the water, from babies with inflatable wings on their arms to stand up paddlers from as far away as Australia, from 92-year-old doctors who surf
to mothers who double as surf photographers.
During Duke’s Oceanfest,
held for nine days every August, I witnessed all this and more. Professionals charged the water, dodging children, visitors and spectators going about their day sunbathing, wading and building sand castles on Waikiki Beach. I watched the Ultimate Stand Up Paddling Showdown one day and the Lifeguard Competition, sponsored by my employer Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, the next.
After the lifeguard competition ended, I packed up my camera gear, shook the sand out of my shoes and sought shade under the kindness of a row of palm trees. Then, I noticed a swarm of surfers paddling out to the lineup and dug my camera back out, attaching my longest lens possible. But it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t get close up shots of the next competition—tandem surfing—and the waves weren’t rolling in, so I left.
Tandem surfing at its simplest is two people riding one board on a wave. In competition, it’s a man and a woman, the two performing a combination of moves. The harder the move, the more points. The more moves per wave, the more points. It takes strength, balance, grace, teamwork, timing and a knack for selecting big waves the run a long ways.
I didn’t learn much about tandem surfing at Duke’s Oceanfest, because I didn’t hang around. Silly me. But I learned a lot this past weekend in a remote valley along Kauai’s Napali Coast, where I met Blanche Yoshida. She won the two world titles of tandem surfing in 2007, when she was 54 years old, and her dominance of the sport was a reprise of something she did from 1968 to 1973. Move over Audrey Sutherland,
I have found my new mentor. And, nope, I’m not going to tell you more, because I plan on tracking Blanche down, possibly at one of her favorite surf spots, for a surf sesh or two. That, or I'll run into her at the farmers' market or the post office or when I visit Hokulea anchored in Hanalei Bay this afternoon. Because synchronicity is a way of life in Hawaii.
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