Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kaua'i -- Laird Hamilton Foil Boarding

North Shore Kaua'i at dawn, with Kilauea in the distance
In case you didn’t know, I am weirdly obsessed with Hawai’i.  My Etsy shop is named after a beach on Kaua’i (Barking Sands, now part of a military base over on the west side).  I’ve been visiting the island for a number of years now, so it is comfortably familiar to the point that I resent the idea that I might still be considered a tourist and not a local.

I am a north shore kind of girl--which seems kind of surprising to me, as I don’t necessarily think of myself as a laid-back hippie type, which is what the north shore seems to attract.  From Kilauea to Ke’e, Kaua’i is green and lush and quiet.   Hanalei is the center of activity here, a wisp of a town on a beautiful, mountain-ringed bay.  A fair amount of tie dye, dreadlocks and Birkenstocks can be found here, mingled with the retired tourists and honeymooners from Princeville and beyond.    

I’m not sure if my obsession with Hawai’i came first and it led to a fascination with surfing, or vice versa, but the two go nicely hand in hand.  I always visit Hawai’i during the winter months when storms in the north Pacific push swells of energy to the islands’ shores.  Those swells bring surfers from all over the world to ride the waves.  Oahu's Waimea Bay ranks first, of course, but on Kaua'i surfers gravitate to the classic breaks at Hanalei Bay. 

Those wave may look small from this distance, but they are well over 10 feet high and on the rise.
This morning on Kaua’i’s north shore I awoke to a large northwest swell, which brought huge waves along with it.  I stay in at a little condo on a cliff above the water, so I have a nearly 180 degree view of the ocean and the corduroy of incoming waves.  The roaring of the wind and waves gets louder and louder and I can tell without looking that the surf is growing. 

In the past, when the waves reached a certain height, there have been tow-in surfers just off my lanai.  Tow-in surfing, where one person will ride a jet ski and pull the surfer into the surge of a big wave, was pioneered by Laird Hamilton, waterman and surfing legend.  Hamilton seems to have a deep reverence for the ocean and general disdain for the crazy world of competitive surfing, both of which, among myriad other accomplishments, have elevated him to the level of an icon.  Hamilton by no means invented big wave surfing, but he has pushed the pursuit to a higher stratus of the surf world.   The revival of stand up paddle boarding can be attributed to Hamilton, too.  He surfs the unsurfable and doesn’t seem to give a whit what anyone thinks. 
Weird, jury-rigged photo taken through my binoculars--somehow they came out smaller, not larger than I saw them?
The waves were convincingly big this morning--I wasn’t out there with my tape measure, but the forecast heights were 20 to 25 feet. I watched hopefully for some tow-in surfers.  Nothing for a while, but then two teams showed up.  And they were not just tow-in surfing, they were foil boarding.  And I am pretty sure that one of them was Laird Hamilton, who lives a good part of the year on Kaua’i, and according to his lovely wife Gabrielle Reece on their blog, has been out foil boarding nearly every day since the start of this year.
Hamilton being pulled into a wave
Holy crap.  Laird Hamilton!  With my own two eyes I am watching Laird Hamilton surf!  It feels like I woke up and found myself on the 50-yard line at the Superbowl. 

Hamilton created foil boarding by adding a hydrofoil to the bottom of a short board and connecting snowboarding boots for better control.  When riding a wave, the foil cuts through the wave and lifts the board up and out of the water, which eliminates much of the bump associated with the speed of large waves and gives the strange appearance of floating above the water.  

I curse my ordinarily great camera for not being up to the task of taking pictures of this!  I watched through binoculars and it was awesome.  It looked like this photo from Hamilton’s website (click on the image to see more):  
Laird Hamilton Foil Boarding, from
Hamilton--blond, thickly muscled and in plaid trunks--would be whipped into the wave by his partner on the jet ski then fly down the face of the wave with arms and hands outstretched like the wings of a bird on a thermal.  He would often glide to the top of the wave, just as it was cresting, and then float down the face, with a little bounce towards the end of the ride to pick up further energy.  These waves were big, triangular slabs without a lot of curl to them, which made for decently long rides.
It was amazing to see.  Hamilton seemed so free and open and relaxed on the wave.  His partner (Dave Kalama?  Terry Chung?) and the other team all surfed as well, but none had the effortless appearance of Hamilton.  He even drove the jet ski with aplomb, using it to surf the wave he towed his partner into and still keeping a close eye out for their safety.  Can you be relaxed and intense at the same time?  That’s how he came across as I watched him.

I spent the entire morning watching the surfers foil down the waves--not performing for cameras or an audience, just out on a Saturday morning enjoying the gift of a big swell.  Whales were breaching in the background.  The whole thing was awesome.  Another big swell arrives Monday.  Can I be greedy and hope for a repeat performance? 

To get a little more info on Laird Hamilton and foil boarding you can watch a quick video here.

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg except where noted

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hawaii, January 2012--Driving in Maui

Surfer, Hamoa Bay, Maui
Just spent a few days on Maui to meet with a client and see if there were any goodies to be found in local thrift shops and antique stores.  Let’s just say that my shopping forays were not so successful--it’s a very different vibe from the East Coast.  Still, it was good to prowl around and see what there was to be had.

I’d not been to Maui before, so I was happy to take in a few of the sights.  I stayed at the Westin Maui over on the west side of the island. Quick review:  I am not a resort kind of a girl--too many people, too loud, too generic.  I’m a huge fan of the Westin brand, but once I was in the hotel, I could have been in Columbus, or Chicago or anywhere.  It makes me sad to think that a visitor to Maui might go to a resort, seldom leave and think that they had really seen Hawai’i.  Needless to say, I did not hang around the pool all day! 

After checking out some shops in Wailuku, I decided to drive back to the resort around the northwestern side of the island, instead of the more usual southwestern route.  I had not read the guide book before I set out so I did not know that the road gets progressively more narrow and winding as you go, to the point where it is one lane in spots.  So what’s the big deal?  The one lane has a cliff dropping to the ocean on one side and a wall of rock on the other.  And no guard rail.  There was really only one hairy moment when I came head to head with another car and had nowhere to go.  I love to drive, so this was a delightful side trip for me, though I can see how nervous drivers might freak out in some parts.

Maui, northwest coast, with Moloka'i in the distance
The reward, though, was some extraordinary scenery and very few people, which is just right for me.  At one point, I sat on a boulder high on a cliff overlooking the ocean--no people, no cars, just me and the wind and the water.  I swear, for a few minutes it felt like I was the only person in the world, staring out on to thousands of miles of ocean. 

After that spectacular drive, I almost didn’t drive the renowned road to Hana--I figured it was probably just more of what I had already done.  I left very early (6am) to avoid traffic which was well worth it, as there were very few cars on the road and the morning light was beautiful.  Really, after my drive the day before it seemed long, but pretty easy (guard rails!), and full of twists and turns and one-lane bridges.  The scenery is lush and green and smells of earth, waterfalls and flowers. 
Lava rock shoreline at Ke'anae
The prize at the end of the drive is Hana, which guide books will tell you is no great shakes, but that small-town, laid-back vibe is just right for me.   Always on the lookout for the good surf spots, I headed to Hamoa Bay, touted as a pretty consistent break.  I got waylaid at nearby Koki beach, the legendary resting spot of goddess Pele’s bones that now abuts Oprah’s Hana estate.  It was still early when I got there and I literally had the entire beach to myself for a while. It was not too sunny (good for this pale girl) and the waves were suitably dramatic, so I ended up spending all morning there.

Koki Beach, Maui
I finally made it to Hamoa Bay, with its crescent-shaped beach and 4-6 foot waves.  A couple surfers were out and more boogie boarders.  The latter were not to be underestimated, as they were taking on the same overhead waves the surfers rode, which is pretty impressive.  This beach is right next to the Hotel Hana Maui, which is where I would stay if I could do it all again. 
Hamoa Bay, near Hana, Maui
My time on Maui went quickly, so I didn’t have a chance to see everything I might have liked (no, I didn’t see Haleakala at dawn--3am wake up call?!?).  Overall, Maui was much more crowded with tourists and just bigger and more spread out than what I am used to on Kaua’i.  Antiquing was a bust, but I was happy to see a bit more of Hawai’i.

On to Kaua’i...

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Website!

I've recently launched a new website, the cleverly named  I'm keeping it pretty simple for now, but it's nice to have a place to send clients and to keep all of my endeavors linked up to one spot.  There you can find my bio, all the wonderful services I provide and the types of things I buy and sell, along with my contact info and links to my Etsy shop. 

I worked with Micheal Sparks Design of Richmond--because I am definitely not patient or talented enough to come up with a website!  He has a fun shop in the Manchester neighborhood--I met him one weekend when I stopped by Antiques in Manchester, a flea market geared towards modern design that's right next to his shop.  A fortuitous encounter!