Showtime in Lost Polynesia

by Kirk Lee Aeder/IMOCO MEDIA INC. 

Somewhere in "Hidden Hawaii", there remains a place of mystery, intrigue, and places to be explored. Kelly Slater sat on the black stone wall, staring out at the moving blue sea as an occasional three to five foot set exploded off the jagged lava reef, providing a luring temptation. But, Kelly was content to sit while no one bothered him because, for the most part, there was no one else around.

Light offshore trade winds tugged at the wave's cascading faces. Over head, wild parrots whistled incessantly in the swaying palm trees. Outside the lineup, spinner dolphins, humpback whales, and green sea turtles were easily visible in the turquoise-colored water. Kelly's eyes seemed transfixed though on what was going on in the ocean. He was far away from his monumental achievements only a week before when he had won his second straight, and third overall, ASP World Title at the 1995 Pipe Masters in front of thousands of spectators on Oahu's North Shore. In doing so, Slater had firmly secured his legendary status in the history of surfing.

For the week that followed, Slater was besieged by media requests, most of which he complied with. Yet this was his time now, and a chance to escape from the madness of it all to a place where he had never been before. As Kelly continued to stare out at the ocean, it was easy to tell that for a moment at least, he had finally found a peace of mind. It was time to sit back, take a deep breath, relax and surf with a few friends away from the surfing media.

Ironically, after Slater left Oahu for one of Hawaii's outer islands, the media immediately began searching for his whereabouts. Word had begun to filter around that he and a select crew of surfers were scoring perfect surf with no one else around. The only question was where. Also part of Slater's contingent were close friends Shane Dorian, Kalani Robb, and Conan Hayes. The focus of their attention was a rural outer Hawaiian Island with a right break (one of many actually) that broke directly in front of a foreboding black lava point. It was an idyllic setting, an easy paddle out that masked how dangerous the wave really was. Every wave was a tube that somewhat resembled a smaller right version of Tavarua. Egg-shaped barrels were commonplace.

As the sessions wore on, Slater and Dorian eventually became the standouts. It was a difficult backside wave for Kalani and Conan, yet there were no lefts anywhere in the area so they had to contend with the right. Dorian especially, had the place wired. Each wave would tube along a different reef so the trick became figuring out which one. Slater and his pals may have arrived here incognito, but it didn't take long to even the most casual observer that the boys in the water were certainly no ordinary surfers. Before long, a small crowd of onlookers had gathered and watched this "private session" of ASP hotties.

If that wasn't enough, the next day Shane Dorian hosted a kids "keiki" surfing contest for the young local talent on the Island. Imagine the look on the kid's faces when they show up for their heat and see the likes of Slater and Kalani Robb hanging around. The looks on their faces said it all and they were stoked beyond belief. Autograph lines became as long as the word that began to filter around the Island of the pro's appearance.

The local keiki kids all surfed well and seemed to surf better, knowing that the pros were on the beach watching them. Later that afternoon, Kelly and Shane led the charge in the pro's expression session. Slater's rebounding off the lip 360's and Dorian's aerial floaters had the crowd in awe. Most observers had never even seen such high performance surfing and the crowd seemed to gasp at every wild maneuver. On one particular wave Slater and Dorian took off at the same time and then crisscrossed each other to the inside where Slater punctuated it all by doing a 360 aerial over Shane's head.

The four pros all laughed while they were in the water. It showed a fun side of surfing that the kids easily related to. It was apparent that even the pro's still knew how to laugh and have a good time. For everyone who was there, it was indeed like going back to the roots of surfing, which was mainly to just have fun.

The following day Conan and Kalani left the Island, Slater ended up hanging around for another week just to relax and Shane Dorian stayed even longer and scored some even better waves the following week. On a day that the biggest swell hit most of the coastline was closed down but one kilometer down the coast from the magic right Dorian surfed the week before another secluded right was going off the Richter scale.

Shane Dorian hit the water and surfed it with a few of the more experienced locals. It was a wave that if you didn't make the drop then you would definitely be flirting with potential disaster. The wave was a combination of ten foot Matsube or ten foot Shark Island as it offered a big round barrel with no room for error. Within just a few hours, six boards had been broken, two of them Dorian's and after snapping his second one, Dorian had to paddle in precariously on half a board through pounding sets and around boils of white water swirling above sharp lava rock formations just feet below the surface. But with help from some friends he was guided to shore safely.

And yet just when you thought it was all over, more swells continued to pound the coast of this mystery Island of Polynesia for the ensuing weeks to follow. The pros may have all left the Island, and embarked again for another grueling year on the pro tour, but the performances they put on there will always be remembered by the locals who saw them perform. It was inspirational to even the most hard-core and veteran surfers of the island. Of course, there were those surfers who had ripped here for years long before any of the pros showed up, but even they seemed to be inspired. Among those are Ian Haight, a long time haole local who scored some of the best surf at a variety of spots. As northwest swell after northwest swell struck this vulnerable coastline, Ian was among a handful of local surfers who reaped the benefits.

For goofy foots, this Island does not have a lot of left breaking waves. Indeed, it's a regular foot's paradise although many of the better spots are hard to get to and require a four wheel drive vehicle. Ian Haight is a regular foot with a four wheel drive vehicle so essentially, where ever it's good you can expect to find Ian there. Further up the coast where Slater, Dorian and the crew had surfed, there were other places that were equally as good. Ian, along with other locals Jerry Bess, Eric Phillips, and Elizah Young all scored big rights at various lava points up and down the coastline. Certainly for everyone, it was the best winter season on this Island in a long, long time.

With respect to the Island itself, and the local surfers who live there, we did not want to name exactly where it is, although some of you may already have figured it out anyway. It all just goes to show that there are indeed other places, no matter how remote, in the Hawaiian Archipelago that are waiting to be surfed. As in any place treat the locals with respect, and in all likelihood, they will show you the aloha spirit in return. Of even more importance is to treat the entire Island with respect. Many myths and legends surround what goes on at this particular Hawaiian Island and ancient Hawaiian forces are still at work here, and it shows everywhere you go. So treat the place kindly, but most of all, enjoy it for what it is naturally.

photo credit: Kirk Aeder

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Story appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and appears online for archival purposes only. Any use or reprinting of these stories without the expressed written consent of the author is prohibited.