Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Catching a Wave

Magnet # 112: Hawaiian Dolphin Surfboard

Material: Wood

Purchased By: Mom & Dad

Well, we're going from one extreme to the other in Hawaii. Today, the surf is definitely up in the state, where record high waves are hitting the beaches in areas like Oahu and Maui. These waves may go as high as 50 feet, and should be the largest the area has seen those of since 2004 and 1998. Although there have been some beach closures, crowds are still flocking out to see these giants and pros are flying in from all over the world in hopes of surfing them.

There are also two surf competitions that may take place today, weather permitting. The first is the Billabong Pipeline Masters and the Billabong Pro Maui, the women's competition, the final event in Van's Triple Crown surfing competition. This date has long been scheduled for the contests, so it's almost uncanny that such an amazing set of waves are going to be available for the surfers to showcase their talent. The men's event at the Banzai Pipeline in Oahu's North Shore should be particularly riveting - the two top contenders, Australian surfers Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson, are actually lifelong friends. And they rated number one and two in the world, respectively. Sounds like this could get pretty interesting. And then there's the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, an event that pays tribute to an incredible surfer and lifeguard who was lost at sea when he tried to get help for his crewmates after their canoe sank. He was only 31 years old. Although this legendary, invitation-only contest has been going for 25 years, it has only been held seven times. That's because the waves must be smooth and between 30 and 40 feet for the surfers to participate. Only 24 surfers are invited to participate, and the competition has no set date. It may occur between December 1 and February 28 if the right waves are available. Given the current conditions, this may be the year the eighth competion takes place. If so, it will happen on Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu.

So just what can tourists do if they want to surf today, but are too nervous to take on such monster waves? Well, they can try another form of surfing that doesn't even require them to leave dry land - mountain surfing. This is Polynesian tradition is centuries old, and is experiencing a resurgence. It calls for specific boards called papaholuas that are 12 feet long by 6 inches wide and consist of two long, thin boards connected by smaller rails. Riders can take these down grassy hills, either lying down on them or standing in a crouch that resembles traditional surfers. And they can even reach speeds around 40 mph. Tom Stone, a professor in Polynesian history and culture, as well as an avid surfer, has helped fuel this renewal of the sport. He also owns the Hawaiian Boarding Company and is the only person who can make a papahoula according to the ancient tradition. You can check out his wares on http://www.hawaiibc.com/home.htm.

By land and sea, ancient surfing traditions are still being carried on in Hawaii. And this is a particularly good time to take in surfing at is best. With the gigantic waves on display at the North Shore, the crowds gathered to watch these surfing competitions should have no lack of dramatic moments. And there's even a great alternative for those who'd like to stay dry. Even if you're not in Hawaii this week, you should be able to check out some of the highlights of these events on the web. So what're you waiting for, hodads - surf's up!

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