A Dark Redemption
How one surfboard has kept me from losing my mind during the quarantine.
The waves are still there, unfurling on a coast unaware of a crowd more than five. The beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii are mostly challenging to access. So when they closed the gates and set patrol cars like watchdogs, I quietly broke into a thousand pieces. Later, I’m sure from a surge of raging surfers, the governor clarified his “shelter-in-place mandate,” gluing my broken self back together. Surfing would be allowed, even encouraged so long as one kept the 6-foot criteria of breathing room. The breaks I usually ride have well-planned, convenient public access. Now the only way in was through a backdoor field of burnt lava, which required at least a thirty-minute hike.
Enter Dark Arts
Last December, I acquired a 6-foot Pyzel shaped Astro Pop glassed by the mastermind behind Dark Arts Surf, Justin Ternes. A full carbon board light enough to hold with two fingers while riding a bicycle. I’ve come to love the in-water performance of this board. I’ve thus far tackled typical Hawaii winter surf and smaller days when its ability to catch a bump has ensured my victory in wave counts over jealous onlookers.
I have a backpack designed for carrying boards while using a bicycle or a dirt bike for those harder to reach locations, but now I didn’t need it. It was time to put to use the ingenuity of a surfboard that took about as much effort to carry as my tennis racket.
An Adventure of Sorts
I socially distanced myself from my family before the sun had a chance to convince them otherwise. I drove down to the closest point of entry inches before a collage of “Beach Closed, Do Not Access” signs. I met a friend who brought with him two bicycles for us to use to reach our favorite spot. He pulled his board and home-made backpack from the backseat of his car proceeding to tie and attach in a complicated mess.
“How are you going to carry that?”
His eyes fell on my silky, black beauty upon which I picked up with my thumb and two fingers, and replied:
“You mean this?”
His jaw almost hit the black earth below our feet.
“Dude. What is that?”
“It’s the future.”
As though I had some role in producing this beast of burden.
“I got to get me one of those, especially if the quarantine keeps us for the rest of our lives.”
I stood tall as silver with my board comfortably tucked under my arm, my bottom touching the bicycle seat, and my patience growing wildly thin, waiting for my buddy to configure his method of transportation.
Eventually, we got going, brambling over iron-like lava rock, watching the waves fall in perfect sets on the barren, magical Kona coast.
We passed a security guard on his 4-wheeler.
“If he tells us to go, we should probably go. No need to push this any further than we have to right now.”
I reluctantly agreed, nodding my head as our wheels churned over the young ground.
“You guys going for a surf?”
“Yup. Is that alright?”
“Yeah. You’ll be the only ones out there. Have fun.”
And as we triumphantly resumed our feet on our pedals, he turned his head and said:
“Whoa brah. Nice board!”
“That was easy enough.”
“Yeah. I guess he got the governor’s memo.”
We road for another five minutes before my friend’s board came loose, almost falling into a rock in certain death.
“Sorry, man. This may take me a minute.”
“No worries. I’ll wait.”
Now my only wish was that he was carrying what I was, as I continued watching lines like blank postcards. He jimmy-rigged the board into his backpack with a series of knots that would have passed a sailor’s test. Then I comfortably moved my board a little higher into my armpit, and we were off again. We passed friends and strangers who held similar minds, sans the bicycles. They carried boards like South African women carry babies, some strapped to their backs, some above their heads, none without an effort.
“Nice board, man!”
I smiled and raised it into the air like a trophy while steering the bicycle across treachery.
We deliberated on which spot looked best then paddled out into a sea that kept one lone man who’d been catching everything in sight.
After a five-round-fight with white water, we settled near the man, six-feet apart, then watched a few large rollers fall onto the floor like a glass bowl shattering into a thousand pieces.
I turned my back to the horizon and stared towards the shore I’d known as a bustling playground for families and tourists.
This is quite magical, I thought, and then I rode a flurry of waves with gratitude that drowned the gloom and insanity.
My buddy looked at me after I’d caught far too many.
“You like that board, don’t you.”
“I love it.”