Travelling with Lucie
Aloha is more than a greeting ...
Hawaii, Oahu Island
“Hi there – I was beginning to wonder what´s up with you ... haven´t seen you for ages,” said Teene. We´re on Makaha Beach on the island of Oahu, it´s December, about seven in the morning. I smile at him, thinking how I love these lunatics. The last time he saw me was a year ago. Putting aside the fact that time on Hawaii flows m-u-c-h slower in comparison to Europe this nation of surfers follows a completely different calendar. So I opt for no explanations. “Yeah, it´s been a while ... but now I am back,” I say, aware of the fact that here only the present counts. Who is interested in who you were a year ago, or yesterday? The important thing is who you are now. The locals call it “Aloha spirit”. I kneel in the sand and begin waxing my board.
THE SECRET BROTHERHOOD
If you´ve seen that old movie „Breaking Point“, it describes surfers pretty accurately: a band of slightly asocial individuals locked up in their own world which you can learn to comprehend only after you´ve caught that first big wave. I don´t mean those ripples you use when learning to stand on your board. I mean THAT WAVE. The one you will never forget, the one that will install you in this brotherhood of wonderful people riding those boards far off the coast. That moment is preceded by hectolitres of swallowed sea water, surfboards banging into your head with you oblivious to what is up or down. But one day it will come. YOUR wave will race in on you, you start paddling for your life and when that beauty gives you a kick you scramble up on your board intuitively. Suddenly there is only a thin line between heaven and hell, the board takes off with such wild beauty that this barrier vanishes and with it everything else, the world and all its wars, the economic crisis, your job, your pain ... your whole YOU vanishes. Happiness. Euphoria. Joy. Energy. Strength. Speed. Humility. Ocean. All of that is you in a single moment.
Oahu Island is full of wonderful surf beaches; you can find a lot of surfing schools here too. It´s just up to you whether you decide to start “on the sand” at 150 dollars an hour or go to a lesser known beach and give a local 50 dollars for a lesson which lasts till you fall off the board. The fee includes the board rental. If you already surf find out where there is a reef on the beach and where the rips are. Any lifeguard will advise you, or other surfers. Some beaches belong to surfer clans or locals and even if nothing actually happens to you, you may feel unwelcome. It pays to ask. If you go to the famous North Shore it´s worth watching the pros at work. There are famous surf beaches like Banzai Pipeline or Sunset Beach where in November and December the truly famous surfing competitions take place. This is where legends like Kelly Slater, Rob Machado or Coco-Ho ride their boards.
SNOBS OR GENUINE HAWAII?
If you fly to Hawaii you will land on the island of Oahu in the capital city of Honolulu. Most people usually head straight for Waikiki, the most famous and by far not the most beautiful beach. That´s where they split up: those who say OK so now I´ve seen it and let´s get the heck out of here and find some peace; and those who decide they like this beach – which actually has very little to do with the real Hawaii. You can also “do” Hawaii in two days – if you´re not an obsessed fan of the TV series HAWAII 5-0. One day for the city and another day for that legendary port, Pearl Harbour. It´s certainly worth paying to have a war veteran take you around to see the USS Arizona Memorial, or rather, to see what has survived of this battleship which lies just beneath the surface of the sea. What you can really visit is the submarine Bowfin or the battleship Missouri. An experience which could be compared to the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II was the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour, celebrated by a parade. If you can imagine how great nations organise military parades and reviews then the sight of old gents in uniform proudly marching past is enough to send tears into the eyes of even the most bigoted hippy. And there´s plenty of them on Oahu!
HIPPIES ... HIPPIES !!!
The moment you get out of Honolulu, everyone is equal. That´s one of the greatest advantages of the Hawaii islands. Any time an off-roader stops beside you on the beach you can never tell if the person getting out is a homeless vagabond, millionaire, teacher or the local doctor ... you simply won´t be able to tell the difference. It is a wonderful, liberating feeling. The only individuals who tend to really stick out are usually tourists. And those who stick out like a sore thumb are invariably Japanese tourists. Mostly they indulge in group snorkelling or wiggle away doing the traditional Hula-Hula. But back to the Hippies. On the northern coast of Oahu you will find the little town of Haleiwa. Forgetting that this is the capital city of the world´s surfer nation, I must add that during the sixties it was also adopted by the hippies. Actually the two do go together in a way. This was largely thanks to that cult film “The Endless Summer”. Straight after its premiere in 1964 the hippies, beachcombers and surfers headed for this beach, to the North Shore, and they have been here ever since. My friend John came here at the beginning of the seventies. “I left California 40 years ago for Hawaii because of surfing. I told myself: I am young, I´ll get a job and spend a year or so surfing. And see – I´m retired now and still here.” If you sit on one of the local beaches here (preferably not under a palm tree, those coconuts have a tendency to obey gravity when least expected!!!) and look out towards infinity or watch those champions riding five metre high waves you´ll quickly understand the strange way time passes here. Now and then you can still bump into one of those hippies from that venerable generation. After all, their painted VW minivans are still there standing between all those low-lying wooden a highly colourful bungalows - just like that famous shop run by Matsumota, the Japanese selling all and sundry but mainly Shaved Ice, local shaved ice in various flavours. You´ll find a surfer´s museum, the colourful house belonging to local artist Ron Artis, overlaid by painted surfboards, stylised shops, a congenial laid-back atmosphere and the ubiquitous delivery vans selling wonderful shrimps prepared in a thousand different ways.
COLOURS FROM THE OTHER WORLD
I was jogging from Makaha to Yokohama Beach, it was late afternoon, around five o´clock. The phenomenon that takes place on the beaches on this side of Oahu Island at this hour is very difficult to describe in words. Even the locals know this, be they from Waianae or homeless individuals from the local camp. On the beach, just like in the movie Angel City figures are standing around or sitting silhouetted against the dying sky. In the waves near the beach you can still see those surfing, waiting for that last wave before sunset. There is something prehistoric about this feeling ... this is where you finally can feel it. Hawaii is the land of a low flowing cloud, a cloud which creates an incredible panoptical vision as the day draws to its close. Pastel colours flow in and out of the heavens, colours which are truly not of this world. The sky is alive with the shapes of whales, dolphins and mythical turtles, sketched out in gentle orange, pink and violet hues. When the miracle finally occurs and the sun sinks into the sea, the giant volcanoes which border the coastline reflect this strange pastel light onto the narrow road which takes me home. Is this the beauty described by people who have been at death´s door? This long road leading through a rainbow tunnel imbued with the most beautiful pastel colours? And is this the reason why they call Hawaii the Rainbow Country? I slip on my earphones and almost literally fly home. In my ears I hear the sounds of Moravian ballads, in my soul I feel the infinite endlessness which descends upon you after five in the afternoon, day after day.
You can hear the word Aloha on Hawaii very often. The person behind the cash desk will say it to you in the shop, so will the surfer on the beach, your buddy in the bar. At first sight, an obvious greeting! But Aloha is much more. It´s a state of mind. Moreover, the condition you devote to others. Aloha is not just another Hi!, Hello!, Good Day. Neither is it goodbye, ciao nor farewell. We tend to say Good day pretty mechanically. As a pleasantry. But Aloha is not of this category of politeness. If we try to translate it from Hawaiian we will discover that ALOHA is a compound. Alo means “the present”, ha means “breath”. In other words, Aloha is the presence of God´s breath, the breath of the Creator. The old aunty of my friend, Ms Pilahi, whose Aloha I never cease cherishing, says joyfully: “... wait, soon the world will return to Hawaii to pick up one of the few words which have not lost their meaning.” Ages ago a small narrow gauge railway track used to run around the island. As soon as it was finished and people could use it one of the construction workmen used to greet holiday makers as they rolled by. He would lift his hand, waving only a thumb and a little finger. They were the only fingers he had. This gesture became famous and people attached it to the greeting. “Aloha, brother,” waves God, dressed up as a beggar on the roadside. And the Hawaiians recognise him.