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4. Learning to Surf in(and out of)LA: Year Three

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

Honolua Bay, Maui, January 2019

For Phil and I, both in surfing and in our relationship, 2017 and 2018 were about building on all that we hard learned, and becoming “better” as people, as partners, and as surfers. We got engaged and married during these years, both immediately following a surf session of course!

During our third year of surfing, we found ourselves exploring surf breaks throughout LA, into the greater SoCal area, and beyond. One of the best things about surfing is that every break is different and every wave is different. Stepping out of our Santa Monica and Venice Beach comfort zones forced us to grow.

I found drops that thrilled me (El Porto), take-off points I wasn’t yet ready for (Topanga), fun summer spots (County Line, Sunset and Zuma), breaks that taught and frustrated me (K38 in Mexico) and then a few new breaks that had a bit of magic to them…

The Break was Huntington Beach North Side, to the right of the Huntington Beach Pier if you’re facing the beach. Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City, is a notorious surf location. As you walk through the streets you can’t escape the surf: surf shops, surf statues, people walking here and there with boards tucked under their arms. It’s great!

Huntington Beach is a beach break. There are bigger waves that break pretty far out along the pier where pros rip and ride, and on the South Side of the pier many surf contests are set. It’s a better spot in the winter when there’s more swell and less crowds. It is not the best beginner spot, but beginners can get away with surfing on the inside away from the pros, on slightly smaller days. Phil and I visited the break a few times through the summer and fall and had some fun sessions more on the inside, which offers short rides and a soft sandy bottom to crash down onto.

One weekend in October of 2017, during the NPPL Surf City USA Open, Phil took me on a little surprise weekend trip to the Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel, a cute spot right across the street from the Huntington pier. The hotel is entirely surf themed with wetsuit art hanging on the walls and a daily surf report posted on a chalkboard at the reception desk.

Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel, @ Friends and Family Wedding Reception, April 2018

That Saturday morning when we arrived to surf, it was uncharacteristically windy for the AM. The waves were all awash, it was hard to paddle out against the current, and it was almost impossible to catch a decent wave. But we tried, we fought, we had some fun and got splashed in the face a lot.

Huntington Beach, 2018

I was still plodding away on my Addvance, and Phil was trying out a bunch of different smaller boards, among them a Greedy Beaver 6’2” in LFT construction, which he would later go on to snap in half right there in Huntington Beach on a big messy wave day in April 2018 (when we had a wedding reception for our close friends and family on the beach.) But back to October...

When we got back on to the beach, tired and dripping, Phil sat beside me on our towel and began a short speech about the special transformation of our relationship and his love for me. “Thanks,” I said slightly confused, thinking mainly, this better not be a proposal because there’s no way there’s a ring sitting in our beach bag that’s been unattended for the past two hours.

Then, sure enough, Phil reached into our surf bag and pulled out a small box. It was a beautiful round diamond (once his grandmothers) set high with six prongs on a platinum band. “Be my surf wife forever?” He asked, and in the bright sunshine, salty and sandy with the ocean breeze blowing and the waves crashing, I said “Yes!”

The Break was Honolua Bay in Maui, HI. It is one of Maui’s most beautiful and popular surf breaks. It’s a right hand point break that peels in numerous lines from the gorgeous high walls of the bay that surrounds it. The rides are long and luxurious and on a big wave day there are multiple barrels rolling over at the same time. This would not be a recommended beginner spot on a bigger wave day.

Our trip to Maui was our first surf trip where we traveled somewhere new, rented boards, did research on the local surf spots, and got in the water to try them out. Of course we weren’t running off to the North Shore of Oahu, to surf Pipeline. We wanted to explore some of the very chill reef and point breaks that Maui has to offer. And luckily, the winter swell was very small during our stay.

Phil and I were lucky enough to catch Honolua Bay on a 3-4 foot wave day. There were only four locals in the water, and their vibes were chill. This first time, we made the mistake of paddling out from the inlet, which took almost an hour. In future sessions, we would come to find the steep but not too dangerous path down the cliff that you can hike directly to the surf spot and save yourself a lot of time and arm exhaustion.

The waves at Honolua Bay were very manageable. It was a bit hard to catch one, the swell being so weak and the waves breaking late, but when we did, the point break showed us some fun long rides. We did have to watch out for the rocky shallows that the end of the rides pushed us towards.

I have certainly never surfed anywhere more beautiful than Honolua Bay: mountainous cliffs surround you, open ocean stretching out before you, crystal clear rocky water below, and lines of waves ever churning.

Honolua Bay, Maui, January 2018

The Break was Thousand Peaks, located at Papalaua Beach Park, a lovely clear water spot off the Honoapiilani Highway on the sunny Lahaina side of Maui. You can pull right onto the beach at Thousand Peeks, grab your boards and then very carefully wade out onto the fairly shallow reef (reef booties highly recommended or feet cuts are a guarantee!)

The surfing at Thousand Peeks was something out of a dream. There were literally a thousand peaks! (okay, more like 30) that spread out starting maybe 100 yards off shore. Each peak was sprinkled with a circus of lovely surfers. Stand up paddle boarders with their dog riding on the front. A family of four, a mom and three kids, all on one 10 foot board. Kayak surfers and hydrofoils somehow not hitting the reef and bouncing along. Narrow long boards with riders dancing, side stepping, head standing and spinning, on the little peaks that broke and pushed forward for what seemed like forever. I could not wait to get in the water!

We had rented some well used 7 foot boards from a local shop (which we would return to, the following year) called Maui Mike’s Beach House. And they were perfect. I had never experienced a wave less threatening and easier to catch than at Thousand Peaks on the morning of January 25th of 2018. I’d see a peek forming, take an easy paddle, the wave was slow but also somehow quite easy to pick up. The pop up was graceful at such a slow speed and with almost no drop to speak of, and the wave just pushed me straight down the reef, on and on until it was too shallow to ride any longer. Then I’d drop down onto the board, no falling necessary, and paddle back out to do it again. The only danger was the reef, which would slice your soggy feet right up, but other than the reef, surfing had never been as fun or easy as it was on this day.

Thousand Peaks, Maui, January 2018

Phil and I had planned our trip to Maui well before our engagement, and once we were engaged, Phil got it in his head that we should have our own secret wedding on the island before our friends and family ceremony scheduled for Huntington Beach on 4/20/2018. At first, I hated the idea of eloping, it seemed too soon, it seemed so sneaky, but he talked me into it, and it turned out that getting "Mauied" after a session surfing at Thousand Peaks, was the best thing I could imagine!

We surfed countless waves that morning, more waves that we had ever surfed in a single session before. On top of that, it was whale-mating season and we saw numerous whales in the distance breach and blow just as we were finishing up our session and headed to a Banyan Tree in Napili Bay to exchange our wedding vows. We were married in the spirit of Love and Aloha, as a slight misty good-luck rain sprinkled down upon us. I couldn’t have asked for a better surf-wedding day or first surf trip to Maui.

Nipili Bay, Maui, January 2018

We left looking forward to a life full of surf days, surf trips, and sweet rides ahead as we pushed on with our lessons from the sea!

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