Words by Dibi Fletcher
Photos by Herbie Fletcher
Thousands of miles from the nearest land mass, in the middle of the Pacific, is a group of islands collectively called Hawaii. With lush tropical vegetation, rainforests, waterfalls, and magnificent beaches, it could be Eden. Built on lava from an active volcano that ancient legend claims are the mountaintops of a lost civilization, there’s a sense of magic that comes alive when you listen to the sounds of nature. It’s elusive, like a dream that fades on waking, just beyond sight and sound. But when the surf comes up and the crowds start maneuvering for waves, you feel the underlying fierceness that seems ready to erupt at the slightest provocation.
This is the land that spawned the Wave Warriors, a unique breed of young men who pit themselves against the awesome power of nature on any given day, for the pure thrill of it.
During November and December, when the rest of the Western Hemisphere is planning their winter ski trips, the international surfing community is gathered on the 7.5-mile strip of Hawaii beach on the North Shore of Oahu for the Triple Crown event, a series of three contests, the last stop on the men’s professional surf tour where the world title is usually decided. With the right conditions, the final stop at the Banzai Pipeline is an awesome spectacle. The swell comes out of deep water to hit a coral reef that jacks the waves up into huge cylinders that come crashing down on razor-sharp coral heads hidden just below the water’s surface. The lip that pitches out of the top of the wave can break a board like a matchstick—and often does—with the surfer bailing out so as to not suffer the same fate. If he makes the drop and gets in the right position, he’s so far back in the tube that he’s buried from sight until the power of the wave pushes him out with a huge surge of spray, while the crowds are on their feet cheering.
The surf at Pipeline is so treacherous that the local surfers have banded together to protect the “boys” and the break from the huge winter migration that is taking on epic proportions. There’s only room for one person on a wave, and with the surfers, boogie boarders, cameramen, body surfers, and all-around kooks in the lineup, things can get pretty terrifying. The posse police the break, meting out a certain kind of tribal justice, trying to keep pecking order so the Warrior’s have a chance to ride another day.
It’s with the same kind of protective fierceness that Da Hui (the Club) was formed to protect the land rights of the Kanaka Maoli (full-blooded Hawaiians). As the land rush marches on for island property, the indigenous people are being forced to sell their heritage. What was once sacred in Hawaii is turned into hotels, condos, tract homes, and timeshares that stand half-empty as a mockery to the ground that once whispered the songs of their ancestors. Hopefully the active volcano and the crack of the waves thundering to shore will keep the fire of the fight alive so these proud people will not be pushed onto the “reservation” slums, like the American Indians before them.
For more information on Hawaiian land rights visit www.hawaii-gov.net