Pitch black, except for the moon's faint hue reflecting on the water. But it got light quick, couldn't let the darkness fool you. It was actually the perfect time to paddle out. Stillness, glass, no longer night, not yet day. You'd never think anyone else would be crazy enough to get to the beach that early. But there always was.
He's the guy that taught the rest of us the meaning of stoke. The 'being fired up on surfing the next morning', before you even went to bed the night prior. Hell sometime you take the night straight into dawn patrol. Uncle Ian set the standard for dawn patrol, always beating the sun. He wasn't a one spot kind of guy, but if you found yourself at a break, at the crack of dawn, and he was there...there's no doubt you were in the ideal location for the given swell direction and conditions. He surfed with sustained passion, and if you didn't get discouraged by all the times he'd snake you, he'd end up being one of your favorite people in the line up. The first in and last out, almost always.
His spirit rallied us to dawn patrol in life, and it rallied us in death. 5:30 on the dot, everyone's cars lined up at the beach, boards out, the sound of new wax rubbing against old, the sound of hands slapping and hugs closing in. The shorebreak was tough. Typical slammy Waipi'o, sketchy sandbar stacked together by the Winter's North swells. A line of watermen, accomplished, powerful, traveled, Big Island surfers, staring out at the horizon in disbelief.
As a surfer, the only way you know to celebrate another surfers life is to paddle out to their favorite break and remember all the sweet, salty moments you shared together as you rode waves and left life on the land. There were stories floating around with the flower leis thrown into the circle we formed sitting on our boards, holding hands, holding space in the container or the ocean in our little corner of the Pacific. "We had our first date here", Barbara said. "He paddled out at the rivermouth on a wet murky day so I figured if I paddled out after him I had a pretty good chance of being safe", Ned said, laughing. "He loved Maui", his sister Paula whispered, "he always said, 'Maui no ka oi...but it doesn't have Waipi'o". "First in the water. Always", Spencer said, nodding out to the ocean.
We gathered to celebrate his spirit the only way that seemed right. Surfing. His ashes brought out through the impact zone and into the rolling stillness of the line up. Everyone dove into the water and into his ashes. It was so quiet beneath the surface. So incredibly still. Silence. Funny how you can't feel tears falling when you're submerged in salt water, and yet they are some of the most potent tears you'll ever cry.
The sets started rolling in. And we surfed. Wave after wave, it was like watching a surf film, some of the best watermen on the island, dropping in, one after another. Years of history, hours spent together forgetting about time. Each surfer with a distinct style. Minus one.
But his style will never be forgotten. His trademark snap, always on the barrel hunt, forever young, forever fun, forever passionate. Today he went back to the sea. And if you knew him at all, maybe even just a day, you'd know he went home today. Because the sea is the only possible place in this universe from whence he could have come.
April 23, 2016
photographs by Sarah Anderson
© Sarah Anderson Photography