Thursday, January 11, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 11, 2001

Surfing by moonlight

By Seabrook Mow
Special to The Advertiser

During the summer, the south swells are rolling in solid 3- to 6-foot sets. Everyone is out there catching rays as well as waves.

Bryan Kuwada waxes up his surfboard before heading out to do some night surfing with friends.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

But for Brian Kuwada, 23, of
Ewa, finding the time to go to the beach during the day is close to impossible. Kuwada is a full-time student, taking classes in Hawaiian Studies and Computer Science, and works part-time at the self-help center at Hickam.

So Kuwada surfs at night.

Except for being under the cool moonlight instead of the hot sun, Kuwada said, "It’s all the same day or night because you’re still surfing."

Night surfers will still ride and perform the same moves they would do in the day, from cutbacks to riding the nose.

"When you ride the nose it feels like you’re gliding on the water," said Gavan Miyashita, 23, an entertainer from Pearl City. "Because it’s just an unreal feeling being under the stars and paddling under the darkness of the night."

For many night surfers, the preferred spot is Queen’s or Canoes beach, both in Waikiki. The big reasons are the waves are a little mellower and the city lights help you see better. However, according to Kaliko Keahilihau, 23, a City Mill employee from Hilo, people go night surfing all over the place, from the North Shore to the Mainland.

"I just think the people that go night surfing at North Shore are crazy, because there’s no (street) lights and it’s freaking huge out there," Kuwada said.

Indeed, night surfing does have additional risk.

"Like you can hardly see the waves, making it a whole new challenge," Keahilihau said. So with the sense of sight limited, night surfers have to depend more on their ability to feel the wave.

The best time to night surf is when there’s a full moon.

With no moonlight, surfers have to look toward the ocean’s horizon and struggle to look for the body or the peak of the wave as it rumbles in.

Another technique is to stay closer to shore than other surfers and watch them bob as the wave passes. This gives a surfer the approximate whereabouts of the wave.

But no matter how carefully a night surfer reads the ocean, there’s always a rogue wave that will sneak up you.

"It’s like sitting out there and a wave just surprises you and wipes you out," said Kuwada. "Everyone gets doughnuts (wiped out)."

Another problem is watching out for other surfers.

"You might unknowingly run over someone, or they might run you over," said Patricia Tannahill, 21, a full-time student from Wahiawa.

To solve that problem, Kuwada said he tried carrying glow sticks. But that idea was quickly tossed, because of fear that the illuminating light might attract another problem: sharks.

Keahilihau advises first-timers that night surfing may seem scary at first, but once you’re out there it’s a whole new world.

Kuwada said night surfing has a lot of benefits.

"It’s obviously less crowded and the conditions are a little better (on the South Shore), because of lighter winds," Kuwada said.

Said Tannahill: "I think night surfing actually makes you a better surfer since you learn to feel the wave instead of depending on your sight."

But Tannahill night surfs because of the atmosphere.

"I love looking at the stars when you’re on the wave; also all the elements I love are there: the night, stars and the ocean," she said.

Kuwada said he once witnessed a meteor shower while waiting for a set. "The lights and the stars are all beautiful," Kuwada said.

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