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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 4, 2002

Buddy system just right for surfing

From left, Kevin Kawai, Cale Char, Randall Gibo and Todd Yoshimura head out to surf at Concessions at Ala Moana Beach Park. Char says, it's "good fun talking story waiting for waves."

Photos by Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Imagine that moment between sets.

You're sitting on your board in the lineup, watching for shifts in the horizon, waiting for that next flurry of four-footers.

You can feel yourself breathe. The sky is a blue you can't describe. And the fact that you have to be at work in half an hour becomes irrelevant.

You're completely lost in your surroundings, in the pulsing waves, the shifting clouds.

Suddenly, the waters change. A pulse turns into a swell, poised to break in your direction. The face looms ahead. Your heart races as you quickly turn your board, get into position. Paddle, paddle, paddle! You dig in, pushing yourself, faster, faster, faster, until you're riding the face, flying toward the shore.

That moment wouldn't matter so much had you been alone.

But you weren't.

When you paddle back to the lineup, you see your two surf buddies, smiling, waving, yelling, "Nice ride." Even a nod of appreciation from an old-timer is enough to make you beam with pride.

Surfing, in itself, is fun. But there's something about being out there with friends that make the experience more meaningful.

"It's fun to surf with other people 'cause you can be stoked for each other and push each other to go for it," said Rona Awber, an avid surfer who has been riding with friend Melanie Yang for four years. "I surf by myself sometimes, but it is easier to be motivated when you have someone else to go with."

They try to hit the waves at least once a week, usually at Tonggs, usually in the morning and always followed by coffee at Bogart's on Monsarrat Avenue.

"We compliment each other really well," said Yang, 30, who manages the Pegge Hopper Gallery in Nu'uanu. "We have the same routine. It's very monotonous and very comfortable. The only thing that changes is the waves."

Of course, monotony can impede progress. So Yang tries to mix up her water workout by bodyboarding during the weekdays in Kailua, where she lives. Sometimes she'll surf at Canoes in Waikiki by herself, maneuvering through the crowd close enough to shore to feel safe.

"I got into the routine of going out with at least one person," said Yang, who has been longboarding on and off for eight years. "But if I go out (by myself), I'll go to Waikiki. I feel safer and less vulnerable."

From left, surfers Todd Yoshimura, Kevin Kawai, Cale Char and Randall Gibo wax their boards before heading out to catch some waves. The group of friends has been surfing together for six years. Surfing together is a natural, says Char. "For one, we're all super good friends. And two, we all have busy lifestyles."
Call it the buddy system for surfers.

There were nearly 600 surfing-related accidents last year, according to the city's Ocean Safety division. More than half of those occurred in Waikiki, where tourists and locals clog the waves fronting the Duke Kahanamoku statue.

Part of being safe is learning the right techniques from veteran surfers.

"When I first started to surf, my friends used to help me out, give me pointers," Yang said. "They'd tell me if I'm paddling too weak or I'm not where I'm supposed to be. They'd encourage and cheer me on. That was really important in the beginning."

Awber, who considers herself accident-prone, feels safer surfing with someone else.

"I've hit myself in the head with my own board twice this past year so far," said the 28-year-old jewelry designer. "I got stung by jellyfish and stepped on a sea urchin."

The dangers of surfing, which can range from scrapping your knees on the reef to concussions from whacking your head with the board, haven't deterred the two from the sport.

"I like surfing because it's fun and it's a workout," Awber said. "Not because I want to be a super ripper surfer girl. It makes me smile. Plus, this sounds cheesy, but the ocean is big and beautiful and it really makes you realize we are way too uptight and my problems aren't really that bad."

Cale Char enjoys the camaraderie that comes from surfing with his buddies.

He tries to surf at least four to five times a week, sometimes alone, but most often with the usual group at the usual spots — Concessions or Suicides — for the usual reasons.

"For one, we're all super good friends," said the 31-year-old professional medical representative from 'Aina Haina, who has been surfing for 20 years. "And two, we all have busy lifestyles. All four of us aren't the type of guys who go to 24-hour Fitness to work up a sweat after work. If I have an hour or two, I'd rather get in the ocean. It's more peaceful and tranquil. And it's good fun talking story waiting for waves."

There's something about being in the water, away from cell phones and rush-hour traffic, that makes the experience very zen.

"Being in the water, you really appreciate what a beautiful place this is," Yang said. "You could have the worst day at work, but you go out and you say, 'Wow, I'm so lucky.' "