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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

Big surf leaves broken boards, fond memories

By Allison Schaefers
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kahuku resident Asa Aquino, 21, did what he calls a "backwash flip" off a wave at Sandy Beach yesterday durning a second day of big south swells.
Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser
The monster surf turned friendly yesterday, with waves in the 8- to 10-foot range. Waves were expected to be in the 2- to 4-foot range today, according to the National Weather Service.

That was the remnant of one of the biggest swells of the decade.

Surf as high as 15 to 18 feet pounded the south shore of O'ahu on Wednesday, drawing both visitors and experienced surfers to places such as the popular Waikiki surfing spot Castles.

The huge waves are gone now, but in their wake are once-in-a lifetime memories of riding "the big one" for some, and broken surf boards for others.

"I haven't seen one of these days in a long, long time. It was big... real big," Rabbit Kekai said yesterday of Wednesday's waves. A revered waterman, the 82-year-old Kekai was trying to ride the remains of the big surf.

It's been years since he's seen bigger waves in Waikiki, Kekai said. He started surfing at age 5 and is known as the father of modern hot-dogging.

"I look for days like this when you have to fight for your life in the waves," Kekai said. "They happen once in a blue moon, and when it happens, that's the time to go play."

Lifeguards were busy Wednesday, pulling hundreds to shore who were exhausted, suffering cramps or who lost equipment in the water. Lifeguards working off Waikiki and Ala Moana beaches rescued 400 people and assisted 800 more in a 12-hour period. They found more than 180 broken surfboards.

The swell provided a rare opportunity for local surfers to take back the waves, said Josh Rust, 23, of Kailua, who said he doesn't normally surf Waikiki in the summer because the water is crowded and the waves are small.

"It was totally fun, and we had the waves to ourselves" Rust said.

Wednesday's surf was so enticing that it drew surfers like Gordon Liu of Waikiki until it got too dark to play.

Liu hit the waves at about 7 p.m. despite of limited light and having worked a full day at his airport shuttle job.

"I couldn't miss it," Liu said. "I was driving around all morning looking out the window with butterflies in my stomach. I couldn't wait to get out there."