This must be the Summer of the Beach: I went four times in the space of two weeks, mostly beachcombing. I haven’t done that since our Florida vacations back when I desperately needed sun while trying to survive a Midwest winter. Those who have never experienced a prolonged, cold, overcast half-year might not understand the unbridled joy of bare feet hitting warm sand and the euphoria of feeling waves splash on legs slathered with sunscreen.
I can thank my daughters for getting me to the beach so often, though most of the time they want to go to Hapuna. This day, we went to the shady beach; they had been listening to me extol the virtues of beachcombing and curiosity got the better of them.
The visit stunned me because we found the beach at high tide. (I had yet to understand the importance of checking tide tables before beachcombing.) It felt like an entirely different place. The tide made it nearly impossible to reach the farther sections where earlier I found my best treasures. It’s a good thing this wasn’t my first visit, as I probably would have written this beach off.
But the day was not wasted. We enjoyed watching people use the ropes hanging from the nearby trees to jump in. And I noticed that high tide was no different from low tide in the way people enjoyed the water. In fact the snorkelers seemed to have more nooks and crannies to explore. I’m fascinated by the different aspects of beach life I’m experiencing – I never thought about it before.
We agreed that their dad would enjoy this bit of paradise, so we plotted to snare him into a family outing for the next day. He rarely takes time off from work, even on the weekend.
He agreed to come when we told him he’d be home by 1 pm and he could work the rest of the day. Jade also showed him the cool pictures she had taken there.
When we arrived, I was surprised to see relatively calm water, given the high surf warning we heard on the news the night before. Apparently the coral reefs farther out cut the power of the waves. It remained a safe beach for all to enjoy.
On this visit I found a dead sea urchin pushed up the beach by the waves. They have poison in their spines, so I kept my distance. It was a bit smaller than fist size. My husband carefully picked it up and moved it onto a log so that an unsuspecting person wouldn’t step on it.
I also found two ‘opihi shells right on the main swimming beach. I’d done some research since my last visit and found that Hawai‘i has three species of ‘opihi, all of which evolved from a Japanese limpet that reached here somehow. The largest of the three, often eaten raw as it’s pried off the rocks, is very difficult for the average Hawaiian to find anymore due to over-harvesting. It’s only found on Neighbor Island lava outcroppings that are dangerous to reach. This delicacy is an acquired taste. I understand that they are rubbery yet crunchy and salty, favored for their counterpoint to bland poi. Hawaiians offer it to guests at baby luaus, for its symbolism of clinging to the rocks as a baby clings to its mother.
We were all enjoying the search for beach treasure: the back shell of a crab, and a pencil urchin, dead but intact with most of its spines. I was examining the beach intently when a nearby woman said, “Don’t bother looking there – I just combed it. Nothing there.” At that moment I saw and picked up a spiral shell. Maybe it was too small for her taste.
Down the beach, I found two objects that looked like hard worm shells embedded in rock. I definitely have to take them to Dr. Beachcomb for identification. (See Beginner’s Beachcombing in Hawai‘i.) We found quite a rich treasure that day.
But better than the treasure was the people-watching. I loved seeing all the people there on the weekend. Parents were teaching their kids to surf, babies played in the sand, and keiki challenged their fears of snorkeling, especially since parents were right there to help them.
The water was gentle enough for beginners to try out their paddle-boarding techniques. It looks like a fun sport and somehow seems safer than surfing. Lots of places here rent water sport equipment, so maybe I’ll give it a go. I’m trying to think who might do it with me.
As we ocean bobbed, we watched a group of young boys fishing from the lava mound on the right side of the beach. These were not amateur tourists, but locals who were expertly catching fish. Their catch looked like bluegills only larger than an adult hand. Cries of triumph went up each time they hauled a fish onto the rocks and put it into the cooler.
All of these sights made me realize how lucky I am to have this bit of paradise only 50 minutes away. I vow to continue this wonderful pattern of Summer at the Beach, even if I have to skip water aerobics to do it.
The girls and I will swim at the beach today after going to the Turtle Independence Day festivities at the Mauna Lani Hotel. Happy Fourth of July!
PS. 6 hrs later: Hawai‘i public beaches are closed on holidays. Rats.
Also see Glassy angular sea surges: sea-glass (#2 of 3 essays on HI beachcombing). and Beachcombing with Dr. Beachcomb.
For tips on successful beachcombing, see Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue
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FYI: The Wisconsin State record Bluegill is 2 lb. 9.8 oz., 12 inches long, caught on 08/02/95 in the bay of Green Bay. On a good day on Fishtrap, Dave has caught them as big as his hand, and that’s a big hand!
After reading your swim/beach story, I had a need to go swimming. Maybe, the Y and maybe Lake Michigan. I am having a MRI on my shoulder on Monday so I will wait for results on my rotator cuff before stepping up my exercise program. I hope the doctor will say only physical therapy is needed and that I should try swimming. Marilyn