A few weeks before I left to join the Navy, I hitchhiked to the North shore to hang out for the day. I ended up at Waimea Bay because it’s always been the most perfect beach to hang out and feel Hawaiian when your white.
It’s not the best place to body surf, but I felt comfortable with it and the shore break wasn’t too big. The beach drops off big time, so you don’t have to go out much to catch the break – I jumped in and started to surf.
I got into it – few times in my life have I had that perfect combination of push and pull. The sun was bright and hot, the water cold and clean, and each wave got bigger and better. I was soon getting long rides, then crashing on the shore (over the falls), then being sucked by the action -- always out to get another. As the waves got gradually bigger, they set up just a little bit further each time. I got sucked out on several levels. I felt alive.
Then I felt something else. A big wave hit me and knocked the wind out of me. The force of the undertow dragged me further out into the bay. Then another, even bigger wave, hit me – and as it dragged me up and over, I could see an unbroken line of white out in the ocean– the bay had closed out – one big wave the size of the entire bay was coming.
At this point I was trying to stay above the water – but the sea had pounded the water so much that I was trying to swim in an airy foam. For a while, how long I couldn’t say, I fought with all my might to get a breath before another wave slammed me. I’d be under the water, tumbling for what seemed like an eternity, and then float up at some weird angle to get a mouth of froth that I’d then try to filter with my teeth -- kind of like gills I think. This went on for a while.
Then I gave up, stopped struggling, surrendered – I went limp in the water.
I remember looking up through the water at the sunlight. At the edges I saw my life spiraling around me like a helix shaped movie reel or, a thickly bordered slideshow. Each memory was holographic – The dog that died in a bookcase accident when I was three was one of the slides – but within the picture I also saw the house I lived in at the time, the ice plant I played on, friends and all my family activities – each slide on the reel that went by had the weight of little lifetimes.
I wasn’t sad as I was dying – I was in a morphine like state, just watching a movie – I knew what was happening, but it seemed outside me -- but I knew it was me and I knew it was real.
Then, so suddenly it had the feel of a roaring train, I was standing on the beach.
I just stood stunned, and something kicked in and I started yelling for help. Then I noticed I was standing in six inches of water – I looked around, saw only beach all around me, and started running as fast as I could out and away.
I sat on the high end of the beach and shook. There was no audience; no one came to make a big deal out of it. After a few minutes I headed out to the parking lot and started the hitchhike home.