Pro surfing as a spectator sport

What could be better than sitting on a spectacular, internationally-renowned beach watching some of the best surfers in the world compete right in front of our eyes? It was like watching magicians of the waves performing just for us. They are so at ease in the water. I didn’t get close enough to see if they’ve got webbed feet, but they might…

Over and over, we watched surfers drop down the face of a wave 10 to 12 feet high and disappear into the barrel it created. Each wave was different; each rider had his style. If it was a good wave, they would disappear inside the barrel for a few seconds then come out the other side still standing. Many ended their run with a flashy move doubling back over the lip of the wave to rejoin the line-up, earning extra points. A good ride had people on the beach cheering and clapping, not that the surfers could hear us.

We were watching the Volcom Pipe Pro 2019, a competition that drew 144 surfers from all over the world. Over four days and in heats of four at a time, the field was whittled down to the top four for the finale. We spent two days watching them surf and saw Jack Robinson of Australia receive his winner’s laurels in the form of a palm frond crown, plus some cash of course. Local son, Barron Mamiya came in second.

The annual competition is always held here, at the surf break know as the Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach Park on Oahu’s North Shore. It’s one of several held at Pipeline during the big wave months of winter. It was thrilling to be here during one of them; I couldn’t have hoped for better.

The competition is broadcast live. To get the footage, several cameras are located on shore, including two mounted on long booms. A drone hovers overhead. One cameraman is in the water actually swimming to get his shots and another rides on one of the two jet skis of the Ocean Safety team who are there to help the surfers in case of an emergency. The cameraman on the jet ski was Larry Haynes, our “landlord” – by coincidence we had rented an apartment from him for our stay on the North Shore. It was a blast to watch him and his driver perform in the mountainous waves, keeping the jet ski a safe distance from the surfers but close enough to get the footage that was used for judging and that we later got to watch on TV.

Larry is an accomplished photographer, videographer, waterman and surfer. We learned a lot from him about the competition, surfing and the North Shore. He truly embodied the Hawaiian culture of Aloha with his warmth and friendliness.

I don’t have pictures of the action, that’s way beyond the capacity of my humble camera, so the best way for me to share it with you is through this link: Volcom Pipe Pro highlights.

Getting to see and learn about surfing has definitely been a highlight of our visit to Hawaii this winter.


Food truck dining

There is always a food truck nearby when you’re hungry on the island of Oahu. Some have a reputation reaching far beyond the island. Others seem a little quirkier.

We ate at one of the most famous – Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. It began in 1953 in a converted bread truck that stopped at different spots  to offer their limited menu – Shrimp scampi, Hot and spicy shrimp, and Lemon butter shrimp. Since they were the only show in town, the developed a following for their delicious dishes and started a trend. Now Giovanni’s has two food trucks anchoring the North Shore and eating here is part of the North Shore experience.

We ate at the one in Haleiwa village, at the west end of the road – it’s address: across from the MacDonalds. It was a 20-minute wait just to place your order. Then, another 20 minutes to get your food. But it was worth it. Garlicky grilled shrimp on a bed of rice: peel and eat. Once you taste them, you forget all about the wait.

Each food truck has a specialty: tacos, sandwiches, burgers, sushi, bbq chicken or pork, fresh fruit, and shave ice. Often, the best recommendation is simply the people gathered around the truck. One day as we were driving along the east coast, we spied a dozen people at a food truck – that’s where we were going to have lunch!

It’s called the Holo Holo Stop, open weekends and holidays only. I asked the woman in front of me what was good to eat. She said, “It’s supposed to be the best place for Lau Lau.” What’s that? “I’m not sure,” she said but ordered one anyway. We watched as the chef prepared it, keeping up a constant commentary. It looked good and like nothing we’d ever eaten, so we ordered it too.

The chef, a big man who barely fit in the cooking area, described the various components. First on the plate, steamed sticky rice, then the Lau Lau: slow cooked pork, onions and taro leaves, next the Pasteles, a savory pudding of potatoes, bananas, olives, tomato paste and various seasonings. These last two are baked and boiled respectively wrapped in taro leaves so he unwrapped them in front of us. Saimen came next, a relish made with ingredients similar to a Mexican pico de gallo, but seasoned differently and enhanced with cubes of Spam. He topped it off with his special spicy sauce and voila – lunch! It was delicious and we were pleased we’d opted to share one plate. We weren’t even able to finish it.


Taro is root vegetable staple of the Polynesian islands. In Hawaii, it famously used to make poi, a creamy food similar to yogurt that has a light purple colour from the natural colour of the taro. It’s also eaten baked or boiled. Leaves can be cooked or used to wrap other foods for cooking like the Lau Lau.

Spam is inordinately popular in Hawaii. The state has the highest per capita consumption, about 6 million cans per year for a population of 1.4 million. They even make sushi with it.

Shave ice is exactly that, ice shaved so fine it’s like snow. It’s served topped with flavoured fruit syrups and the best way to eat it is with a scoop of ice cream as the base.

What do you do when it rains in paradise?

By definition the tropics are wet, rain keeps the vegetation lush and abundant. Coming here in the rainy season, we knew what to expect. Turns out we’re here during a particularly rainy stretch. We even got rain on the “dry” side of Maui where typically the grass crunches underfoot. Rain showers are often short but intense, and it seems to rain just as we’re about to do something.

So instead of spending time on the beach we’re exploring the island. Continue reading What do you do when it rains in paradise?


You’re probably thinking about the movie, but that’s not what I’m talking about. On the North Shore of Maui there is a world famous surf spot called Pe’ahi. It can claim some of the biggest waves ever surfed in the world. But beware, it’s also been known to chew up surfers and spit them out broken and damaged if they are not up to the challenge. Surfers call it Jaws. No surprise then that it’s the first place we went to after settling into our digs on Maui. Continue reading Jaws

There are stories down every road.