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Sunday, September 17, 2000


This morning Garrett* and I surfed the Lanes at Ho'okipa. Instead of the six foot wide beach we used last time, we went to the "easy" side which has a whopping twenty foot beach. The part Garrett* neglected to tell me until the last minute was that you have to paddle around these here rocks:

I asked him what keeps the waves from smashing you into the rocks, and he said "your duck-diving skills!" and jumped in the water.

"Bb..But.. I don't have any duck diving skills!"

Fortunately no giant sets came at an inopportune time, and the current carried us out the channel. I caught one good wave -- with my usual start-too-late entry technique that left me pointing straight down the wave (as in feet to the sky, head to the center of the earth) as the lip peeled over the top, but I managed to stand up (or out, or whatever direction you stand on a vertical surface) and cut left before getting pitched or buried. Unfortunately I didn't get too far before the wave closed out, the crest in front of me reaching out, grabbing me by the head and taking me for a spin.

As I was paddling back out I ran into Garrett*, who'd seen that ride, and I asked him if he had any advice. He said "Yeah, paddle out. There's a big set coming!" Those duck-diving skills I don't have didn't come in handy, and I spent way too much time personally observing the unnerving fact that it's very hard to stay afloat in foamy, agitated water. By the time I finally got back out, I was ready to go back in and stay. Trouble is, in order to get back in, you have to catch a wave back to the rocks, then paddle out through the channel and exit it from the other side, then catch a wave from there to that twenty foot beach we started at, being careful as always not to paddle too deep lest you paw an urchin. Here's a sponger riding one of those waves:

All in all, it wasn't actually that hard. The currents work in your favor once you know what they are, and now that I've run the circuit once I'll probably be a little less timid next time... I sat on shore and read more of Einstein's biography while Garrett* had his fun.

At 11am, the wind surfers come out. There wasn't much wind so it was pretty tame. (But note the guy with the yellowish sail in the second photo is quite airborne.)

My friend Chiyo arrived today, so Garrett* and I took her wind surfing in the evening. I borrowed Garrett*'s board near dusk and when I plunked into the water at high velocity I came up for air with a sharp stinging across my neck. Shit! Jellyfish! I figured I'd get the hell out of there before I ran into any more, so I grabbed my boom to fly the sail, and felt an excruciating pain in my right hand. I lifted it out of the water to see it, and found a tangle of fine blue tentacle smashed into my right palm. I leaped out of the water and sat on the board, stung my left hand trying to get the tentacle off my right, and finally scraped it off using the sail.

Then I noticed the baby man-o-war dangling from the boom. In the choppy water it was too hard to tell where it's fine blue tentacles were or weren't, and I couldn't shake the damned thing loose. My hand hurt like hell (made my more typical neck strike seem almost irrelevant). I was way too far from shore to paddle back by dark, and I was drifting towards the infamous "triangle" -- a hell hole where waves come at you from two different directions and the wind and current from the third -- not a happy place to be nor an easy place to escape. I tried waving Garrett* down a few times in the hopes he could give me a tow, but I was running out of time so I bit the bullet and maneuvered the board and sail into the best position I could and then grabbed the boom where I guessed it was clear, executed a cautious water start and sailed to shore keeping a sharp eye on that damned jellyfish fluttering in the wind two inches from my hand and threatening to fly off right into my face if I wasn't careful.

I got to shore, dropped the board, and jumped up and down and said "OUCH" a lot, with probably a cuss word or two directed at my uninvited passenger. We packed up the gear, Garrett* taking a couple of minor stings himself just from what residue he couldn't eradicate from his sale, and headed home. The pain got progressively worse, and spread rapidly through my hyperactive immune system to my underarm of all places where my lymph nodes were no doubt having major indigestion. By the time we passed the airport, my hand felt like it had just been run over by a truck. By the time we got to Pukalani, both of my arms and the lower half of both legs had gone numb and I don't mean that can't-feel-anything numb but that excruciating buzzing kind where it feels like someone severed the limb and plugged the stump into a wall socket. I couldn't feel my hands at all, and my first thought was I'll have to wait until tomorrow to journal this.

We pulled into Foodland to see if their pharmacy had any handy remedies or recommendations. Garrett* returned to report that they recommended meat tenderizer or urine, and they were fresh out of urine so he got the meat tenderizer. I read the label: salt, sugar, food starch, and papain (the bug-unfriendly enzyme in green papayas that breaks down proteins). I can see how this might help if administered immediately, but by now it was too late for topical cures. I did have a strange urge to eat it, though, but I refrained for fear of dissolving my tongue.

When my limbs started going numb, I had some concern for my safety, but I never felt systemically bad at all (other than direct side effects of the pain like rapid short breaths) so I figured I'd wait for truly worrisome symptoms before I started truly worrying. In fact, by the time Garrett* had returned with the meat tenderizer, I'd regained sensation in both legs and the arms were returning too. No idea what my body did, but I'd pat myself on the back if my hand didn't hurt so much.

I took a few more stings extracting my wet suit in the shower, but by now I was almost savoring them like spicy food. Who needs Fugu when you can get wrapped up with a man-o-war for free?

All that's left now, some ten hours later, is a burning palm that's oozing a glaze of white blood cells right through the otherwise undamaged skin. It's very strange. I hope it doesn't do anything hideous like crust over tomorrow or something.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com