Along the stretches of coast that we don't ruin by building piers and jetties, we tend to think of surf spots as permanent fixtures, more or less. Reefs and points are geological features made over a timeline so great that our tiny mammalian brains struggle to comprehend their creation. But sometimes the earth reminds us just how erroneous our concept of permanence actually is.
Over the past few weeks, on the east coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, many of the breaks in the Pohoiki area were completely erased, buried under the relentless Kilauea lava flows. According to locals, standout waves such as Bowls, Secrets, Dead Trees and others have been consumed by lava.
It's a devastating blow amid an already difficult stretch for local residents, who have either already seen their homes taken by the lava flows, or are still fearful of the prospect.
"Secrets was a really good wave," says Hilo native Cliff Kapono, who posted the above video of the break a few days before it was overcome by the lava. "It was kind of a slabby wedge, and it was the go-to spot for a lot of surfers and bodyboarders in that area. It was one of those places where all kinds of people–surfers and bodyboarders–surfed together and everyone was friends.
There was a park in front of it where families would hang out and it was just a really beautiful and fun place to surf. It's crazy because the lava took houses, which is already terrible and very sad how much that has hurt people. But houses can be rebuilt. We cannot rebuild waves."
Other Big Island surfers have also taken to social media, posting about the memories they made surfing Pohoiki. Some of the Big Islands best-known talents, including Mikey O'Shaughnessy, Jimmy "Ulu Boi" Nateahi, Shayden Pacarro and more honed their considerable surf skills in Pohoiki.
"These are my home breaks, where my dad taught me how to surf, taking me out on his board," says Kalapana native, O'Shaughnessy. "That's where it all began for me. I wouldn't be who I am today if not for that place. It's where I learned about the currents, the rocks, the reef, the lava. That place made us all strong. It's disappearing more as we speak, but but all the memories we made at this place will live forever, and we'll pass stories of those waves on to our children."
Six years ago, I made this video after loosing a close friend. It was shot at a small cove on the south east side of my island. The special thing about this wave is that we can always find something to ride here. This particular day was no different. Some would call this place a sanctuary. For some it was a place to gather food. For me, it will always be a place to remember the ones who aren't with us. Very sad to hear Pohoiki "Secrets" is so close to being taken by the lava. Maybe They needed this wave in the next life. A hui hou. "We can always be bitter, but I'm trying not to be bitter if that should happen. Because sometimes death is gonna happen. It's part of life. Dying is a part of life right? So I'm trying not to, I'm asking God help me not be bitter because this life is just temporary but when we die, we have a promise that we can live forever. I can't even imagine what forever means. Kapono, we can surf every surf spot on the world if we live forever." – Uncle Randy
As a Kalapana local, O'Shaughnessy is well aware of the destructive power of volcanoes on the big island, as the original town of Kalapana was buried under lava during the eruption event of 1990 and has since been resettled.
“In Kalapana, Kaimu Beach and that area was all taken by the lava right before I was born in 1991,” says O’Shaughnessy. “My family surfed there, and that was arguably the best wave on the Big Island. It was consistent and had quality waves really often. There are other places on the island that get good, but maybe 99 times out of 100 it’s too windy or the tide is wrong.
“On the Big Island, you’ve gotta get on it while you can when there are windows, because tomorrow was never promised for us. But somehow I never imagined this would happen in Pohoiki. I always pictured myself teaching my kids to surf there. It's a tough pill to swallow, but I’m gonna remain strong and be happy for the times I did get to enjoy there.”
Countless hours, days, months of surfing/living in such a great place. Never really exposed this area on social media. Never really cared to. I can't tell you how many times I surfed perfect waves alone! I can't tell you how many moments i spent with family and friends. But, I can tell you! In one day I counted 84 barrels:) IM HOPING THIS WILL BE MY LAST POST OF POHOIKI. if it's meant to be it's meant to be. Nothing but the greatest memories. #yeahyou
The Kilauea eruption started on May 3, opening 22 fissures in the area known as the East Rift Zone, and lava flows have been wreaking havoc on the Big Island ever since. The lava flows from Fissure 8, the most prominent of the lava-leaking fissures, have caused widespread destruction and chaos, claiming over 700 homes and leading to the evacuations of thousands.
According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the lava delta now covers over 740 acres, extends a half mile beyond the original coastline into the ocean, and continues to grow. It is not yet known when the lava flows will end, but geologists believe it could be months.
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