For as long as I’ve inhabited this island Maui, my relationship with big waves and the man who dare to ride them has been a solid roller coaster of emotions and vibrations.
You name it, I’ve felt it and I’ve been there. More than twice.
As I teenager I dreamed about Hawaii and the big waves. I imagined feeling the power of the sea, and I could literally smell the salt water in the air surrounding me. I dreamed and visualized going to Hawaii to visit and feeling how beautiful it was to watch those large waves break and move towards the shore and explode, right in front of my eyes.
Posters of Ken Bradshaw and Brock Little were all over my bedroom walls. I just loved the ocean and the surfing culture, I wanted to experience it even if it was for a few weeks and without really knowing it, I manifested this desire with the pureness of my heart so it became a reality.
Today November 24 2023, the day after Thanksgiving, a day with very large waves, around 40 to 50 feet faces, my son was out at sea having the time of his life while my stomach was in a knot, looking at much smaller waves at the Hookipa lookout.
At this same exact moment, my son Austin Kalama, 25, was out at Peahi, aka Jaws, surfing ocean mountains, waves much larger than the ones I was witnessing. Thats when pride and terror comes to life.
Back in 1993, I watched his father and a group of his close friends pioneer the sport of tow in surfing, at that same very legendary spot, Peahi. Same spot my son loves surfing now.
January 22nd 1998 the day of his birth, the wavs were gigantic and that swell has been remembered and talked ever since as one of the biggest swells ever in the history of surfing. This day is known as “Big Wednesday”. Look it up.
He was born Thursday, at 6am the day after Big Wednesday. His father left to surf and celebrate the occasion maybe half an hour after his birth and came back at 12 pm to pick us up and take us home. Austin arrived three weeks earlier, really eager to come out of the womb. He had been surfing there as well. I surfed until I was 7 months pregnant. I remember folks sayin… hey aren’t you hurting the baby?
No way I replied, he loves it he’s surfing too!! I knew it then as much as I know it now.
Here I am 25 years latter feeling very proud of my sons accomplishments and at the same time feeling terrified that something could go wrong right in front of my eyes. Reason why I sometimes avoid going to watch him at the cliffs by Peahi and instead I stay home praying, visualizing him being one with Kanaloa, The spirit of the sea, the Polynesian creator of all things.
When Austin first started surfing that spot he was around 16 years old and he was going ALONE, with just a few of his best friends. There was literally no one watching them most of the time. They would go after the giant swells, when the spot was almost empty since all the big wave surfers were tired and could not handle any more giant waves. Thats when the grooms come out to play. And my son was one of them.
He started on his Body Board, then he moved on to his Stand up Paddle board, then he started just paddling out with big guns. He would go ( paddle out ) from the SHORE at Peahi , over giant waves crashing in to those giant boulders at the shore. He stood, he watched and just went whenever he could and most of the times no adults were watching him or his friends. Last but not least he has started towing in to the largest waves, waves that cannot be paddled in because of size, speed and sometimes wind.
You see there’s a point where man cannot physically win against nature however man can use the help of man made toys to reach their physical limits, adjusting to size and speed of these monster waves, to ride them.
Don’t ask me why they do this, they just do. Perhaps a type of meditation?
All I know is that Austin loves surfing big waves and he’s so happy and full of life after he does it. It makes me very happy too. As a mother is fulfilling to know that your offspring has found something to ignite the passion, the fire inside.
However, when I go watch him a nauseating feeling takes over my entire body and Im a nervous wreck. What if something bad happens? You don’t want to think about it but it’s there on your face. Endless large mountains of ocean water lined up as far as the horizon goes moving towards the shore.
It’s a terrifying thrill to proudly watch.
Good luck to all athletes this upcoming winter season.
Photos by Matthew Cibulka