Winter Swells on Kaua‘i

It seems that Winter has arrived. Hawai‘i has just two discernible seasons, Summer and Winter…or Hot and Cold.

Of course, ‘cold’ is a subjective term. This week the temperature in Princeville dropped to around 60°F in the middle of the night. Since the same week brought blizzards and 6 foot drifts to parts of the mainland, I recognize this is hardly likely to gain much sympathy, but when it feels sufficiently cool to warrant something other than a thin sheet on the bed, that tends to be news around here.

Along with cooler weather, Winter on the north shore brings rougher seas and higher surf, sometimes particularly dangerous and vicious. Drownings are sadly too frequent at this time of year. Most residents quickly learn to respect the winter surf, but visitors don’t always understand the dangers of hidden rip currents or ‘rogue’/sneaker waves.

The huge swells on November 13 triggered a high surf warning along the north and east facing shores, from Ke‘e Beach to Anahola. Steve and I drove out to Lumaha‘i Beach, a beautiful spot to witness nature at its finest. The impressive seas had drawn a small crowd, both residents and visitors.

At one point we noticed a couple close to us; a husband was attempting to capture a photo of his wife with the waves crashing behind her. He appeared to be waiting for the perfect moment, the one memorable shot.

The largest sets of waves can be some minutes apart, so we heard him tell his wife to be patient, but each time he was about to press the shutter on a sufficiently impressive set, she heard the almighty crash of surf behind her and leapt out of the way. She had my sympathy! When the large sets come through, the surf will encroach many feet further onto the beach, and can easy whip your legs from under you if you’re not watching.

With each attempt he became more exasperated with her. He seemed a bit of a jerk, but who am I to judge…could be he was a lot smarter than he looked…could be he’d recently taken out a life insurance policy on her and was looking for a quick claim! 😉 I suggested she offer to have him stand on the shoreline and for her to take the photo! She appreciated the joke, he didn’t!

Later that day, I was volunteering with my friend Alice at the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge; our regular Wednesday afternoon slot. In between chatting with a record crowd of visitors who were awestruck by the Point and views, I captured some more video of the swells, and of our less dependable and lesser known north shore equivalent of Po‘ipū’s Spouting Horn.

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