Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Waves, Waves Everywhere by Len Barrow

SUP surfing and paddling in rough water is truly a meditative endeavor.  I am amazed at the amount of attention that is required to keep your board moving.  You see, as a lie down surfer for 30+ years, I viewed the ocean from a lie down perspective.  The Beauty of SUP paddling is that you see the ocean from a stand up “lens”.  You are also literally forced to observe the ocean and its swells.  If you don’t do this, a little wave will just throw you off the board.  When it comes to the water, sometimes I get a big ego as I have a US Championship in Longboarding and a lot of surfing experience.  I love SUP Surfing as I am humbled every time I paddle and surf my SUP.  It destroys my ego, as SUP paddling forces me to pay attention.  It is truly a type of meditation.

One day I was SUP surfing Kewalos. I decided to use a technique that ancient Polynesian and Micronesian Navigators used to find directions on dark, cloudy nights when the stars were not present to navigate their canoes.  They would use the feel of the swell running under their canoes.  If they were heading due north, the navigators would pick a swell that was coming from the north (in relation to the last Northern facing star that was seen) and head into it.  They would “feel” the swell would move under the bow, run along the hull and exit at the stern.  The navigators would pick multiple swell directions to calibrate exact directions.  In the above scenario, if a swell were coming from the east, and you had a double hull canoe, it would hit the eastern hull first and the western hull next and exit.  The late Micronesian Navigator Mau Pialug who taught Hawaiian Nainoa Thompson (of the Hokulea) his navigation techniques was said to be able to sense a matrix of over 8+ swells.  He could even tell if a swell was refracting off an island!   The Micronesians, Polynesians and Hawaiians ARE a brilliant people……

If Colombus lost his compass he would be lost .

Using this method, substituting my sup as a canoe, I was wondering how many swells I could observe as I paddled around Kewalos.  The tide was very high and the water was bumpy.  As I stood outside of the break, I was buffeted off my board (9’6 surfing SUP) by a bizarre tiny series of waves coming from the west.  The West side was flat and I wondered where the waves were coming from.  To my surprise I saw two fishing boats about 1.5 miles out chugging along due west!  The west swell was from their wake!  This was getting fun.  It was the perfect “Pay Attention” game.  Another small swell kept throwing me off my board but it was coming from the shore.  I thought to myself, what the hell?  The land does not create waves?  The same wave threw me off again.  I suddenly realized that this swell coming from the shore was actually a south swell bouncing off the 7 foot shore wall to become a North swell hitting my tail (stern) and exiting my nose (bow)!  

Next I observed that there was a south swell running directly under my nose (Bow) and exiting my tail (stern) but there was another swell hitting my south east facing rail and exiting the south west facing rail.  Where was it from?  I realized it was an east trade wind swell that had wrapped around to the south shore.  I went back home to surf-line to check the swell directions to see if I was correct.  Bingo.  I had accurately predicted the angles of the primary swells using Mau Pialug’s non-instrumental techniques!

I was so happy.  I felt like a little navigator enmeshed in Natures Ocean.  I had identified a matrix of 4 swells!  It was like a wonderful Zen meditation.  My thoughts were clear and I felt refreshed for the rest of the day.

I have been practicing like this since.  I have been able to recognize a matrix of six swells at best.  This practice almost blends you into the oceans rhythm and I would not have known this if it were not taught by the last Navigator Mau Pialug too the Hawaiian Nainoa Thompson.  Mahalo Nui to the Micronesians and Hawaiians and all who came before them for these wonderful experiences. 

Try this method.  It opens up the oceans mind……….which is your mind.

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