Depantsed in Hawaii
Twenty years ago, when I explored around the five largest Hawaii islands, going into the warm, winter ocean was a huge pleasure. I had purchased a solo package tour in advance, which was very easy, just peel off the tickets for each day: a ticket for a car on each island so I could see what I wanted to see, more tickets for prescheduled, prepaid local activities, and a ticket for my evening's lodgings. About mid-trip I was walking along one of the lovely Hawaiian beaches when I noticed sleek round seal heads bobbing in high rolling waves off-shore. A longer look told me that these playful creatures with the bright, happy eyes were actually people who were very, very comfortable in the water, they were young Hawaiian men. I too am very, very comfortable in the water, and I decided the ocean there, at that time, was probably safe enough for me to swim out too. I watched the waves for a while, because I had already seen that Hawaiian waves can just roll off the end of the island, and I did not want to be washed out to sea. I saw no problem, the waves were coming directly to shore, they were rather high waves but the waves were definitely coming in perpendicular to the beach. The beach stepped off into the deep right away so I was swimming right away, or rather I was plunged into turbulent water right away, and so I swam out to the more regular waves to rest in a trough between waves. I played around for a while, said hello to a few people, then decided it was time to go into shore and continue on around the island.
That was when I noticed that those high waves going directly to the shore were pounding down way too hard, each wave was about ten to fourteen feet of hard water smacking straight down on the shore. Uh-oh, I had never seen this before! I realized that I did not know how to get out of the ocean. I swam around until I found someone and asked him how you get out? His eyes turned very sad when he saw how worried I was. He gestured to follow him and swam for shore, modeling how I should get out. I did not understand what he was showing me, but I was compelled by the need to get to shore and the adage “Those who hesitate are lost.”, so I swam after him into the next big wave headed toward shore. The wave I rode swung me up with that massive, uncaring power that the ocean always has underneath its playful waves. It flipped me head over heels high above the shore, then pile-drove me into the edge of the beach, planting me headfirst up to my armpits in coarse gravely quicksand. It hurt but I was more concerned about being stuck there under the watery sand. I crab-scrambled out of it, and stood up quickly to see if anyone had witnessed my undignified exit from the ocean. Probably not, and I continued on my way with as much dignity as I could muster.
That is the way the story is usually told. The missing real life component is that while I was resting in the trough of the rolling ocean off of that Hawaiian beach, someone swam up behind me in the curl of the ocean and grabbed off the pants bottom to my two-piece swimming suit, leaving me half-naked and mortified in the heaving waves of the ocean. Whoever he was, his intent was to humiliate me in the rough ocean water, without know how skilled I might be at handling such upset, without caring. Well, he swam away but my pants popped up in the water beside me. I scooped them up, and quickly put them on. This was yet another “Aloha”* interaction that put me off of Hawaii. I do not know why this bad experience overshadows better experiences, but it does, and decidedly so.
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* Aloha means affection, peace, compassion, mercy; or not, maybe just hello, goodbye. Hawaiians told me they do not say it much anymore; which is unbelievable, but then no one said it to me.
Caption: "Aloha" is not for everybody.
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018