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Original Issue


Mostly there is a lot of standing around at Hawaii's Waimea Bay; watching, waiting in poses of patient despair, because these surfers—dedicated wintertime, north-shore-of-Oahu surfers—are not the sort of people who would take off on just any old wave. At Waimea there are only about 15 days all year when wind, sea and sky are in perfect balance. Only then does one climb on his board, through an explosion of spray, for the big one. Still, one of those days can be worth a season, because the ride in—being chased by a curl of angry ocean—is a crazy, surging experience that, to surfers, far surpasses other winter pastimes, like skiing the 15-mile Parsenn run at Davos or roaring along on a spinnaker reach off Nassau

There are no sure signs, no accurate predictions on surf. You must stand at the ocean's edge and read the sets rolling in and never—but never—plunge in until the moment is perfect. Some come without boards, for this is a sport in which daydreaming is de rigueur for the athlete.

The right day and the right moment, and a hold surfer sails into Waimea on a 15-footer—dwarfed by the Hawaiian shoreline and locked in on life.

Even expert surfers, those who stalk the winter seas, are subject to accidents—those spills they later describe (while coughing up kelp) as wipeouts. But to surf Waimea is to face the prospect of a crash-and-burn followed by a jolting ride to the beach—and that followed by more waiting, perhaps under medication.