I've been back in Colorado for nearly two weeks now after my brief sojourn to Oahu, but I have to be honest: In my mind, I'm still in Hawaii. This has caused a bit of a problem with the time difference, as I've decided it gives me license to get up four hours later than normal, but the upside is that while you're all shivering in the early-morning cold, I'm still in bed, dreaming of palm trees and perfect waves.
The best part is that in my dreams I can actually surf those waves without vomiting, which, as we discussed last week, is something I apparently can't do in my waking life.
It was a little intimidating to go to Oahu's north shore, though. I knew before I got there that I wouldn't fit in; I just hoped it wouldn't be that obvious. It was. It wasn't so much a fish-out-of-water story as it was a fat-hairy-marmot-in-the-ocean kind of a thing. It was painfully obvious to anyone who saw my pasty complexion and profuse perspiration that I was way out of my element.
That point was driven home most emphatically by two local legends I met at the Turtle Bay Resort. I won't use their names in case they don't want me to use their names, but with a little digging you can probably figure out who they are.
The first, a quintessentially gorgeous young lady from Maui, is an accomplished free diver, painter, Patagonia model and winner of the 2008 U.S. National Spearfishing Championship. If you want to see what she looks like, do an Internet search for "girl swims with great white shark." That's her holding onto Jaws' dorsal fin, hitching a ride.
She gave a little talk wherein she revealed that she could hold her breath for about four and a half minutes, which prompted the sexist pig in me to remark to a friend that if he somehow managed to convince her to sleep with him, she could hold her breath through the entire encounter.
Someone asked her whether she ever had trouble with sharks after spearing a fish, and she responded that she occasionally did, but she found that if she went right at the sharks and made it clear who was the boss, they tended to back off.
Another person asked if all the blood in the water was a problem, and she said something to the effect of, "It's not the blood; it's the vibrations from the injured fish. That's why after I spear a fish I like to stick a knife in its brain as a way of thanking it for allowing me to capture it." (I'm serious; she actually said that.)
Suddenly, the idea of luring her into bed didn't seem so appealing. Not that she'd be thanking me afterward, in all likelihood, but I don't think I'd be willing to take that chance anyway.
The other local legend was a surfer and actor who was about my age, although you wouldn't know it by looking at our distinctly different bodies. He had muscles everywhere, including places where one typically doesn't have them, like his eyelids and earlobes, and he was covered nearly head-to-toe in tattoos.
The most meaningful tattoos were the ones adorning his calloused knuckles that spelled out "WOLF" on one hand and "PAK" on the other. And no, he wasn't missing a finger. I can only assume there was no "C" because that letter doesn't exist in the Hawaiian alphabet. (Of course, neither does "F," but "WOL PAK" would look really stupid.)
Curious about the Wolfpak, I looked up my new friend. Here's his bio from the Encyclopedia of Surfing: "Fearsome Hawaiian big-wave surfer and founder of the Wolfpak, a loosely organized vigilante surf group. Best known as a merciless enforcer to surfers who ... take waves out of turn. Called the 'Toughest F-ing Man in Surfing' by Stab magazine."
Prior to my ill-fated attempt at surfing, I saw my tattooed friend and joked that I was headed to Banzai Pipeline on my first day.
"Are you bringing your helmet?" he asked.
The wiseass in me desperately wanted to reply, "Why? Because someone like you might hit me in the head with a rock?" but, thankfully, I kept my mouth shut and he didn't kill me.
Of course, if he had killed me, then I really would still be in Hawaii, which wouldn't be so bad other than the being-dead part.
Todd Hartley is the founder of the Fudgepak, a group of people who eat lots of chocolate. To read more or leave a comment, please visit zerobudget.net.