The North Shore: Surfing With Carissa

Friday morning, my last day in Oahu, and I am sad to leave. I’m re-thinking re-thinking that satellite office now. I got up this morning at 4:30, checked out and headed to Honolulu to meet up with Carissa Moore (the reason I’m here) and her family for their morning surf session. On the way over, I wonder when was the last time she woke up after the sun. (She tells me she can’t remember.)

When I arrive, her dad Chris tells me the surf is bad, so the morning session is off. Instead, I hang out and chat with the family before school. Carissa has a younger sister and two younger step-sisters. They’re all sleepy, but chatty. After breakfast, we drop Carissa off at school, tour the campus (yes, her high school has a campus) and drive around Honolulu. After school, I get my Wish moment. We’re going surfing.

The surf is still unruly—super choppy and, for someone who surfs every day, barely worth the effort. But Carissa wants to get in the water, so I am psyched. Lately, I surf about twice a year, so I’ll take what I can get. I never found the time to get in the water on the North Shore, where the waves were perfect (lame, I know), so these conditions are my punishment. But who cares. I’m going surfing with one of the best young surfers in the world, in Honolulu, in front of Diamond Head. And I could use a good challenge.

As we walk down to the beach, we talk about our favorite people we’ve met through our jobs (hers being surfing). Carissa says Kelly Slater, because he’s her idol. They met at a Quiksilver event a few years ago, but they haven’t surfed together yet.”That would be awesome,” she says.

The paddle out was a lot of work. The waves were doubling and tripling up and coming from every which way. As I paddled, my arms started turning to mush and my shoulders were catching fire. I thought about Bethany Hamilton. How does she do it? I wished I had four arms.

Finally out in the lineup, I had a heck of a time catching anything at first. I borrowed Carissa’s dad’s 6’2″. It’s a super fun ride, but first, you must catch a wave in order to ride it. Early on, I got caught inside on a bigger set that came out of nowhere. My board whacked me on the head and while I was under, Chris (dad) said he thought, “Oh no. We killed the writer. That can not be good for the story.”

But then things got better. I caught a couple fun rides, and one nice long ride. I even caught up with a second wave, transferred to it, and rode it almost in to shore. Of course, then I realized I had to turn around and paddle back out again. Sorry, arms! Man, I am going to feel this tomorrow.

Carissa caught several nice rides. And the attention of everyone in the lineup. The conditions didn’t allow her to practice much, but at least the session kept her in practice. I enjoyed watching her catch waves. We’d be sitting on our boards talking, then she would smile, say “byyeee”, turn away, grab hold of the nose of her board, rock into the wave and then paddle like hell. It was graceful, perfectly timed and so powerful. I was sneaking free lessons from one of the best.

Around 5:30, it started to rain and at 6, we watched the sun sneak below the horizon. Then we all caught one final wave of the day and rode in to shore. Time for dinner. I have a plane to catch in five hours.

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