Musings by the Surf: the Great Grommet Incursion at the Kailua Shorebreak Classic

The ocean is majestic, mysterious and, at times, seemingly paradoxical. It is serene and still, yet also violent and aggressive. It is calm yet powerful. It invites adventure, but not without caution and respect. It is vast. It is humbling. It is exciting. It inspires reflection (for best results, pair with wine). If you spend significant time near or in the ocean, you cannot help but be changed by it. In most cases, for the better.

Surfing is an interaction - a dialogue - with this wonderful gift. Contact with the ocean, the waves, the beach, and with the landscape that surrounds it, takes us away from the busyness of life and work, and places us in connection with nature, something bigger than ourselves. Surfing is also a great teacher; it develops perseverance, courage, patience, and humility.

Surfing also places us in a vibrant community and culture. There is no better manifestation of this culture than the annual Kailua Shorebreak Classic, a keiki (kids) surf competition held in memorial of four beloved surfers and watermen. The most recent installment, held this past weekend, was awash with camaraderie, adventure, and spirit.

This week’s musings explore the Shorebreak Classic, it’s wonderful community, and the ocean that brings it together.

Oh, and while we do that, let’s talk about some wine, too. This is a wine blog, after all, and everyone stands to benefit from a good wine recommendation for beach days and beautiful sunsets.

A day at the beach is an extensive affair that requires careful planning. You are bound to become thirsty at some point, after all, and it is best to be adequately prepared. [Disclaimer: know your jurisdiction's open container laws! Wine, good. Fine for drinking wine in a public area, bad. That money could be more beneficially utilized. Like procuring more wine, for example.]

Rosé may be the most obvious beach choice, as it is the summer preference for many wine enthusiasts. For good reason. Remarkably refreshing and as beautiful as it is palatable, rosé is the quintessential summer wine.

Not all rosés, however, are created equal. Bandol rosés from Southern France are some of the most distinguished in the world, with consistent recognition as the grand cru of Provence.  In the world of rosé, Bandol rests comfortably on its high peak.

A few recommendations: 2016 Domaine du Gros ‘Noré Bandol Rosé; 2014 Château Pradeaux Bandol Rosé; and 2015 Famille Negrel, La Petite Reine, Bandol Rosé.

It’s going to be a long day, so best to pack an extra bottle (or two) and have a little variety. A crisp white wine with bracing acidity and characteristics reminiscent of the sea would be a good supplement to the picnic basket.

Vermentino prefers low fertility, dry soils and a LOT of sunshine.  Favoring a salty and windy coastal setting, Vermentino found its home in Southern Italy, and the island of Sardinia in particular, where few varietals have been able to thrive along the island's rugged coast. Salinity, a hallmark of coastal Vermentino, brightens flavors and harmoniously fills out the palate. Like Sauvignon Blanc? If so, Vermentino is sure to excite.

A similar island extreme with its own distinct grape varietal, Assyrtiko, lies nearby in the Greek volcanic island of Santorini, harboring a dry, arid climate, ferocious winds, and relentless sun. The terroir is a unique volcanic composition that is high in minerality but low in fertility, yielding crisp, high acidity wines unusual for such a warm climate.

These Mediterranean wines encapsulate the sandy beaches and azure blue waters of their native home. Crisp, refreshing with great acidity, they are perfect for beach sipping and staring off in silent contemplation at the vast, glimmering ocean. Be ready for sea salt on the palate that may just leave you thirsty for more.

A few recommendations: 2014 Attilio Contini Pariglia Vermentino; Tselepos 2015 Canava Chrissou Assyrtiko; 2015 Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini.

With wine procured, it is time to relax and enjoy a day of sun and surf.

Ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs carved into the lava rock landscape document the Polynesian tradition of surfing. It traditioanlly fulfilled many purposes, such as fishing, strength conditioning for chiefs and warriors, dispute resolution and recreation. Hawaii’s early legal system illuminates surfing’s societal significance with intricate rules and prohibitions governing how, why, and with what materials surfboards were to be made. Folklore, chants and oral stories memorialized epic narratives of surfing feats. For centuries, surfing would be essentially isolated to this tiny Pacific island nation. During this time, Hawaiian societal norms and values became intrinsic in surf culture.

Today, surf culture has spread around the globe and is complex, multi-faceted and diverse. Despite many outside influences, the early Polynesian (and specifically Hawaiian) values continue to be defining characteristics of Hawaiian surf culture. The Shorebreak Classic wonderfully exhibits many of these core values.

Now in its thirteenth year, the Shorebreak Classic is a free, amateur surf competition for keiki aged 2 to 16. It celebrates and honors the memory of four professional surfers and watermen, Peter Miller, Jason Boyle, David Aluli and Jeff Barbieto. All were community fixtures that dedicated their lives to Kailua, their hometown, and to Hawaii and the surfing community more broadly. All were lives well lived.

The event was initially organized in 2005 by Peter Miller in memory of his best friend Jason Bogle, a fellow Kailua resident and professional surfer on the ASP World Tour who died in 2004 after an extended battle with cancer. The following year, Miller, an air ambulance pilot, died in an accident while flying to the Island of Maui. Just a day earlier, Miller’s close friend, David Aluli, passed away as a result of long-term illness. Mike Miller, Peter’s twin brother, and former professional surfer Sean Yano carried on the Shorebreak Classic, still in its infancy, to honor and preserve the legacies of their esteemed comrades. Special dedication was later made to Jeff Barbieto, a friend and Kailua lifeguard who died in June of 2011 while diving in deep waters off of Ewa Beach on O‘ahu’s western shore.

The annual event, hosted by Kalama Beach Club on the last weekend of August, has grown to become one of the largest amateur surf events in Hawaii. The contest is free for all contestants, a welcomed respite from high entry fees of other competitions. Money should not preclude keiki from competition. Experienced or beginner, tremendously skilled or not, all are welcome. Every child walks away a winner with a prize pack brimming with surf, skate and other items donated by local surf shops and restaurants. What’s not to like?

This year the event was blessed with sunny skies, king tides, a perfect cooling breeze, and over 200 excited keiki ready to compete. Surf’s up; game on.

For the event organizers, it is more than just fun in the sun. The Shorebreak Classic is an opportunity to impart core tenets of Hawaii and surf culture to the next generation of surf ambassadors. Train keiki in the way that they should go, and they will not depart from it.

For me, two impressions in particular were relevant and tangible.

E Ola Pono Me Ke Kanaka - Live righteous with people

Hawaiian culture prioritizes family, or ‘ohana.  This term culturally extends beyond the traditional Western definition of the family nucleus to all members of a particular community group.  With ‘ohana, everyone matters and has something unique and meaningful to contribute. This tenor of ‘ohana cultivates honor and respect for elders, protection and mentoring of the younger generations, and the inclusion of all community members. Surf culture, at its best, embraces this communal focus.  

At the Shorebreak Classic, diligent efforts are exhausted in engineering an environment that strengthens old relationships and develops new ones. It teaches respect for elders, and affords space for the older youth to mentor the young. When the smallest groms take to the waves, there are parents, siblings and friends of all ages in the water protecting, guiding and teaching them. Everyone is included in this community; everyone has a role. Everyone is important and valued.

I was immensely impressed with the attitudes and maturity displayed by the contestants. When one kid won, the others surrounded him or her with support and celebration. When a leash was broken, another was promptly and freely given. When one failed, others encouraged. Radical generosity was exemplified when some contestants gifted the surfboards they won in the competition to others who had greater need. One female contestant, a past winner of the event, has donated one of her own boards to the event every year since 2012.

The Shorebreak Classic fosters an atmosphere of friendly competition, good sportsmanship, and investment in the community. Here, ‘ohana thrives.

E Ola Pono Me Ka ‘Āina A Me Ke Kai - Live righteous with the land and sea

Surfers have always been inclined toward environmentalism. In part, this is circumstantial and self-interested. Surfers experience firsthand the results of maritime mismanagement. They are directly affected by ocean pollution and poor marine conditions. Contaminated water and floating rubbish in the lineup presents less than ideal surfing conditions.

This environmental perspective, however, is also long-established in Hawaiian values and norms. As a society of seafarers, the ocean naturally played an important role to Native Hawaiians. As island inhabitants in a geographically isolated region, Hawaiians had tremendous respect for all nature, viewing themselves as stewards of the natural world that was entrusted to them. An ancient Hawaiian proverb summarizes:

He ali‘i nō ka ‘āina, ke kauwā wale ke kanaka
The land is the chief, the people merely servants.

In [quasi] modern and adapted terms: ask not what nature can do for you, but what you can do for nature.

Nature is a gift requiring proper preservation and protection. This mentality investigates best practices for the environment and develops methods which affords a mutually concordant existence. Cultural respect and honor for the 'āina (land) safeguards its health and vibrancy.

The Shorebreak Classic yields teachable moments for event participants related to environmental awareness and conservancy. Beach cleanup is emphasized and local environmental groups partner to supply information related to recycling and other environmental issues. Practical lessons, such as “leave the beach cleaner than you found it,” and cleanup games incentivize environmental sustentation and afford memorable takeaway points for kids. The event utilizes 100 percent certified compostable paper goods and utensils, reminding young and old alike that creating sustainable habits doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Environmental stewardship and protection begins by cultivating an attitude of respect for our natural world.

Cheers to all of the competitors for their talent, enthusiasm, and attitude. With these young ambassadors, Hawaii's surf culture has a bright future.

The event finds its successful conclusion and the long day is beginning to set. Surf, beach, friends, and now sunset. There is no finer moment for bit of bubbly cheer than a beautiful sunset over the Pacific. Toast and be happy. You deserve it.

For sparkling wines, it is best to traverse an Old World path. While Champagne garners the most prestige, Spain and Italy enjoy their festive effervescence at a fraction of the price.

A few recommendations: 2015 Vignalta Fior d’Arancio Orange Muscat; Henriot Blanc de Blancs; Segura Viudas NV Gran Cuvée Reserva Cava; Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvée.

A special toast to Mike Miller, Sean Yano and the many other volunteers that put forth extraordinary effort to provide a safe environment where young grommets of all ages and abilities can experience the excitement of competition, build unique and lasting relationships and, simply, have a great time in the sand and surf. At the end of a long day, the joy exhibited on the young faces and stories they energetically recount leave no doubt as to the unequivocal achievement of the event. On days like today, the legacies of Miller, Boyle, Aluli and Barbieto stand tall.