Friday, January 30, 2015

Stoked on North Shore Surf

North shore is rocking and rolling here in the midst of Oahu's winter surf season. The winds have been kinda shifty on my days off and that was the forecast for today as well but I thought I would make the drive and see if I could catch it early before the onshore winds arrived. I was in luck! The first place I stopped was Chun's beach. I saw a crowd out at Jocko's so I figured it must be good. I snapped on the GoPro and paddled out through a pretty hectic channel. There was a lot of water moving around but I snuck out to the lineup.
  Before I could even catch my breath an overhead wave came right to me so I spun, turned, and burned right into the sweet spot. The face of the wave was super fast and smooth as glass. I ended up getting some of my best waves of the winter with a pretty good beat down in between. A little nasal dripage later was a small price to pay for the stoke of a great session.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fun Surf on Glassy Waves

A day off and light offshore winds means its surf time here in Oahu. A little swell coming into the nearby south shore was enough to motivate me not to make the drive to the north side to fight the rip currents and crowds. Instead I managed to grab a bunch of fun, long, left handers with a few screaming right thrown in for good measure. Heidi was on the shore taking some pictures in between phone calls and managed to get some good one. I figured with a bright yellow hat and board I would be easy to spot...turns out for the most part I was the only surfer out. Can't beat that.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Aquamarine Windows and Shell Collecting

  Exploring new beaches for shells and sea glass led Heidi and me to some beautiful sights. The long stretch of sandy beach on the north shore where you will find the Bonzai Pipeline and Sunset surf breaks starts just after the ancient lava flow of Pupukea. In this corner of the beach where sand meets rock I have seen lots of shells and sea glass in the past. But the size of the waves aren't the only thing that changes along our north shore during the winter. An extra foot of sand now covered the shells and sea glass. I knew the sandbars off shore shift during the seasons but I was amazed to see the amount of change along this beach. While it didn't turn out to be good for sea shells, the new angle of the beach cause waves to rise up steeply before crashing onto the shore. I took a few pictures to try and capture the moment right before the waves toppled over. Whenever I caught it just right it was like an aquamarine window to the ocean beneath the wave.
Heidi still ended up finding some tiny shells. We will try again next summer and see if the cycle of the sand once again uncovers the treasures lying beneath.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Oahu Scuba Dive: Sea Tiger Shipwreck

   One of the most popular boat dives along Oahu's south shore is the shipwreck of the Sea Tiger. Sitting upright on the sand at 127', the wreck of the Sea Tiger makes for a challenging, but still recreational deep dive. It was purposefully sunk just outside of Kewalo Harbor to become an artificial wreck. The wreck itself is 165' long and about 40' wide. You can penetrate into the wreck thru some open refrigeration hatches on the deck.
  Heidi and I were playing tourist today as we headed out on the boat, listening to the safety briefing. Last time we did a boat dive here in Oahu the boat was filled with Japanese tourists. We were shocked this time when it turned out to be just four of us divers on board. The conditions were great, no wind or waves, although the water looked more inky blue than light aquamarine in the early light of day. The light got better as the dive progressed but at first glance from the surface we couldn't see the wreck.

  I was the first to descend so I was the first to see the outline of the wreck emerging from from inky blue. Schools of fish surrounded the ship and a rare Hawaiian broad stingray cruised over the sand in the wreck's shadow. It was only the second broad stingray I've seen out here so a pretty good way to start the dive.

   After a couple of minutes everyone else made it down to the bottom and we set off exploring the wreck. Numerous nudibranchs and a large moray eel set up shop on the surface of the wreck. I followed some of the other divers into the open hatch leading down below decks before emerging back out at the upper portion of the ship. We only had about 20 minutes of exploration time due to the depth of the wreck. I feel like it could take a half dozen more dives to fully explore the hulking wreck. As we swam back towards the bow where our mooring line was attached I could see a dozen or so other divers descending upon the wreck. It was really special to have the wreck all to ourselves. Even the ascent and safety stop on this day was beautiful. The sun was a little higher and was showing up as a shimmering sunburst at the surface. The boat cast dark shadows below it providing a beautiful contrast of light and dark blues. And the bubbles of the other divers seemed to explode in a ring of light as they hit the surface.

Friday, January 9, 2015

First Full Moon of 2015

Tidepools and Offshore islands lit up by the full moon
Makapu'u Beach
A couple of days ago some friends and I met up at the eastern most point on the island to view the first full moon of the year 2015. The colors of the setting sun were a nice foreshadowing of the beauty to come with the moon rise.

 At first we were in the wrong spot, as the one cliff in between us and the ocean was blocking the initial rise. But after some quick moves down to the shoreline we were greeted with an amazing view. From Makapu'u beach we could see the full moon rising from the ocean towards some low lying clouds. It was so bright that everything, including colors were still visible along the shoreline. A couple of offshore islands and nearby tidepools aided in capturing some memorable long exposure images. Welcome 2015.

Full moon rising over the Pacific

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Nola, the Chameleon

   Well, our small Jackson's chameleon, Nola, is still pretty small. However after three weeks away Heidi was able to notice that Nola is indeed growing. She has a voracious appetite and it seems like no amount of pinhead crickets is enough, but we'll take that as a good sign. She didn't know quite what to make of her outside photo shoot. Distressed is the word I might use to describe it. And I've never seen her move so fast as when it was time to go back in the cage. Nola almost leaped from my finger back to her favorite perching spot.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sea Turtles in the Splash Zone

  New Years started off with a bang for me here in Oahu. After some traditional new years food with friends Heidi and I grabbed our snorkel gear and headed to the east side of the island for some ocean time. There is always something so satisfying about being in the ocean. The day before I had led a tour along the southeast side of the island and the winds were being blocked by the island, opposite of what usually happens. This weather condition made flat calm conditions on the ocean's surface all along the east coast, opening up tons of snorkel and underwater photography locations that are usually too blown out by the trade winds.

We trekked down to one of our favorite east coast dive spots at the Halona blowhole. Just beside the blowhole overlook there is a path down to a secret beach called Eternity Beach. Locals call it cockroach cove but I've never seen a cockroach there. Luckily the weather conditions were the same as the day before. The water felt a bit cooler, around 73 degrees but we jumped in without too much hesitation.....cough cough nudge nudge, Heidi.

   Just outside the small cove I found my first turtle. It was the first of many. The water clarity was very clear, and most of the turtles were near the surface feeding on the shallow algae. Being near the surface meant a lot of light, and an unusual amount of color made it into the pictures. The warm reds of the algae covering the rocks provides a wonderful contrast with the deep blues looking back towards the open ocean. The turtles didn't seem to mind their pictures being taken, possibly because they were so intent on feeding time.

  A few times the turtles drew me in very close to the cliffs and some bigger waves would crash above sending white water all around us. The turtle would disappear from sight, only to reappear looking completely unfazed. They are so graceful and fun to watch underwater. Sea turtles really are one of my favorite underwater photo subjects.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Year in Review: Life on Oahu

2014 Year in Review: Life in Oahu

  Having only spent a couple of months in Oahu before the year 2014 rang into existence I wanted to spend some time to explore the underwater depths around my new island. I came to realize that I shouldn't expect the variety and color of Maui scuba diving, or the coral covered drop offs of the Big Island. It may be the big waves or the development associate with nearly a million people, but the underwater world here is a bit more on the rugged side. Not too much beautiful coral, and tougher to find nudibranchs, but you can easily find sea turtles and spinner dolphins carousing the near shore waters. The waters can be very, very clear, and there is almost always one side of the island that is protected enough to head out for a photo session.

  For dolphins I found that Electric beach over the on the west side is the place to go. I see them there in
Spanish Dancer
Phoebe and her turtle
 mornings seventy percent of the time. This is also a good place to see sea turtles. One of my favorite nudibranch pictures from Oahu came from a summer time dive along the North Shore at a spot called shark's cove. The north shore only has good diving conditions during the summer. All winter long this is a surfer's paradise but during the calm summer months the divers flock to it in droves. Heidi and I found a huge red margin spanish dancer nudibranch here. Shark's Cove is also were we took out Ed on his first dive in Hawaii. He brought some pretty amazing luck with sea turtles, moray eels, nudibranchs, spotted eagle rays, and a very rare Hawaiian monk seal all making appearances during his dive.

Ed SCUBA diving
  Along the south shore there is plenty of wreck diving to keep the scuba companies in business. The dives here are all a little farther offshore so a boat is pretty necessary. There can be lots of good life around the wrecks, but getting to them is the issue. No real shore diving to speak of off the south shoreline.

  And last but not least there is the east shore. Down around the southeast corner of the island there is some pretty great diving. But the conditions here only allow it at certain times. Rugged terrain along the coast means entry/exit points are few and far between. So this is not the place where you want to get stuck in a current and dragged down the shoreline. But this is the one place where you can check out a steep dropoff. The water can be crystal clear over here on windless days but those days are few and far between.

The Higginbothams
Sister Lea ontop of Diamond Head Crater
    Our house can be a bit like a youth hostel at times, but as Heidi knows all too well, that is how I like it. We get friends and family coming out to Hawaii all the time. Sometimes they come just to see us and other times they are out on vacation and take the opportunity to hang out. We had some great visitors over the year and fun adventures with them all. I just want to say too all of you who made the long trip out this year, "Mahalo, and I hope you had fun!" 
Mom exploring botanical gardens
Nate and Kelly sunset at Point Panic
Ed and Jamie in a tree

Fireworks over Waikiki
Makani Olu Tallship Crew
Sailing around the Hawaiian Islands


From airshows to fireworks to tall ships, this year in Oahu has been filled with interesting events. Honolulu definitely feels like a big city when these events bring tens of thousands of people together. Every friday I can go see fireworks over Waikiki, but others, like the lantern floating festival at Ala Moana beach are only once a year. Winter time brings big surf competitions like the Sunset Pro and Pipemasters. It is humbling to watch Kelly, John John, Jamie O'brien and other world class surfers tackle these amazing waves. 2014 marked the first time I have ever gone to an air show. That was a memorable event. I remember my mom telling me about the Blue Angels when I was a kid so it was fun to finally see them in action.
Blue Angels
Lantern Floating
  A very special event that I was able to participate in twice was sailing as a mate aboard the 96ft tallship Makani Olu. We sailed around the islands of Ni'ihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Koho'olawe, Lanai, and Maui over the two trips. We had some strong winds and high seas but I quickly regained my sea legs and had a wonderful time exploring the Hawaiian islands by sea. Not to mention getting to meet some amazing people while doing it.


    I found that Oahu doesn't have the same quality of scuba diving that you will find on Maui but the surfing conditions are some of the best in the world. And it was one of my missions this year to become a better surfer. The fabled north shore definitely lives up to its reputation, housing some of the most famous waves in the world. I've tried my hand at the Bonzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach, although I admit I still get a little nervous heading into double overhead waves way out at sunset beach. In between the really well known waves are tons of other great breaks like Jockos, Pauena Pt, Lani's, and Chuns. Some of my favorite surf sessions of the year came at a little known break farther west in Wailua town where my buddy Eric lives. Here I have had overhead, glassy waves, all to myself. I never thought I would find that on the north shore of Oahu.

  However, the south shore, while less famous, houses some pretty consistent waves during the summer months. Big winter storms in the Antarctic send waves up from the southern hemisphere rocking our south shores all summer. This September was all-time, having swell after swell. I caught some fun diamond head days, a massive day at Kewalo's which was closing out the boat channel, and even leftover hurricane swell at my go-to spot of Point Panic. The water is warm, the winds are either light or offshore, and the crowds seem to stick to certain breaks so finding an uncrowded break is possible. I already miss being able to surf before or after work, only 12 minutes away from my house.


Hidden Gems:

Byodo-In Temple
  Every time I found a new hidden gem here on the island I felt a great sense of accomplishment. Some places are well marked and not too far off the beaten track, others you had to research and ask around and still stumble your way through the forest before finally finding it.

Halona Blowhole at sunrise
Bonzai Pipeline action
 Different hikes on the island like the Pali Puka, Lanikai Pillbox, and the Manoa Waterfall are wonderful places to enjoy some different scenery. Massive waves at waimea bay and the blowhole at Halona are incredible picture opportunities. There are ancient ruins deep inside bamboo jungles, and secret waterfalls at the back of almost every valley. After spending a year looking for the next crazy adventure here on Oahu I still have more on my list. Even though I specialize in underwater photography it is hard not to become a landscape photography enthusiast here.
Heidi high above Lanikai Beach

Monster waves at Waimea Bay
   Sometimes you don't even have to go far from home to find some great pictures. I explored this island quite a bit, and became a tour guide so I could share what I found with others, but I think 2015 will bring some new crazy explorations on the island. 
Chinese cemetery close to home