Welp, we're finally experiencing some winter weather here in the Northeast, and I can't say I love it. It's the time of year for fantasizing about tropical climates, like those fair Hawaiian Islands I've never been to. The truth is, I hate to sweat and I'm scared to death of natural disasters. And, Hawaii's paradise comes with a whole heck of a lot of devastation, historically speaking.
That brings us to the souvenir shirt above from the shop that boasts "I Survived Hurricane Iwa", the second most destructive tropical cyclone in Hawaiian history. Amidst a powerful El Nino episode in 1982, Iwa devastated the islands of Ni'hau, Kaua'i and O'ahu with wind gusts exceeding 100 mph and rough seas exceeding 30 feet in height. Iwa severely damaged or destroyed 2,345 buildings, including 1,927 houses, leaving 500 people homeless. Damage throughout the state totaled $312 million (1982 USD, equivalent to $765 million 2015 USD). One person was killed from the high seas, and three deaths were indirectly related to the hurricane's aftermath. Can you imagine being a Hawaiian tourist in the midst of this?
Of course the surfers were at the frontline. Per Darren "The Cave Man of Bodyboarding" McDowall (below, ca. '81), from his "Tribute to the Original Pioneers of Bodyboarding on Kauai", 'One of the hairiest encounters I ever had was the day before Hurricane Iwa hit in November 1982. The storm surge was so intense that some of the whitewater was breaking over the road that headed to Poipu Beach. I kept telling my cousin that we needed to go back in but he told me to keep catching waves. As soon as I saw the lifeguard stand floating by, I knew it was time to call it a day.'
Then there's the late Alec 'Ace Cool' Cooke, one of the first extreme surfers...
In 1982, the day after Hurricane Iwa hit Hawaii, I surfed Waimea Bay all alone, all day. It was 30-foot, and I caught at least 30 set waves that day. I lost my board at dark and swam in. I got washed straight up the Waimea Rivermouth in the darkness. There was a small group of “the faithful” waiting on the beach with a fire and a blanket and companionship to welcome the new Big Kahuna back to shore. But there’s more to the story. I owned a surf shop in Haleiwa at the time — the shop was looted during the storm, the night before. I found out and just lost it! I figured there was nothing left to lose, and paddled out to Waimea that next morning all alone, with blood in my eyes. I remember Richard Schmidt broke three boards just trying to get out. He never made it. Nobody even tried. I was a madman that day, and I pulled it off. ~'Ace Cool', from the Encyclopedia of Surfing