I have learned a lot about falling, though—like how to ‘starfish’ underwater, cover my head, and just relax to decrease my chances of hitting the sharp coral
Offshore winds rip over the stacked swell lines, blowing water droplets off the wave faces into hovering rainbows, as the lips pitch and arc into glorious indigo barrels. My eyes bulge as the quiet girl with long, brown hair and a slender, athletic body drives gracefully through another deep tube and shoots out right in front of me. Yew!” I holler from the shoulder. “That was unreal!” She shrugs it off.
“Thanks,” she says softly, “but you can totally do it too. You surf well. You just gotta commit early and swoop in behind it.”
“I don’t know,” I mumble, following her back up the reef.
I have tried hard to master tube riding, but I’m still inconsistent. I have moments when everything comes together but I lack confidence, which often makes the difference between making the drop or getting pitched over the falls. I have learned a lot about falling, though—like how to ‘starfish’ underwater, cover my head, and just relax to decrease my chances of hitting the sharp coral. I can’t count how many times I’ve hit the reef. My legs, feet and back are scarred with reminders.
I paddle for my next wave, get in early, and do some turns, but when it warps into a hollow section with jagged reef sticking up only feet from
the impact zone, I kick out as usual. Frustrated, I paddle back towards the line-up again, knowing I’m still missing out on the holy grail of surfing.
Kepi is a natural—smooth, powerful, stylish and poised. She uproots my prior ideas of what a woman is capable of doing on a wave. Her reserve intimidated me when I first arrived in the bay, but since we both surf in the early mornings before the crowds, we’ve gotten to know each other. She was raised in California and Kauai, chose this South Pacific paradise over a high-profile surfing career, married a local surfer, and has two beautiful kids. I dig her simple, unassuming style.
The swell keeps pouring in over the next week. Not too big, not too small, offshore winds, and just the right angle to produce flawless wave cylinders.
I have no excuses not to step it up. We meet at the peak after she drops her kids at school. I study her every movement. Little by little I gain more confidence. “Go!” my tube guru encourages.
“Are you sure? I’m not too deep?” I hesitate.
“No you’re good. You got it. Just paddle,” she affirms.
Finally, it happens: a breakthrough. I start trusting myself and the wave. Instead of jumping into the face or closing my eyes when it looks like it’s going to close out, I hold my line. I get clipped here and there, but falling inside the tube isn’t as scary as I had imagined. I start to feel where to slow down, find the pocket, and then all I have to do is hang on while the lip falls around me and I shoot for the light.
“See?” Kepi cheers as I come flying out of one. “You’ve got it!”
Read more about Liz’s journey in her book, Swell.
I start trusting myself and the wave.
Liz commits and gets slotted
At the helm