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Turtle Surf

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Yesterday was one of the more sultry summer days we have had on Maui this year. The cooling tradewinds died off and there was no better place to be than at the beach. Billy, his kids, some newly arrived friends from the mainland and I went to one of our favorite summer beaches on the North Shore later in the afternoon. The crowds were starting to thin and it was quiet and tranquil. There were about a dozen or so people catching the small and gentle waves that were just offshore. I was not exactly inspired by the surf and was more than content to play with the kids and watch them frolick in the tide pools. As the lineup of surfers dwindled to a few last souls, the small but empty and glassy waves were too hard to resist. I ran and grabbed my paddle board from the car as the sky began what was just the beginning of a spectacular sunset.

During the summer, this surf spot is frequently populated by sea turtles. As I paddled out, I noticed quite a few turtles popping their head above the water. As I got closer to the lineup, I realized the number of turtles was pretty high even by the standards of this surf spot. One of the great thing about paddle boarding is that it provides you with a birds eye view of the water and the reef. I have seen turtles, schools of fish, rays and even a small shark before. These are all things that I would have missed laying prone on a regular surf board. I had yet to see or experience something like I observed last night. While there were numerous turtles bobbing on the surface, my vantage point revealed dozens more swimming below the surface. A number of times, I looked down only to see a turtle directly below my board. Usually skitish when I paddle over or nearby, these turtles were completely indifferent to my presence. The turtles were thick enough that I had to be aware of them when I took off on waves. While they are quick swimmers, I had to put on the brakes a few times as I was ready to take off. I didn’t want to risk running over one of these beautiful animals. Before long, the last two surfers paddled in to shore. It was just me, a horde of turtles and an increasingly magnificent sunset. I didn’t know whether to watch the turtles, watch the changing colors in the sky or catch a wave. I managed to do all three. It was one of those truly special experiences that makes me feel so fortunate to live on this amazing island.

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8/27/2006

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