On Saturday at 10:50pm, the Kauai offshore buoy said 11ft@24 seconds. That’s a substantial swell, the kind that has people yell “Incoming!” and get up at am to check the waves. So when the sun peeked above the horizon at 7:19, there were a lot of people looking intently out to sea, watching for bombs. Except there weren’t any. Just missiles.
Around the time that everyone figured out the swell was late, a million smartphones rung a million warning bells all over Hawaii, and delivered a text message that basically said “Incoming!”
The alert was from the state government, and read “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.” I’ve never seen a beach clear so fast. Guys were zooming by in their lifted trucks, eyes bugging out, half-strapped surfboards clanking around on racks, yelling into cell phones and out windows: “We gotta find shelter!”
From what? A nuclear warhead? Good luck with that. Might as well just paddle out and enjoy the show.
As it turned out, there didn’t end up being any show. Fortunately, a second alert went out 30 minutes later, informing the public that the first had been a false alarm and inspiring more U-turns than a DUI checkpoint. Unfortunately, the swell was still missing, so when everyone got back to their respective surf spots, there wasn’t much to do but wait.
By noon on Saturday, a handful of outer reef cappers had been spotted, and by mid-afternoon Waimea Bay was flexing, albeit in a somewhat bumpy manner. By dark, the much-hyped apocalyptic swell had really begun to impact the island, met by a bunch of gun-toting hellmen and women who laugh in the face of danger—at least the aquatic kind. The outer reefs were 40 to 50 foot on the face, with a hearty few towing them, and aside from a few washed out beach homes, the world hadn’t ended.
Cover Pic: Pipe from Matt Paul