When you surf a spot for long enough, you start to get to know the familiar faces in the lineup. Surfers are creatures of habit, and we all have our favorite spots that we frequent day in and day out—whether they happen to be well-known North Shore spots like Pipeline or Velzyland, underground secret spots on the West Side, or uber-crowded Town waves such as Queens and Threes.
Ala Moana Bowls is arguably the most crowded wave in Town, but it still has its crew of regulars that you’ll bump into every time you paddle out for a session. One of them—an uncle who rides a tiger striped shortboard—is out virtually every time I surf Bowls, charging the right with his signature double-arm paddling style.
On Christmas Eve, Hawaiian South Shore’s resident yoga expert Kilty Inafuku was out logging Bowls with just a handful of other wave riders—the uncle on the tiger striped board being one of them, of course. With only six people in the water—and the holiday spirit upon everyone—the vibes were great in the lineup, with everyone sharing waves and enjoying the morning.
But suddenly the old uncle had an emergency. One side of his face started to droop, and he called out to the other surfers near him for help. Kilty, her friend Joji, and two other surfers paddled over to help him onto his board, while another woman quickly paddled to shore to call 911. The rest of the group eventually got the uncle to shore, where they had to help him up the sand, as one side of his body was now paralyzed from an apparent stroke.
By this time, paramedics had arrived, and they quickly stabilized him and administered blood-thinning medication to break up the blood clot causing the stroke. As the paramedics took him to the hospital, they told the group of rescuers that their quick action had not only saved him from drowning, but also meant he would probably have a full recovery.
While strokes often result in the paralysis of one side of the body, if anti-clotting medication can be administered within an hour of the episode, many patients will regain full bodily function. A few days after the rescue, Kilty got news that the uncle had received further treatment at the hospital, is on the mend, and is expected to make a full recovery.
What a great Christmas gift! We often paddle out for surf sessions focused on only one thing—getting our daily quota of waves. It’s easy to forget that we are playing in a dangerous, unforgiving ocean, and that things can quickly go wrong, even if we do everything right. We are usually surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of other surfers, and any one of us could have an accident at any time. It is up to all of us to keep an eye on each other, and make sure that we all get back to shore safely.
Especially during the holiday season, it’s important to remember that there is a lot more to life than selfishly getting our share of waves, or money, or whatever it is that we are obsessed with chasing down and accumulating. Here’s wishing the tiger striped uncle a quick recovery, and the rest of you a happy New Year. As we all look forward to 2019, let’s recommit ourselves to keeping an eye on each other, always being prepared for emergencies and rescues, and bringing an atmosphere of positivity with us when we paddle out into the lineup.
For those interested in having an exciting experience full of positivity and ocean adventures, Kilty Inafuku is leading a yoga/adventure retreat in the Galapagos Islands in late May. You can learn more about the retreat at Kilty Yoga