Tuesday, September 30, 2008


by Brian Doyle

I’ll tell you a surfing story, and this is the rare surf story that has no oceans or surfboards in it, because it’s about a guy who spent almost his whole life surfing situations and relationships, never falling in, never over his head, never breathless, always on top of the situation and never in or of it, you know what I mean? And he went half a century without ever getting his feet wet, and then, as so often is the case when we talk about hearts being startled awake, it was a kid who knocked him off his board and into the sea where hearts get hammered and startled and shivered and born again.

But I get ahead of myself. The guy’s name was Pete. He had been a terrific athlete as a kid and then he was a terrific hand with money and investments. He made boatloads of money, got lots of girls, traveled everywhere, did every dashing thing you can imagine, but after a while even the coolest girls would gently disentangle themselves, because, as one of them said with real affection, you never get tangled, Pete, and in the end we see that you don’t want to bother, and even someone who just wants to have fun can’t stay long, you know what I mean?

He did know what she meant, too, which is what stung.

He got all the way to age fifty like this, looking cool on the outside and not getting birthday cards from anyone, and no one except the doorman at his condo knowing when he was sick with the flu, and finally he sold his condo in Boston and bagged his lucrative master of the universe job and moved to Poipu and bought a condo on the beach and spent his time paddle-surfing, but nothing really changed and he had girls but no lovers and companions but no friends, you know what I mean? But finally what happened was he was driving drunk and got busted, and during the whole process of getting that fixed he met a detective who showed him the world of meth babies, kids whose parents were addicts and dumped them or burned them with cigarettes and dangled them from highway overpasses and evil shit like that, and there was a kid named Kimo who was four and both parents dead from meth, and this kid says to Pete one day, at the cop orphanage, how come you never look at me with both your eyes? and Pete says that was the moment everything cracked. He says it wasn’t like in the movies where there’s swelling music and the lights get brighter, in fact he said he wanted to slap the kid for being rude, but he didn’t, and eventually he adopted Kimo, it’s a long story and there’s no happy ending neither, because they argue like hell, and neither one of them can cook worth two cents as yet, and Kimo just got his face tattooed like a Maori for some reason, which sent Pete into a roaring fit like you read about.

But he roared, you know what I mean? If you are furious you’re not surfing, right?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Announcing Third Annual Writing Competition

Kauaibackstory.com announces its third annual writing competition. This year’s theme is “Surf.”

Entries will be accepted in the following categories: essay, story, poem and visual image. A student category will be created pending interest and writing quality.

Entries must focus on Kauai. Participants are urged to express their thoughts, feelings and observations about the theme, “Surf” through the lens of their own unique experience and viewpoint.

Prizes will be awarded. Winners and other noteworthy contributors will be posted on www.kauaibackstory.com and invited to read on a special night later this fall. (Date and place to be determined.) Writers may submit up to three entries. There is no word limit--brevity is encouraged but not required. Visit www.kauaibackstory.com to view the quality of works posted and the blog’s mission statement.

The deadline for submitting entries is midnight HST November 15, 2008. Text entries must be pasted into the body of an email and sent to kauaibackstory@yahoo.com. Images must be sent as a jpg attachment.

Kauaibackstory.com is a venue for rigorous writing and imagery with a view about Kauai. The journal is intended to serve as a timely, interactive forum, and readers are encouraged to visit often and post comments. The editors look for writing that raises thought, not walls, and encourage writing that rouses respectful dialogue. The editors hope to build community and understanding through conversation. Think of kauaibackstory.com as a conversation about Kauai.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

E Kala Mai Ia’u: A Reflection on Paddling

by Dena Cassella

In the matter of canoes, there was nothing to be understood. Everything was instinctual. Paddling canoes is the sport and spirit of Hawaii. A way to preserve a sacred culture in just seconds: spurts of remembrance when wave touches wood. It was a rite of passage. For me, it was a chance to redeem a fair complexion. I had always been a strong and structured girl, with broad shoulders and thick trunks of legs. Sturdy is what my father called me. Only feeling small and delicate while nestle in the sands of Makapu’u beach, sinking deep into the moist crumble of earth, feeling the sun boil and birth our connection as we’d melt into ourselves.

Digging deep into the current’s white splashed tips, I became a paddler at age ten. I became useful, fluid in motion and incredibly effective in a canoe. Dragging 600 pounds of hollowed Koa wood great distances with such elegant intensity sent shivers down my shoulders and awakened my body to the miracle performed by our crew of six girls. The canoe cradled me, positioned so neatly in its flat plank seats. It was my kumu, my teacher, nurturing my learning. I knew how to navigate the current of an open ocean, and keep the balance of the canoe in treacherous winds and unforgiving waves. Paddling was my being—I’d sweat salt water and breathe ocean breezes. There is no sensation more powerful than feeling as mighty as the sea.

In late May when I was nearing seventeen, something went wrong.

With the six of us seated and alert, we lined our vessel up to our starting mark, an empty gallon milk jug bobbing above its anchored self. We sat up straight and listened for our commands. Our coach, a tall, tan man screeched with intensity, hut ho, and we were off. Blades following one after the other in sync with our lunging bodies as we pulled the canoes down the murky stretch of canal. I dug my paddle hard and wrenched my body upright sternly. Harder and faster, the stroke count rose and we followed intently, not like young girls, but like brutish creatures with unstoppable resolve.

Without warning, it happened: I could not feel anything. Nothing. Not the dried layer of salt blanketing my skin, not my wrists, not my fingers, I could not feel the waxy wood of my own paddle in my grip. Nothing. I looked down at my limbs, for reassurance, and they still seemed intact. The sensation distracted me and our boat slowed down as we neared the finish. My crew relaxed breathing heavy sighs of exhaustion. I lay my paddle on my lap and stared at my fingers, plump and tense, and watched as my hands uncontrollably shook and twitched. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what this was. I panted, turned to the girl in the seat behind me and displayed my hands in her face. My eyes releasing a flood of tears made her panic and share in my numb terror. She held them still with her own tired hands, trying to stop the shaking, but she could not. The weary head of every girl in the vessel perked up, confused and frightened by my condition. The shaking grew worse. It weakened my body, stripping me of my sturdiness, causing me to slowly slip out of my plank seat in the canoe. Only my weeping strengthened. Mixing with the salty film of dried canal water, my tears rushed down my cheeks, bombarding my lips with a rotten taste.

Carpal tunnel syndrome said a doctor, who suggested surgery and I refused it. Damaged nerves, said another doctor, frequent ice baths. But they did say one thing in common you cannot be fixed. But I could not stop paddling. Though my body pleaded with its mental, and my performance as a paddler weakened, I did not know how to exist with out it. I did not want to exist with out it. After two more years of numbed races and practices, my parents told me to quit. But it is hard to leave your successes behind you. It is harder to leave your entire being behind you. The sacrifice of belonging: the trade off of ethnicity and identity, pale and tan, an existence and a life.

I still go to races, to sit, and watch the canoes take off. I nest near the shorelines, by old hala trees and smooth water-washed stones, and I wait. Feeling all I can in my sandy burrow, the tiny dips of indented skin on my thigh from the clinging granules, never letting me go, and the warm sticky island air rushing from ocean to meet my face with humid kisses. I wait to remember the delicate neck of the paddle and the miraculous sensation of muscles moving. Digging my hands deeper into the grainy surrounding, grasping what I can of the sodden sands beneath my body, holding it tight and desperate. With browning skin blistering in the sun’s rage, I silently request forgiveness from the waves, and understanding from the wooden vessels fighting the tide out to the starting mark. E kala mai ia’u, I beg them, pardon me for sitting these races out.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Open Yo Maka

by SistaG

where everything's nice
palms are swaying
and folks are saying

things in pidgeon
it's almost a religeon
this way of life
the illusion of no strife.

where everything's nice
on the surface at least
Just don't look too deep

where everything's nice
yeah, right
we've all been asleep

wake up sweet brother,
little sista too
your folks are old
it's up to you.

and it takes more than
stink eye
to get the big guys
to change.
listen to your heart
don't get shame,

we still got
more than a lot
to work with
to get them to stop.

and remember
even folks that do
stand firm and true,
even they get shaken
when more is taken

by those in power.
can't you see the hour
is drawing near
for all we hold dear,

All that we love
all that we say
we put above
all else?

It takes a very strong man
or woman or child
to have the vision
to keep it wild

here in Paradise
where everything's nice

so let's be wise
for a change...