Max Visits Sandy’s

Kohelepelepe on the right with snorkel-Mecca Hanauma Bay on the left.

Kohelepelepe on the right with snorkel-Mecca Hanauma Bay on the left. Sandy’s is the beach on the far right.

To get to Sandy’s we first have to get past the lady parts.

See, the road from Honolulu to the popular bodysurfing beach known as Sandy’s takes us past Koko Head Crater, a dramatic volcanic tuff cone whose name in Hawaiian is Kohelepelepe which means, uh, cough, “labia minora.”

In the legends of Pele, the goddess of the volcano, one of Pele’s sisters attempted to attract a demi-god by the name of Kamapua’a by throwing her va-jay-jay to this spot. Kamapua’a, by the way, appears in Hawaiian legends in the form of a pig. A handsome pig, but pig nonetheless.

Carving of the demi-god Kamapua'a by Kawika Eskaran at Kualoa Ranch. Irresistable dude, just drop the Kohelepelepe.

Carving of the demi-god Kamapua’a by Kawika Eskaran at Kualoa Ranch. Irresistable dude, just drop the Kohelepelepe.

Look, I just report this stuff; I don’t make it up. Okay, that’s enough morning TV talk for the moment.

Once past the urogynecologist’s dream site the road to Sandy’s passes some very beloved spots favored by our 8 million visitors each year as well as locals.

We pass the famed snorkel spot Hanauma Bay and the Halona Blowhole, where sea water rushes through a submerged tunnel in the lava rock, compresses vast quantities of air and then geysers into the atmosphere in time with the waves.

Next to the Blowhole is a small inlet and beach area that garnered attention as the place of the William Holden/Deborah Kerr love scene in the 1950s movie From Here to Eternity.

Burning passion at Cockroach Gulch. "I love how your fingers feel." "Those are not my fingers."

Burning passion at Cockroach Gulch. “I love how your fingers feel.” “Those are not my fingers.”

Hollywood and the Hawaii Tourism Authority would like visitors to call this idyllic place “Eternity Cove” but to locals it’s known as “Cockroach Gulch” after the sizable population of 3” Periplaneta americana that inhabit a narrow lava tube at the base of the wall framing the cove.

After the Blowhole, we start along the last wild stretch of Oahu coast line, an area called the Ka Iwi Coast. Ka Iwi literally means “The Bones” in reference to its historical significance as the launching point for King Kamehameha I’s campaign to unite the Hawaiian Islands and where Pele, the Goddess of Fire, first arrived and then departed from the island on her travels. Ka Iwi is also the name of the adjacent channel between Oahu and Molokai, our nearest neighbor island and a reliable place to whale-watch in the winter months.

Finally, the Malt arrives at Sandy’s. The name itself is a bit of a puzzle. Most newcomers refer to it as “Sandy Beach” and that makes sense because the sand there is very fine and notorious for getting into everything including, probably, your Kohelepelepe.

Heading towards Sandy's, the part known as Wawamalu in Hawaiian.

Heading towards Sandy’s, the part known as Wawamalu in Hawaiian.

But locals and makule (well-seasoned) guys like me always refer to the beach as Sandy’s using the possessive form which recalls old tales of a fisherman of that name who frequented the rocks near the blowhole. Others say that “Sandys” without the apostrophe is just a local pidgin form. Whatever.

In Hawaiian there is no single name for the beach. The bodysurfing area is called Wāwāmalu which sort of means tumultuous or thundering roar. The other end is named ʻŌkuʻu which means to crouch and probably refers to folks hunched around a healing stone near the ocean.

Ebony and ivory. Watch out, Max, a crab might get ya.

Ebony and ivory. Watch out, Max, a crab might get ya.

In addition to  its super-fine sand, Sandy’s is known for some really rugged shore break surf. How rugged? Well, more injuries occur annually at Sandy’s than any other beach in the State of Hawaiʻi. It is also a formidable consumer of bikini tops.

The problem is that many experienced bodysurfers are always in the water, making riding the waves look easy. Visitors unfamiliar with the beach misjudge the dangers and often get into trouble. For this reason, lifeguards have been stationed at Sandy since 1971 and they are very busy. Searching for missing bikini tops among other activities.

The brown is the water is sand. The water is about 18 inches deep at the wave bottom. Oof.

The brown is the water is sand. The water is about 18 inches deep at the wave bottom. Oof. The photo is of a contest, that’s why they are wearing colored hats.

Sandy’s famous waves are formed by a quick change in the ocean bottom. The sea bottom at Sandy’s is mostly sand patches and shallow rock ledges.

At the water’s edge the bottom drops off abruptly to an average depth of eight to ten feet.

This abrupt change in depth creates the steep, hard-breaking waves in Sandy’s shorebreak, which in turn generate ferocious rip currents.

Besides the shorebreak, Sandy’s has several other popular bodysurfing and bodyboarding sites: Pipe Littles and Half Point in front of the bathroom and a board surfing break called Full Point on an offshore reef near the east end of the beach.

The non-beach dog consents to a short walk bu the a'a lava is too sharp for soft paws.

The non-beach dog consents to a short walk but the ‘a’a lava is too sharp for soft paws. The malt disdains the great outdoors.

In my younger days, I was an avid bodysurfer owing mostly to a lack of the fast twitchy muscles that would have made me a better board surfer.

For years I surfed at Sandy’s but it was never my preferred location simply because of the beating it delivered on every visit.

This part of Oahu was quite remote until recently. In the late 1800s and early 1900s it was used for ranching, a practice that changed the ecology as native vegetation like beach sandalwood was replaced by Kiawe (mesquite) and Wiliwili for cattle feed.

It is a harsh land of low, wind-swept dunes and ‘a’a lava – the very sharp crumbly kind of volcanic output not at all like the smooth, flowing, gloopy stuff (pahoehoe) produced by the current eruption on the Big Island.

It's a rugged coastline, the last wild coast on the island of Oahu.

It’s a rugged coastline, the last wild coast on the island of Oahu.

Sandy’s was not accessible by automobile until 1931, when a coastal road following the cliffs from Hanauma Bay was completed.

The new road attracted sightseers and campers, along with the fisher folk, but few swimmers because of the rough seas and rip currents.

The area was ripped by major tsunamis at least four times during the last century, involving the Aleutian tsunamis of 1946 and 1957, the 1952 Kamchatka Tsunami, and 1960 Chile Tsunami.

Last vestige of the rock walls that once divided the ranch lands, destroyed by the tsunamis in the 1930s and 1940s.

Last vestige of the rock walls that once divided the ranch lands, destroyed by the tsunamis in the 1930s and 1940s.

These tsunamis had the side effect of destroying all of the recorded archaeological sites within the coastal plain.

To this day, parts of the Ka Iwi coast line are sterilized by the salt washed ashore by the tsunamis which are reported to have reach 36 feet in height.

During the late 1940s and 1950s, when not dodging tsunamis, bodysurfers taught themselves how to ride the shorebreak and by the 1960s, the beach had become a popular destination.

The malt heads for what little shade is availabale. "I'm ready for my ice cream, now."

The malt heads for what little shade is availabale. “I’m ready for my ice cream, now.” Note the AJF’s cold weather gear. It was below 80 degrees so she bundled.

In 1968, when the City of Honolulu improved the park and added a restroom/shower facility, Sandy’s became one of the most popular beaches among teenagers and its reputation as a dare devil wave-riding site was solidified in the 1970s with the introduction of the bodyboard or paipo.

In the 1980s and 1990s there were many attempts by developers to build on the precious resource of wild coast line. Fortunately, citizen action and push-back defeated the developers. The City re-zoned sections of the land to put it off-limits to moneyed interests and, finally, in 2010 the state of Hawaii protected the last sections by re-designating them from “urban” to “conservation.”

Beach flower.

Beach flower.

In October 2014, Honolulu City Council member Stanley Chang proposed changing the name of Sandy’s to “President Barack Obama Sandy Beach Park.”

That proposal really got our collective Kohelepelepe in a twist. The plans were dropped due to howls of opposition from the public.

Max enjoyed his visit to Sandy’s but he liked the ice cream cone we bought him even more. He’s not much of a beach dog but he’s always a willing companion as we travel Oahu exploring our island home.

29 replies

  1. Well I look forward to Max explaining that lot when he next goes catfishing….one mention of the Kohelepelepe and his inbox will be overflowing.

    I took a bet with myself that ‘your’ urogynaecologist would be making an appearance in later posts…having won my bet I can now legitimately down a glass of Highland Park to drown my sorrows at the abject performance of Scotland in the cricket world cup.

    That was a brilliant tour though….photographs, explanation and atmosphere. Top rate!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I would have gotten my area in a twist over that renaming as well. Yeesh! No need to bring that man into the equation. So I am to understand that Sandy’s delivers a beating. Again, your state (This was not your birthplace, no?) has taken K,H,L, and P and thrown scrabble squares to decide to name destinations. You look fit, makule, walking your soft-pawed malt. Oh, btw, did you catch any of the dog show last night? They were parading around that Portuguese waterdog, blind as a bat with all that fur in his face, and of one dog, they said, “This breed is well aware of his superiority to humans.” They also said Scottish Terriers are not the type to listen. I didn’t see a Maltese.

    Anyway, back to the Holden/Kerr, which sounds like Holdin’ Her–you and the AJF have not re-enacted that, eh? It doesn’t look fun or passionate. It looks awkward. Give me a king-sized Tempurpedic over sandy shores. I really feel for you bundling up in the 80s. It’s 29 here right now, and that is not something my bones can take. It is also drizzling, and Texans cannot drive on ice (we only wreck) so school will open at a delay tomorrow, no doubt. Enjoy your leisurely walks and warm breezes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Imagine being attracted to a half-man and half-pig creature. How would one know if it’s true love or just an inordinate fondness for bacon, ribs and a spiral cut ham? I missed the dog show but they do have some funny looking critters. The show Maltese are so frou-frou they are unrecognizable; even Max says he wouldn’t hit it, not that he could hit anything at this point.

      The Portuguese Water Dog is right about canine superiority. All dogs know this but few are so bold as to admit it out loud. PWDs “got more mouth than sense” as my Dad would say about my brother.

      I feel you on the beach blanket bugaloo stuff. Sand is not an aphrodisiac and the clinches look better on film than in real life. (Uh, if asked I have this knowledge from reading, lots of reading.) A big cushy Tempurpedic is just about right and throw in some nice wine and soft lights and forget the seaweed, shell particles and driftwood.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I’ll leave politics out of it and comment only how wonderfully and affectionately you talk about this beautiful location. I visited the area only once, some time ago, but your vivid descriptions brings it all back. I can see the blue sky and sea, hear the surf and taste the salt air. Thank you! Oh and, titter, “Kohelepelepe”. Didn’t know about that. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s always smart to leave politics out – the internet is way too nasty a place already without the addition of more bickering that resolves nothing. Personally I just smile at everybody. It keeps me out of trouble and makes everybody wonder what I’m thinking or if I’ve checked out of reality. I admit to a love affair with Hawaii and am a staunch defender of the wonders of Oahu which often takes a hit as a place to avoid because of its urbanism. Glad I could bring you a smile.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. More outstanding reporting from our Nat-Geo correspondent on Oahu! 🙂 It is remarkable that the Hawaiian language with its 13 characters (5 of which are vowels!) can flumox my brain as it trys to repeat words 3 inches long! I would never be allowed to live there because I couldn’t repeat any street sign, beach name or…pretty much anything local. Clearly I’m a linguistic failure so I must be content to live vicariously through your adventures and pray there’s never a quiz. By the way, how extensive is the sweater rack at ABC Store or Hilo Hatties for the cold blooded? I need to refer my son there because if it’s below 70 he’s bundled up like an Alaskan Eskimo in February! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • I guess a headline like this one (real one) would be the final straw:

      “Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele Finally Gets Her Hawaii Driver’s License”

      The story was that the Hawaii Drivers License name spot was too short to accommodate Hawaiian names. Now, imagine you were the news reader on TV, fresh from Omaha, and you were faced with that tongue twister! The key is to simply sound it out one syllable at a time; it’s not really that hard after a little practice knowing how the words break down.

      Yup, 70 seems to be the break-point below which the griping about cold weather begins. If it hits 65 the folks start telling how they wore socks in bed or added an electric blanket (no kidding). I can relate. When I came back to Hawaii after a 4 year stint in Guam I thought Hawaii was frigid in comparison. If I faced your weather for an extended period , Monika, I would simply give up and die unless I could find a warm fire and an adult beverage offering warmth. A ski trip, yes. A whole winter? You got to be kidding me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful and informative post particularly about the tsunamis and their destruction of archaeological sites.. Max looks somewhat underwhelmed by all the scenic splendor around him. I’ve dipped a toe in the Pacific once or twice but never surfed. The frigid Atlantic was never conducive to learning how and my feet turning blue from the cold was a clue to hit the beach. I had to smile at your description of AJF being bundled up against the cold. All things relative, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just checked, Barbara, and the sea temperature down the street is currently 77-79 degrees which is about average in the dead of our winter. I was foolish on several occasions to swim in the Atlantic off the New Jersey shore when folks were thrilled that it was a steamy 64 degrees. I don’t see what is so exciting about numbness. But you’re right, it’s all relative, as I’ve also been in the sea in places like the Philippines and Thailand with waters in the mid-80s.

      The AJF lacks any meat to keep her toasty. She’s a skinny little spouse although she prefers “lean”. But I have enough meat insulation for the pair of us. Max is no slouch in that department either but, as you noticed, he would be very happy to confine his adventures to more civilized venues with greater opportunities for food treats.


  6. Hi Tom & Max,
    Another great post and I just love your tours of Hawaii.
    I was reminded of your embarrassment at the AJF’s doctor’s visit when we were talking to the dog groomer when Bilbo had his infamous haircut. She introduced me to the intriguing subject of dog’s anal glands, which can really let off noxious smells. She had been grooming dogs and got zapped a couple of times in the same day and was in the supermarket on her way home and was given the filthiest looks by other shoppers. I thought of you as she recounted her acute embarrassment.


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