The Shaka Kid Meets Miss Ohio

Shaka. Hawaiian hand gesture. Most visible manifestation is the hang-loose salute of the fellowship of surfers. If someone does something good, cool, or righteous; giving them a shaka is a sign of approval or praise. It is mainly used by old school local boyz. “Eh, shaka brah.”


He‚Äôs young and brown, bare-chested and oh-so good looking. He’s been standing on the Waikiki jetty most of the morning, cheering on the other braddahs as they boogie board through the surf. Long hair, deep tan, taut bod, easy laugh ‚Äî he knows all the shredders, and they all know him. He’s the leader of the hui nalu.

She is white and neat and from Ohio. She has been standing near the end of the jetty for nearly fifteen minutes now, a long-lens camera held carefully in hand. Despite the lengthy lens, though, everything about her says, Not a real shooter. The lens is too light for serious photography. She seems to be looking the wrong way nearly every time somebody locks in on a wave. And she’s too stiff, too unbending, too prim for a photographer.

The two of them are standing ten feet from each other, but they never make contact. Same day, same jetty, different worlds.

Then, the Shaka Kid disappears. He’s gone maybe ten minutes. Miss Ohio continues to wave her camera around, never once smiling at the scene, at the sunny day, at being in Hawaii, at anything. Even if she’s not a serious shooter, she is one serious lady.

Then, suddenly, he’s back. Here are the salient, observable, incontrovertible facts:

  1. He’s carrying a boogie board under his arm
  2. He smells strongly of bakalolo, a.k.a. ganja, grass, weed, dope, marijuana
  3. He crosses himself
  4. He tosses his board off the jetty and into the blue Pacific, a dozen feet below.

Then he dives in after it.

His entry splash reaches the jetty.

And Miss Ohio.

And, ever-so, ever-so slightly, Miss Ohio’s camera.

Suddenly, she‚Äôs all animation, all indignation. ‚ÄúThanks a lot!‚Äù she hollers at the water. ‚ÄúThanks a lot for the warning! Now you’ve got me all wet!‚Äù

Note: Miss Ohio is not all wet, at least in the sense that she is using that phrase.

From the blue Pacific, Shaka Kid grins up at her. ‚ÄúLady,‚Äù he says, ‚Äúyou’re at the beach. You’re in Waikiki. What did you expect, a plumeria lei?‚Äù


Most of what you just read, I wrote from my center seat, 14E, on the redeye from Honolulu to the Mainland. My wife was in 14F by the window, and for a while, it looked like we’d got lucky — the aisle seat remained empty.

But when a certified Big Boy filled the cabin door, I knew I was in for a cramped ride. Sure enough, he plumped down next to me, asked for the seatbelt extender, and settled into his seat and a third of mine.

My luck had changed ‚Ķ but, turns out, not exactly as I’d thought.

Through takeoff, safety instructions, beverage service and snack, he smiled pleasantly but remained silent. I dug out my MacBook and began writing ‚ÄúShaka Kid‚Ķ‚Äù There wasn’t much elbowroom, but I’ve worked in tight conditions before, and I thought my little piece came out pretty well.

Then, without warning, the man on my left spoke. “Don’t call ‘em ‘boarders;’ call ‘em ‘shredders.’”


“You called the boogie boarders ‘boarders.’” In Hawaii, we call ‘em ‘shredders.’”

Oh no. Big Boy had just committed three capital offenses at once.

  1. He had read over my shoulder.
  2. He had criticized my writing without invitation.
  3. He had commented on a work in progress.


In the world of writing, these are hanging crimes. But there were a couple of mitigating circumstances. For one, he had done so with perfect innocence and in a manner so matter-of-fact, it was almost impossible to take offence. For another, damnit, he was right. I’m a ski writer, and I really don‚Äôt know the terms of surfing, much less those of Hawaiian surfing. I turned to him. ‚ÄúAnything else?‚Äù

“Yeah. Instead of leader of the pack, make him the leader of the hui nalu. Means the same thing. And say ‘braddah,’ not ‘brother.’”

“Thanks. Oh, and is it a pier that juts out from Waikiki?

“No, a jetty.”

He offered about eight edits, of which I used maybe six. Then he changed my ending. If that seat had remained empty, the piece you’d just read would have ended, ‚ÄúFrom the blue Pacific, Shaka Kid grins up at her. ‚ÄòLady,‚Äô he says, ‚Äòyou’re at the beach. You’re in Waikiki. What did you expect?‚Äô‚Äù

That’s actually what transpired that day at Waikiki. But heavy-equipment operator, unpaid editor, seatmate and new friend, George Kameahanohanokahaunaniahaleakala “Hano” Cornwell added the plumeria lei, and I thought the story was all the better for it.

Mahalo, George. Come sit beside me any time, braddah.

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