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by Mariah Schiaretti, staff writer

That’s not vog in the air on the North Shore. It’s salt. The sea haze caused by big waves greets North Shore residents by caking up on their cars in thick, soot-like layers. It’s the first sign winter is on its way.

The first giant swell of the season came crashing in during Discoverer’s Day weekend, attracting hundreds to O‘ahu’s north side. Residents and visitors were not disappointed with majestic scenes of roaring surf slamming into the rocks and daring surfers who make it look so easy to be one with the waves.

Senior journalism major Shane Sochocki drove an hour from Waikiki to the North Shore to catch the anticipated swell. Sochocki, originally from Toms River, N.J., started surfing when he was 12 years old. He fixated on going to Hawai‘i at a young age, because his father had lived here in the 1970s.
“ My dad was a body surfer and talked passionately about how beautiful Hawai‘i is,” Sochoki said. He admits that the surf in Hawai‘i influenced his decision to attend HPU. “I love surfing, and there’s no better place to do that and get an education than O‘ahu.”

Other North Shore visitors enjoying the surf were Alyssa and Perry Bradin from New Zealand, who try to come to Hawai‘i every year. The Bradins were advised by a friend back home to come in September, “because” Barry recounted, “that’s when the waves would start to get big.

Typically the surf doesn’t start to rise till October and November, and Alyssa feared “We weren’t going to see any waves before we leave next week.” She added, “We’re grateful that we got to see some today.”

Surfers and sightseers weren’t the only ones to appreciate the big surf. Local businesses that had experienced a slowdown within the past couple of months noticed a huge jump in profits as soon as the swell hit.

Chantal Micale, a server at Hale‘iwa Eat’s Thai Restaurant, said that the place was packed during Discoverer’s Day weekend with what seemed like a never-ending waiting list. “There were a lot of people down here. The traffic from Hale‘iwa going towards Sunset spoke for itself,” she said.

According to Micale, from the end of August through the middle of October is usually a slow time for Hale‘iwa Eat’s and other businesses in the area, a trend not due to recent national economy activity but just to fewer people coming to the North Shore because it’s the off-season. Micale pointed out that the current downturned economy hasn’t really had a noticeable effect on the restaurant.

“It’s interesting to see what’s going to happen in November when the first surf competition takes place. We are expecting to be busy again, as in previous years,” she added. The pace is already starting to pick up and surfers from all over the world are making their way to Hawai‘i.

“ You know it’s winter when the crowd of people kind of changes. There’s a lot of different accents. It’s a whole different atmosphere from summer,” Micale said.

If the slowing economy will affect Hale‘iwa businesses, by preventing the huge crowds that are expected to venture to the North Shore as they do every year, it will happen within the next month, as the winter surf advisory giant waves start to top this early swell’s 15 feet.

North Shore business certainly expect the surf season to be one of the busiest in the past several years. Restaurants such as Rosie’s Cantina and Pizza Bob’s, both in Hale‘iwa, have hiring ads in the North Shore News for servers and kitchen help, an attempt to stock up on workers for the surf rush. Starbucks in Pupukea just hired several new employees to prepare for the transition to winter because their sales skyrocket as well when the surf rolls in.

Big waves may bring big money to the North Shore’s economy, but they also bring big risks. There were 12 rescues at Waimea Bay alone on Discoverer’s Day, according to Lifeguard Vitor Marcal.
Marcal urges beachgoers to read the warning signs posted on the beach and to know their limits.
“ Visitor’s get hurt because they see the locals in the water playing in the shore break and they do the same. Especially the children, because they see kids who grew up around water who make it look so easy. Hazardous surf is better to watch then to be a part of,” he added.

Before heading over to the North Shore this winter to see the giant waves, be informed on the current ocean conditions and read the posted warning signs on beaches.

For more information, go to http://www.co.honolulu.hi.us/esd/oceansafety.



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