A year ago, when I moved from the frigid bustle of New York City to the slow, sun-dappled town of Kailua, Hawaii, I thought the beach was only for sunbathing. As I settled into seaside living, I came to see the beach as much more. Kailua Beach stretches the length of the town in a beckoning crescent of paradise and is valued by a community who seeks renewal, strength, and rest on its ivory shore. It is a place to do yoga while the sun rises, run while the sun sets, fall in love, or just unwind with a “pau hana” (after work drink). I’ve come to see the beach here as, town square, church and playground all rolled into one. Join me as I recount a journey down my shoreline.
It is a clear and breezy Saturday morning, a perfect day to walk the five miles from the populous south end to the quieter shore break of the north end, and soak in the sights along the way. I park my moped at the impressively green Kailua Beach Park. I’m greeted by yogis reaching for the sun, moms working out behind industrial designer strollers, and elaborate, day-long BBQs spread out beneath the palm trees. I head over the dunes, securing my hat as a blast of salty wind heralds in the ocean view. The bright turquoise expanse of warm water flirts with the white sandy shore and I am reminded how lucky I am to live here.
The south end of Kailua Beach is bordered with exposed roots and tree stumps along its eroded banks. It is used primarily by tourists and families. A sense of loss inhabits this side of the beach and I feel for the locals who have seen their beach change so drastically. From the busloads of daily tourists, to the loss of beach due to rise in sea level and beachfront development, this precious island is being eroded away into something foreign to the native Hawaiians.
I take in my surroundings. Pale tourists lie underneath the sun hoping for a tan to prove they did go to Hawaii. The more adventurous among them, drag bright yellow kayaks into the waves, intent on not capsizing. Girls flaunt their tiny bikinis and the soft sound of a ukulele drifts through the pacific trade winds. I continue on down the beach, carefully sidestepping the many sandcastle construction sites along the way.
Soon I enter into the kite surfing hub–a rigorous sport involving huge kites attached to surfboards. On windy days all the buff kite-surfers gather to skim the waves and do thrilling tricks while their colorful kites loop above them. I pause in admiration.
As the beach begins to curve, dog tracks lead me past millionaire beach houses and the occasional mid-century bungalow. Private beach accesses limit beach goers to locals, lucky beach front owners, and the tourists with more cash to blow. This part of the beach is significantly less crowded and I stop here for a swim. My feet roll through the soft white sand, as I make my way out into the translucent, shallow water that feels neither warm nor cold.
Although my feet are sore, I continue on, feeling a sense of comfort as I pass joggers, fishermen, boogie boarders and old couples walking hand in hand. The beach narrows and I finally arrive at Castles, the end of Kailua Beach, where longboarders catch what waves Kailua has to offer. I look back at my journey past the rich Japanese models, the homeless man playing his guitar, and the kids learning to surf. Kailua Beach epitomizes the town itself and will continue to bring the community together as it evolves and changes. Feeling grateful, satisfied and starving, I wait for my ride while inhaling the honeyed scent of sea-sprayed Plumeria flowers.