The Magic and Mayhem of Kehena Beach
Puna, Hawai'i, USA
I lived on the Big Island of Hawai'i for a year and a half, and spent a good deal of time at a small black sand beach in the Puna district called Kehena Beach. It is just a small stretch of beach, which is clothing-optional and a favorite of the locals.
The first time I went there, I saw a group of fins break the surface of the water pretty close to shore. At first I thought they were sharks, but as I wached, I saw a puff of mist as they surfaced, and sleek grey bodies followed the fins. I thought to myself "Hey! Sharks don't have blowholes! Those are dolphins!"
I threw myself into the water. I'd always wanted to swim with dolphins, and on my very first day on the beach in Hawai'i, here they were! I approached them cautiously once I got closer, and tried to emanate a non-threatening, friendly vibe.
The next thing I knew, I was surounded by them! They were swirling around me in a circle! I was elated! I just swam around slowly and they kept the same distance from me. Sometimes they'd get closer, but if I reached towards them, they'd move just out of reach. There was something sacred and calming, yet simultaneously exciting and amazing about this whole experience.
Once the dolphins and I parted ways, I swam back to shore and a local guy was there. He asked, "You evah swim wif dem befoah?"
I was still getting used to the sound of pidgin. "No, I just moved here. This was my first time ever getting close to a dolphin that wasn't at Sea World!"
He nodded his head thoughtfully and replied, "Dat's one good welcome, den!" I felt chills and was just blissed out from it all.
My reverie was broken when he took off his shorts and ran into the ocean, saying "Laydah, brah!"
A couple of days later, on a Sunday, I went back down to the beach after spending time at the eccentric Farmer's Market in Pahoa. The beach was packed this time! There was a drum circle with Rastas and hippies dancing around and the unmistakable smell of cannabis was in the air. Naked families were everywhere, and it was just natural. The kids weren't snickering at the nudity, nor were they shocked or in any way affected by it. They were used to it. It really made me reassess my social conditioning about nudity.
I found out, over the following months, that the dolphins I'd seen a couple days earlier usually only showed up early in the morning, and only when they wanted to. I swam with them a few more times during my time in Hawai'i, and it was always amazing, though they now would just swim along side me, rather than surround me.
I also found out that you never leave anything you care about on the beach or in your car when you swim, or it will soon become not yours!
I saw a lot of weird stuff happen at Kehena. Sometimes perverts would hang out by the cliff wall and peer at the naked women while wanking in the shadows. They were usually chased off pretty quickly. One guy named Jak, who could climb a coconut tree as if he had a prehensile tail, would make up stoned, funny raps about the sun and the women.
Another guy, named Poppi, was the resident guru. We had many good conversations and he'd always greet me with the palms of his hands together, like a Wai in Thailand, and say "Bill-man!!"
One other character was kind of a sad story. His name was George and he'd often go down to the beach with his parrots, which were always great conversation starters with the tourists. He was a bit "touched in the head" and came from a rich family. He owned the land where Green Lake was, and seemed to take an interest in the young men.
As time passed, he became more and more unstable and would spout crazy things on the beach. It seemed he had blown a cranial gasket. One day, at his home near the beach cliffs, he got mad at one of his birds and was chasing it and followed it right off the edge of a cliff. He miraculously survived, though pretty much everything was broken. He was still in the hospital when I left almost a year later.
There were loads of Rastas in the area, one of them was a crotchety old guy who was always bitching, even when he was stoned. One time a friend and I were driving by and his bike had a flat. My friend leaned out the window and said in mock sympathy, "Jah Dammit!"
My last week in Hawai'i, I went back to Kehena Beach, and hadn't seen the dolphins nearby in quite some time. This day I saw them again and went out to say goodbye. The next thing I knew, a baby dolphin leapt right over me, squealing with joy! I spun in the water, playing and swimming with it, filled with sheer amazement and bliss! It kept leaping over me, and when I finally swam back to shore, I'm pretty sure the salty liquid on my face wasn't just from the sea.