I’m a creature of habit in most things I do, from the prescriptive nature of the things I love to where I travel when I have free time. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve spent every Christmas holiday — other than the millennium year — in Honolulu.
Honolulu is a second home for me. And there are the things I do and wear in Honolulu that get me through the six months away, until I can’t stand it anymore and have to go back.
I’m lucky to rent the same house on the beach in Kahala, keep a small quiver of boards there, surf the same spots, and hang with the same friends. Though the neighborhood is super gentrified, my holiday house is a ‘60s throwback with a lava rock wall and pond, a spiral staircase, and white shag carpeting. (I also love the kitsch of a neighbor’s palm tree brace fashioned from car jacks. Classic.)
I don’t wear Aloha shirts much, but it’s all I wear when I’m here. My good friend Steve Rabineau has generously gifted his doubles to me, and I’ve added to my small collection with some select purchases from Bailey’s Antiques in Kapahulu. A god among Japanese collectors, David Bailey has the best vintage aloha shirts, he’s used his expertise to remake classic patterns so that four-figure shirts are affordable. Some of Bailey’s museum-quality collection are in Rin Tanaka’s book My Freedamn! Seven: Vintage Beach Fashions (legendary Hawaiian waterman Dale Hope’s definitive work on Aloha shirts is great, too).
As a kid, my family and I always stayed with friends at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Over the two-week holiday, we kids grew up there together — from kindergarten through college. I’m still in touch with some of those kids now, including Leigh Reichley, who’s now a coworker. We all surfed, gossiped, nightclubbed, made out, and hung out. The Royal just had an amazing renovation. It’s great to see the Pink Palace restored to its full glory.
Surfing plays a big part of my time in Honolulu, and I’ve been blessed with great surf on this trip and on an earlier trip here in June. June delivered south swell after south swell, truly epic double-overhead surf that looked more like Sunset than Queens. My local buddy Carnet Williams and I have scored Diamond Head and Queens on this trip, with perfect glassy conditions and head high peaks.
I’ve honed my Hawaii quiver down to a couple of boards, a mint 40-year-old 10’0 Surfboards Hawaii Model A, and a 6’0” Christiansen Fish. The first stop on the way into town from the airport is to visit Toru Yamaguchi at Surf Garage, where the Model A hangs out between visits. Toru has one of the coolest surf shops in the world, and provides a great board storage service for me and Japanese nationals who are fed up with $175+ one-way fees — dings provided for free — that the airlines offer. Surf Garage brings back memories of riding my super surfer skateboard from Manhattan Beach to E.T. Surfboards in Hermosa Beach. Shop owner Eddie Talbot always made us groms feel welcome and cool, especially after getting vibed by big shots at other shops.
The Kahala downtime is also a chance to work on my uke skills after listening to AM940′s traditional Hawaiian fare, and seeing great local musicians at the Halekulani Hotel.
Surf, family, great friends, perfect sushi, glassy head-high peaks, and playing the uke in a hammock… This is the fuel that gets me through the time between visits back to paradise.