I remember my first winter surfing on the North Shore. It was so exciting! Waking up each morning to a horizon stacked with waves for days, seemed like a dream. Sunburnt skin and salty hair were the only price I paid, or so I thought. Not realizing it, I was falling in love, deeply in love with the ocean and her children, the waves. I was faithful to my love for many years. I travelled to Bali each summer for five years in a row to ward off the summer blues of no waves on the North Shore. (Note there are excellent beginner surf lesson waves in the summer on the North Shore) During the winter months, I faithfully rode Pipeline every time she broke. I slept like a baby and lived off of ramen noodles to save money. Life was simple. My only care was to surf.

Sadly, as it can happen in love, I was distracted. Politics called my name, and I threw my heart and soul into the game. Campaigning is all-consuming; shaking hands, kissing babies, and posting yard signs soon caused me to forget to surf. I swapped out my bikini and fins for nylons and high-heeled shoes. Although I enjoyed playing dress up for a while, I know it pained my friends to see me in ill-fitting muumuus (baggy Hawaiian print dresses) or too-tight-fitting pencil skirts. I ended up working at the Hawaii State Capitol for a few years. Driving to town left little time or energy to surf, and I forgot to do it. But when the ocean truly owns your soul, heart, body, and mind, it’s hard to stay away from her forever.

Getting recognised by the Hawaii State Legislature for advocating for gender equality in surfing with World Long Board Champion
Honolua Blomfield photo Betty Depolito

One day I’m sitting in my bedroom office cleaning out old files, and I come across a folder marked surf school. I want to say the rest is history, but life doesn’t always go as it seems. While I did start a surf school and spent much of the next ten years in the ocean teaching surfing, I had still forgotten to surf, for myself self that is. Being genuinely owned by the ocean is a fate that’s hard to fight. So when COVID-19 caused the Hawaii government to close all the surf schools in Hawaii, free surfing was the only thing we are allowed to do currently. With one of the best Aprils on record for west swells, it was not hard to motivate me to find my way to my second favorite wave on the North Shore daily. Teaching thousands of surfing lessons also seemed to have helped with my wave knowledge, and I found myself getting pitted more often than not. Surf session after surf session has brought so much forgotten joy to my soul. I feel like a 12-year-old girl. I’m falling in love all over again with a profound commitment to stay in this relationship forever.

Carol Philips Bodybarding Pipeline Hawaii 1985