One afternoon I was driving two of the girls to Blockbuster Video in Kahului.
It was the day before a surfing competition, and the girls were going to spend the night at their coach's house up the coast so they'd be ready for the contest at dawn.
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It was also, in fact, a school day, but these were the luckiest of all the surfer girls because they are home-schooled so that they can surf any time at all. "Oh, and also," she said, "I'd really definitely want crazy hair like Gloria's."The girl in the backseat leaned forward and said, "Yeah, and hair like Gloria's, for sure."A lot of the Maui surfer girls live in Hana, the little town at the end of the Hana Highway, a fraying thread of a road that winds from Kahului, Maui's primary city, over a dozen deep gulches and dead-drop waterfalls and around the backside of the Haleakala Crater to the village. It is only 55 miles from Kahului, but the biggest maniac in the world couldn't make the drive in less than two hours.
There is nothing much to do in Hana except wander through the screw pines and the candlenut trees or go surfing.
There is no mall in Hana, no Starbucks, no shoe store, no Hello Kitty store, no movie theater—just trees, bushes, flowers, and gnarly surf that breaks rough at the bottom of the rocky beach.
Before women were encouraged to surf, the girls in Hana must have been unbelievably bored. In the '60s, Joyce Hoffman became one of the first female surf aces, and she was followed by Rell Sunn and Jericho Poppler in the seventies and Frieda Zamba in the '80s and Lisa Andersen in this decade, and thousands of girls and women followed by example.
They thought for a moment, and then the girl in the backseat said, "A moped and thousands of new clothes.
You know, stuff like thousands of bathing suits and thousands of new board shorts.""I'd want a Baby-G watch and new flip-flops, and one of those cool sports bras like the one Iris just got," the other said.
In fact, the surfer girls of this generation have never known a time in their lives when some woman champion wasn't ripping surf. Theory has it that they grow up riding such mangy waves that they're ready for anything.
Also, they are exposed to few distractions and can practically live in the water. She grew up near the city, in Haiku, where there were high-school race riots—Samoans beating on Filipinos, Hawaiians beating on Anglos—and the mighty pull of the mall at Kaahumanu Center.
My car, which until then I had sort of hated, suddenly took on a glow.