Hualalai Harper Sahm

As I made my way into the domestic terminal, I found it hard to believe my eight hour flight would take me somewhere that was still "home". The sights, sounds, and feelings told me that I was at some foreign secluded beach resort. But I was really still in the United States. The warm sun on my skin was a feeling that I hadn't felt throughout the bitter Dallas winter, and I missed it.

This beach, while beautiful and scenic, proved to be the most dangerous part of my trip. A spot known almost only to locals, it held some of the biggest body surfing waves on the island. At around 10 ft., the waves could really give you a run for your money. Not to mention the rip tide that continually pulls you to the east into bigger waves and sharp rocky shores. I confidently waded out into the unknown. When I was about waist deep, the first wave hit. I saw it crash about 50 yards out from where I was standing and assumed it would lose most of its power before it hit me. The rumbling white wall knocked me down. Needless to say I was surprised. A local shouted to me, "Hey! You have to duck under the waves or they'll crush you!". I listened and continued my voyage outward.

The waves seemed to grow bigger and stronger with each incoming set. My confidence turned quickly into fear and before I knew it I was out deeper than I could touch. Each time I ducked hastily under the massive wall of water, I would quickly resurface gasping for air only to see another wave about to crash onto me. Back under again. I knew I was in trouble as I started to panic and felt my heart rate increase rapidly. I soon found myself yelling "I need help!". That sentence is one of those things most people have only had to truly yell once or twice in their life, and this was certainly one of those times. My mind automatically started playing through various headlines. "Highschool Student From Texas Dies in Hawaii'n Waves". "Unexperienced Teen Wades Out a Little Too Far". Thankfully another local yelled that I need to use the power of the ocean to help me instead of paddling against it tiring myself out more and more. Soon I found myself ashore, vision blurry, dizzy, but thankful.

Glad to find my feet on solid sand again, I walked across the "once-lava" now jet black and frozen in place by the cool steady rush of sea water. The ecosystem of the ocean had seamlessly incorporated itself with the strange black rock. Beautiful shells lined the tidal pools, and turtles surfed the calm water. This part of the ocean seemed entirely different from the one I was just in and reminded me that the ocean, while a daunting and dangerous, also possessed so much beauty and life.

Outside the tidal pools, full of life held in by the impermeable jet black lava rock, I tried to keep up with the majestic spotted eagle ray, surveying its land effortlessly. This creature's unparalleled beauty inspired me and I found that I couldn't stop following it.

The color of green that blanketed the mountainous Hawaiian terrain was a natural color lusher than any I had ever seen. It was so bright and vivid that I could hardly believe it grew off of something that seemed so lifeless and jet black.

Without the intervention of man, this entire strange island would be covered with an unfamiliar green blanket. Like nothing on the mainland, the pure concentration of life and color on this island was incredible.

Hawaii has 4 out of the 5 major climate zones in the world, and 8 out of 13 of the sub-zones. The concentration of so many different species and ecosystems makes this island so unique. While we do experience temperatures from over a hundred to under freezing every year in Dallas, this felt much, much different needless to say.

The sheer black lava rock cliffs that lines the island made the scene even more surreal. How could such beautiful color and life come from the seemingly empty lava rock? I was puzzled by this question but was soon to forget it because the island's views took the "why and how" questions away, replacing them with awe and wonder.

The unindustrialized island sunset was breathtaking. I found myself at the oceanside again after the long day. Filled with activities and action, the day was hectic and all over the place, but the sunset on the crisp ocean water brought a refreshing and renewing feeling. A place of healing and serenity, the marriage of the black lava and the clear cool water seemed almost a yin and yang phenomena.

The beauty and peace of the sunset was short lived, as the preparations for New Years Eve night began. The attention to detail, cleanliness, and order of the decorations seemed so different than the surrounding nature. The lava, frozen randomly in place formed strange and unique ripples of black rock that seemed like the islands unique fingerprint, while the sanitary and well ordered party preparations proved so ordered and controlled. Nature and man met hot and cold, just as the lava and the cool ocean water.

The beauty of the night was incredible, but still paled in comparison to the island's beauty. The combination of man's elaborate and ordered celebration paired with the unique beauty of this tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was marvelous.

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