South Shore Torching

A few steps from traffic and chaos, low tide brings a calm and stillness to Oahu’s south shore. The ocean edge is pushed back for miles. The horizon is just out of reach. It’s a surreal setting just before a night of torching.

It’s Saturday and according to our buddy Kyle, a good night to go torch. When we arrive the tide is ankle deep and barely covers what lies beneath. Our new tabis instantly soak up the cold water. We slosh around, sand in our toes. The surface ripples with every step as the sun sets.

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In minutes the sky splits in two, turning grapefruit and grey.

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Birds fly home to their nests. Everything goes to sleep. Even the limu tucks in for bed.

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Without a breeze, you can still feel the air–light and comfortable.

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We get ourselves together as the last bit of sun is squeezed from sight.

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Headlamps, red nets, and of course 5-gal bucket.

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By seven the moon is nowhere to be found and the tide is even lower. The ocean is sucked away–a result from the sun and moon’s gravitational pulls–leaving a liquid garden behind.

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We step into the black water. Mossy patches brush against our ankles. Our eyes adjust to the darkness–broken only by gas lamps and city lights.

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At first, clouds of sand cover nothing but an endless network of seaweed.

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Then, as our eyes take in the light…baby eel. A mean one. Hide your baby toes.

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A fashionable hermit crab, modeling the latest anemones and barnacles.

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…and Mr & Mrs Slipper

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We continue. Wading through. Moving slowly. Watching every step, trying our best not to disturb the neighborhood. The reef is sleepy… but alive.

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Jewel colored crustaceans are easy to spot amongst the red opae and sand crabs. Speckled aquamarine with zebra stripes. Sriracha red and royal purple.

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At the end of the night we tally two slipper lobster, three crab, two eel, couple puffers, baby kala, an angel fish, and some showy shrimp. Saturday wasn’t just a good day for torching, it was the BEST day. The tide creeps back and so do we, releasing our final haul back to their homes.

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It’s hard not to think about the future of our ocean and reefs. In ancient times torching was done with actual kukui nut torches; today, batteries and propane. With so much changing since then, it’s amazing to find so much life still here. With some luck, it’ll stay this way.

On our way out, we met a few pros with pumps and tanks. They were taking Nemo and any other unlucky fish they found back home. Hopefully our next generation can still meet Mr & Mrs’ grandlobsters.

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