Swimming is the miracle exercise. Your body is buoyed by the water, putting little stress on your muscles and joints. You can go at your own pace, pausing when you want and speeding up when you feel particularly energetic. You can let your mind float into the rhythms of the water pounding the surf or sloshing in the pool. Swimming is soothing and very relaxing, like meditation.
If you love to swim in the ocean, you can’t beat the island of Oahu, Hawaii for perfect beaches, weather, and water. While the east coast of Oahu has quiet peaces, if you want to sample everything from placid pools to killer waves, you want to beach hop up the west coast to the north shore.
Read on for a mini-view of the beaches and what they have to offer.
Here’s an early-morning view of a beach near Diamondhead Park.
Directly in front of you is a tall reef through which you can’t swim. But to the left is clear, calm water that operates as a lap pool. Swimmers in neon caps and lap suits come from all over the island to exercise here for hours. I took a boogie board into this water for several hours, and it was a big mistake. There aren’t any waves here, and to boogie board, you gotta have waves!
Moving up the west coast, you come across what I think of as Turtle Beach. It’s tucked away in a quiet section of the coast, where most tourists don’t come. Here, you can literally swim with lots of giant turtles. They’re close to shore, and if you venture into the water, you can swim within a foot of them.
Beach hopping up the coast a bit farther, you come to what I call Three Tables Beach. I think tourists are clued into this beach because everyone has snorkeling gear. This is where you can see a variety of beautiful fish in all sizes and colors. Three large rock formations set a boundary between the ocean and a calm area that sweeps to the shore, making snorkeling easy.
One of the most popular beaches on Oahu is Waimea. Here, the water is clear, calm, and warm. It’s perfect for families with little children, for old folks, and for those of us who like to swim.
Sometimes, the waves get frisky, but it’s no big deal. Frisky here means the waves lap your toes.
Shifting up the northwest coast is the beach of all beaches: Sunset. You just can’t beat Sunset Beach for drama. Here, even on calm days, the ocean has muscle. Compared to Waimea Beach, Sunset is empty. The only people in the water are those who live on the island and know how to navigate strong water and those who are young enough to laugh when the waves knock them down or hurl them onto the sand. The undertow is fierce, and the waves sweep to shore rapidly, one after another.
Here’s a photo of the waves on a calm day.
Below is a photo of the undertow after the waves. The large stretch of froth on the sand means the water has hit hard and wrenched the sand powerfully out to sea. If you stand in this froth, your feet and ankles will sink into the sand as the water rushes out.
Yes, that’s me, looking at the surf and thinking about jumping into the waves. Did I do it? No. I was too afraid. Not at my age, and not with my messed-up back. I had to turn back.
And then, I did what you should do at Sunset Beach. Everyone can do this, even if you don’t swim and you’re afraid of the ocean. A few hours in this position, and you’ll be ready to tackle the keyboard again.
LOIS GRESH is the New York Times Best-Selling Author (6 times), Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Author, and Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Children’s Author of 27 books and 50 short stories. Her books have been published in approximately 20 languages. Current books are TERROR BY NUMBERS: A WALL STREET THRILLER (June 2012), ELDRITCH EVOLUTIONS (on the Preliminary HWA Bram Stoker Award Ballot for Best Fiction Collection of 2011), and THE HUNGER GAMES COMPANION (Nov 2011). She’s also editor of DARK FUSIONS: WHERE MONSTERS LURK (PS Publishing, 2013). Lois has received Bram Stoker Award, Nebula Award, Theodore Sturgeon Award, and International Horror Guild Award nominations for her work.