Surf’n Things: Surprise south swells


Photo by Kainalu Steward

Mala Wharf

By Kainalu Steward, staff writer

The crowd, longboards everywhere, and no school! Thats right its summer…well, usually it is. But this is not summer. 

So what’s with the waves? On south-facing shores? During this time of the year?  YES!

This is what I like to call surprise swells, and they’re actually the best type when they’re literally ten minutes away. For these swells, I love to grab the longboard and hit the best spots. I’m talking smooth, long and pure fun!

The longboard is one of those logs you want to take out when you just want to cruise. It’s not a fast-paced board, and it’s definitely easier to control when it comes to riding. If you asked me which board I prefer, it would probably be the longboard as opposed to a shortboard, but ultimately, surfing is surfing.

My favored longboard spots include Mala Wharf and Launiupoko. I’m sure many of you are familiar with Launiupoko and its crowd, and thats why I’ll be talking about Mala Wharf. This is not only a place where I surf, but also somewhere I was born and grew up.

Unless there’s a contest or the waves are really up, parking shouldn’t problem. It’s not like Honolua Bay where you’re literally parking on a cliff. It’s more like any other beach access with some paved and marked stalls and other shoulder parking nearby. 

The wave: A long smooth left. Good south swells will take you all the way to the pier.

As with most spots, there are definitely hazards you want to avoid. Mala is also known as “Baby Beach.” The name comes from its calm waters and shallow insides. When it’s shallow, you’ll know it because the reef will stick up. It usually shows in the early morning. That doesn’t mean the wave isn’t ridable. It just makes the wave that much more fun!

It’s hard to describe the serenity the place brings in the early morning if you haven’t been there. It’s so peaceful and calm it’s incredible. Usually that’s the best time, because you beat the huge crowd, and waters are mostly still. By noon, depending on the weather, the winds pick up, which makes it kind of tricky to ride. 

Where to grind? Well the good thing is that Mala is located in the heart of Lāhaina, so if you forget to pack snacks, there are plenty of places within driving and walking distance. Being a simple guy, my favorite is a smoothie from Jamba Juice after a long session, but if you feel like eating actual food, the best is a poke bowl from Lāhaina Farms.  

Current conditions don’t usually happen until summer, when south-facing shores are at their best, but hey, surprise swells aren’t a bad early Christmas present!