Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Bottoms Up

The currents of Hawaiian beaches are vigorous, but it takes experience to understand just how vigorous.

Black tie bikiniCarole and I were on our first trip together to the Big Island. We were staying on the Kohala Coast, where the weather in October is reliably sunny and warm. We arrived after the Ironman Triathlon, so there was elbow room in the resorts and on the beaches.

Carole had been to the Big Island before and was eager to show me the personalities of different beaches where she had sunned and snorkeled. At times, it felt as if she was on a first-name basis with the Honu that occasionally would beach to sun and rest.

From our condo in Waikoloa, we set out each day with beach chairs and a cooler full of water and snacks. There was remarkable variation in beach sand, some of it natural and some of it imported. All the beaches were public, but some seemed more exclusive and manicured.

Midway during our stay, we went to the beach near Mauna Kea Resort. It is known as an active beach and a favorite of boogie boarders. We lugged in Carole’s boogie board along with the beach chairs and cooler.

It was a sunny day, like most fall days on the Kohala Coast, and the beach was crowded. As the non-fish of the family, I took up my customary position in a beach chair in the shade, applied suntan lotion and stuck my head into a book, in this case, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein.

Because of Carole’s familiarity with beaches and her fish-like instincts in the water, I hadn’t developed the habit of paying a whole lot of attention to her forays into the ocean. She didn’t venture out that far and always was surrounded by lots of snorkelers, swimmers and boogie boarders in case of any trouble. Plus, Einstein was a great read that had me fully absorbed.

One more detail is important to note at this point. Carole is a shapely woman who looks terrific in a bikini. I mention this because this fact encouraged me to invest in some beautiful bikinis for her to wear – and me to see her in. One particular favorite featured knotted ties at the side.

It so happened Carole wore that favorite bikini when we went to Mauna Kea beach to snorkel and boogie board.

The waves were pounding and the boogie boarding was awesome, or at least that’s what I heard the boogie boarders say. I wouldn’t know because I was enthralled at Einstein’s discovery of relativity.

After we had been at the beach for some time, our “experience” occurred. I didn’t realize it at first – or even at second.

CatchWave2Carole rode in on a perfect wave, huge enough to carry her onshore – and untie both knots of her bikini. Landing at the feet of two startled people in beach chairs, Carole smiled, used her boogie board as a giant fig leaf and oozed her way back into deeper water. Her bikini bottoms never made it ashore.

She swam to a point in a direct line from where I was perched on the beach and began waving. It is hard to see someone waving at you when you are intensely reading a page in a book.

Carole started shouting, but it blended in with the loud beach noise. Her voice didn’t transcend Isaacson’s.

At last, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said to look up. I saw a Hawaiian lady laughing and pointing to Carole who was treading water a little further out and waving. I waved back.

Then it struck me there was a frantic look on Carole’s face. She needed help. Like all males, I assumed her top had come off, so I grabbed a cover-up and walked to the water’s edge. Carole gave me an exasperated look and shook her head. The laughing Hawaiian lady shouted, “She lost her pants.”

I slogged back up the beach to retrieve her sarong and went back to the edge of the beach, when it struck me: I didn’t swim. This posed another serious dilemma. I couldn’t reach Carole and she didn’t want to risk swimming any closer to shore.

It took UN intercultural skills to enlist the Hawaiian lady, who now was laughing hysterically, to wade to shore to fetch the sarong and ferry it to Carole, now shivering bottomless offshore.

Carole was rescued after her 45-minute ordeal. We cut short out beach visit and returned to our condo. I think I grilled fish, we drank wine and we laughed about the bottomless beach experience.

The Hawaiian lady, I’m sure, had an uproarious time telling her family about the bottomless boogie boarder and her hapless husband who didn’t swim.

And the little old man with a camera who repeatedly swam around Carole like a crazed blowfish got his thrill at home watching his underwater masterpiece of beach porn.

Carole and I return annually in October to the Big Island and feign to look for her lost bikini bottoms.We learned Hawaiian currents can be really strong – and I resolved never again to buy my beautiful wife a bikini with bottoms that tie.





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