By Léo Azambuja

Spinner dolphins in Hawai‘i. Photo by Claire Fackler/NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

Spinner dolphins in Hawai‘i. Photo by Claire Fackler/NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

I used to camp in Polihale quite a bit, usually a couple times a month, and sometimes I’d go there twice a week. Needless to say, I scored many epic days of surfing with no one else out but my friends and I.

But my best experience there so far was out in the deep ocean, far past the breaking waves, in the company of true locals, dolphins.

Growing up, I never got expensive gifts on Christmas or birthdays, and I never really cared about it. I was always more into the party than receiving gifts, though I must confess the Velotrol, a plastic trike, I got when I was 4 years old was pretty rad.

So for my 30th birthday, I decided I would go to Polihale and camp for as many days as possible. I took a week off work, and I ended up camping for five days without ever having to leave the place. Many of my friends came and left. Every day, there was someone different coming, and everyone brought food, beer and ice.

We’d surf all day, and at night we’d hang around a bonfire made of keawe wood, talking story and drinking beer. It was a pretty memorable trip. No cellphones, no TV, no Internet, no street lights. Just my girlfriend, my friends, my dog and lots of surfing.

On the fifth day at Polihale, it was my birthday. The plan was to spend one more night, just my girlfriend and I, and then go home. But my dog, a black lab mix named Luna, wasn’t doing so well. The heat from the last five days had really taken a toll on her. All of a sudden, getting Luna back home to safety and having a nice birthday dinner at Duke’s seemed like a pretty good idea. So we decided to leave that morning.

Spinner dolphins in Hawai‘i. Photo by Claire Fackler/NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

Spinner dolphins in Hawai‘i. Photo by Claire Fackler/NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

But not before one last surf session. The waves had been good all week. On the last day, they dropped considerably, but it was still surfable and super glassy. So Jeff and I paddled out for one last session before breakfast.

While we were out there sitting on our boards waiting for waves, we saw a long-haired hippy surfer paddle out past the breaking waves into the deep blue. He must have paddled as far as 200 yards offshore. We were wondering what he was doing out there. We had seen whales earlier, but they were even further out.

Then the guy goes nuts and starts screaming and splashing. We were puzzled, until we saw spinning dolphins going crazy around the guy. It all made sense. We paddled as fast as we could toward them, but when we got close, the dolphins were gone. The guy was so excited he could barely speak. We thought it was cool, yet we were pretty bummed we missed the whole thing.

Then all of a sudden, we saw another pod of dolphins coming toward us from the south. Unfortunately, they swam wide fr