Marking seasons in a relatively seasonless Hawai’i

Is it autumn? It doesn’t feel like autumn. I know I’ve already complained about it, but seriously. It is not anything one would recognize as autumnal around these parts. The trees are still green as ever, the temperatures have not discernibly dipped, and even though pumpkins are EVERYWHERE, it feels a little like I’m violating the rules of seasonality when I think about buying mini pumpkins alongside the Cotton Candy Grapes I intend to freeze to eat as a snack on the still-sweltering days.

While I miss the change of seasons every year (monotony is, well, monotonous, even if the monotony is tropical weather), I miss it most acutely in the turn of summer to fall.

Or maybe I’m just cranky that a swimsuit-required gathering is always possible. I wanna be a chonky bear and chonkify to hibernate. BUT NO. HAWAI’I SAYS NO.

But I am persistent and love marking and experiencing change (the opportunity for a new start, no matter how slight, it perpetually alluring), so I’ve found ways to mark the marching of time even if the weather doesn’t change much.

Fall is marked by a switch in where I swim around O’ahu. (CHONKS SWIMMING YAY!) Once October hits, North Shore is officially a rough place to swim. The surfing swells start building to their December/January peak, and even more protected areas like Shark’s Cove are too turbulent and murky for good snorkeling, much less swimming further out in the ocean past rocky borders. I actually get seasick swimming North Shore around fall, which is my signal to move on to smoother, watery pastures.

So starting in October (fall), I swim South Shore again! My favorite swimming beach, Kaimana, is finally calm enough for swimming and snorkeling, even past the break. I also switch my hiking from Windward Side to South Shore, or even Leeward Side, as the rains make Windward Side trails far too muddy for my pretty hiking shoes (I kid, my hiking shoes are A MESS).

Winter is marked by SUPping South Shore. Come January, I start schlepping my inflatable SUP out to Ala Moana Beach Park. It’s a half mile of beach protected by corals far out from the shore, so the water in the bay is smooth and luxurious. Plus, have I mentioned the turtles? I have never once SUPped at Ala Moana and not seen a sea turtle. Marvelous little sea kittehs, those.

Spring (usually around March) I start training for my half marathon in earnest. Spring season is run season, because I try to run the Hapalua Half Marathon every year. It keeps me honest. Spring is also my favorite time for hiking, as it’s dry enough to avoid the mud, but still cool enough to be able to head out later than 7am.

No matter how crappy, the shave ice after a half marathon is the BEST shave ice.

Then come summer (late May, after classes end!) it is ALL ABOUT THE BEACH, BABY. Windward side beaches, North Shore beaches, South Shore beaches, ALL THE BEACHES. The weather is hot, the breeze is consistent and lovely but not wimdy (fox in the winter wind saying “It’s WIMDY” meme, anyone? No?!), the waters get increasingly warm as the summer goes on, and the sun gives my skin a slight golden kiss. The skin it can find from under my umbrella/hat/sunshirt/etc., of course. Prime beach time is right through October, even, as long as you avoid the Man-o-Wars who thrive in the warmer waters. (Got stung by one this weekend, AWESOME.)

And then we start all over again. Finding a routine in the great Hawai’i outdoors helps me mark seasons even when the actual season changes but I only notice halfway through because time is meaningless when the temperature only changes 5-10 degrees year-round. It’s funny that the conditions that signal seasons here are not necessarily climate and weather, but the state of our nearshore waters. There is something deeply poetic about that.

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