At White Plains Beach, a writer basks in the new and nostalgic.
When I first discovered White Plains Beach in high school, it was a place that seemed foreign and faraway. Back then, we relied on pages and pages of Mapquest directions to lead us over railroad tracks and through groves of kiawe trees. We’d arrive to our destination late in the afternoon, when the ocean glinted a silvery gray and the breaks tumbled over one another in every which way, the peaks of whitewater like freshly whipped meringue. Even when crowded with other surfers, we could always manage to find our own spot—whether at the inside breaks, or out on the periphery—and cruise the rolling crests all the way to shore.
As I’ve visited more frequently over the years, I’ve realized how White Plains represents a microcosm of local culture, perhaps more so than any other beach on the island. There are the local families celebrating milestones under makeshift tents with piles of homemade sushi and tempura; the shirtless, big-bellied uncles cruising in the shade; the daily dawn patrollers and adventure-seeking commuters, all bobbing and basking in the area’s sandy-shored glow.
Added to this mix are the service personnel, who get to take advantage of some of the best deals in town on surf rentals and lessons from the on-site Surf Shack, which stands as a reminder of the military’s relationship to this stretch of ʻEwa Coast. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the area grew to house the robust Naval Air Station Barbers Point. The beach itself was named after the USS White Plains, a decorated escort aircraft carrier that served throughout the Pacific Theater. Although the air station closed in 1999, the roads that take you to White Plains still tell of the U.S. presidents, ships, and battles that shaped the landscape not just of the area traditionally known as Kualaka‘i, but of the islands itself.
It has been nearly two decades since my first visit to White Plains. Little has changed, except what was initially foreign is now familiar. On a recent beach day, my daughter wanted to learn to surf. Eating our Zippy’s Surf Pacs on the beach, my son and I watched as my husband paddled our daughter out to the inside break. They didn’t have to wait long before a wave appeared, picking them up in a rush of whitewash. Even against the afternoon’s glinting sun, I could see another milestone being made, my daughter’s face beaming all the way to shore.
Located at Kalaeloa (formerly Barbers Point Naval Air Station), White Plains Beach is popular with surfers of all abilities.
To check swell reports and forecasts, visit www.surfline.com