Hang 10 outside or hang out inside at Hawaii’s coolest hot spot, Surfer, the Bar
By Ted McIntyre
A local surf instructor is chatting up a stunning 20-something guest at the freshly minted Point Bar when a fellow media type decides that this was an excellent time to interrupt the young man.
With drinks on the house in celebration of the unveiling of a $45 million reinvention of Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s fabled North Shore, and the nearby surf continuing to crush its way into a moonlit night after a brilliant sunset, the fetching siren’s long blonde locks teasingly flow over the staff member’s forearm, which, like the rest of his body, features maybe two percent body fat. The awkward interruption seems to ruin the moment and the young lady departs suddenly to join her girlfriend, other men leering as she sashays her way through the crowd to the bar. Realizing his egregious social faux pas, the media type immediately apologizes.
“It’s OK, I do alright,” surfer dude smiles back without a modicum of regret, as though he has dropped a grape from the buffet table.
It made you want to take up surfing. And there is no better place to do it, quite frankly. When it comes to waves, this little slice of the world, this so-called Seven Mile Miracle, has long been the epicenter of world-class surfing. Featuring the Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and Haleiwa, while hosting the most prestigious series in professional surfing, the Vans Triple Crown, the swells here begin to build from tender six- to 10-footers pre-American Thanksgiving to towering 30-foot monsters in the dead of winter.
And with all due respect to The Point’s grade-A prime location at Kuilima Point—pool to one side and a long swath of Turtle Bay with its steady stream of surfers to the other—the cool hangout at this resort is the aptly named Surfer, The Bar. A true original, Surfer is a partnership between Turtle Bay and Surfer magazine, the global bible of surfing culture and a publication renowned for its eye-popping photography, free-flowing writing style and eye-candy advertisements.
Not surprisingly, the bar feels like an extension of the hip magazine. There’s a comfy circular lounge just to the right as you enter, its wall lined with past Surfer covers, and the bar itself down a few steps beyond. Through the windows to the left is a panoramic ocean view. But the focal point is a huge screen on the far wall, some six by ten feet. It serves as the backdrop for a stage that features an eclectic mix of entertainment year round, from karaoke, folk and reggae singers to poetry and traditional talk stories—the latter a Hawaiian expression meaning an informal chat where the speaker shares ideas, experiences and cultural tales with audience members.
On this Saturday night, however, musician Tavana McMoore is holding court at the intimate setting. Multiple hidden cameras are portraying a collage of angles of his performance on the big screen, while the rousing, hypnotic beat of his lap slide guitar is drawing people onto the dance floor like an ecstasy-induced teen rave. It’s some kind of acoustic-blues-rock-roots fusion and almost no one in the bar can keep their bodies from expressing its evocative rhythm.
Meanwhile, they’re lining up drinks at the bar. Surfer’s wine list is short and sweet: one sparkling, five whites (the best of which is probably Clos du Bois Chardonnay at $12 a glass) and four reds, the highlight being The Seeker, an Argentinian Malbec, also at $12 a pop. As for bottled beer, there are 14 to choose from, including seven Hawaiian brews—all at $6.75 a bottle. There are another five of the standard tastes-like-water American ales, and an additional five suds on draft.
As for tropical inebriants, Mai Tai’s are a specialty of the resort, but the new Turtle Bay highlight is the “Shaken Sunset,” which they happily blend at The Point—a concoction of Ocean Organic Vodka, crushed pineapple, mint, lime sour and Vita Coco coconut water. But having spotted my favourite gin on the shelf at Surfer, I order a Hendrick’s and tonic. Two rum and cokes follow shorty on its heels.
Tavana wraps up his set around 11:30 p.m. The place will shut down at 2 a.m.—closing time is midnight from Sunday to Wednesday, which is plenty late if you’ve been partaking in anything as simultaneously exhilarating and physically draining as surfing…which I have today. And for anyone who has never paddled their way out a hundred yards or more through an enthusiastic surf, rest assured your trapezius and neck muscles will be at odds with you both during and following the experience. That was sandwiched between a jaw-dropper ride with Paradise Helicopters from the resort grounds (where we landed on a mountaintop about the size of a dining room table) and a round at the George Fazio course. There are two 18-hole layouts onsite: the easily-walked, hard and fast Fazio design that opened with the property in 1972, and the less-straight-forward but more verdant Arnold Palmer creation, with its hidden water hazards and tighter driving lanes. And in case you think things at all Hawaiian resorts are overpriced, note that the post-3 p.m. walking rate for golf is a paltry $15!
If there’s a party atmosphere to the festivities this early October weekend, they have good reason to pat themselves on the back. Since Replay Resorts arrived four and a half years ago, Turtle Bay has undergone more than an extensive makeover, but a re-imagination as well. Walls have been ripped down to open up the spellbinding views; environmental and organic practices have been embraced; Hawaiian traditions have been injected into the fabric, with staff members enthusiastically sharing the aloha spirit. It reminds me of Whistler Village—a sensual, active, hard-bodied resort full of beautiful people that are not content to idle by the pool and down burgers and fries. Golf, tennis, surfing, hiking, horseback riding, bike trails, the Nalu Kinetic Spa with its heavenly ocean views, helicopter rides, swimming at the protected Kuilima Cove on the hotel’s eastern flank—on and on it goes.
But I discovered the perfect downtime as I prepared for the inevitable sad departure. There, at 2 p.m. were the open doors to Surfer. And so I plopped down for lunch and NFL Football’s late game. Bathing suit, flip flops and golf cap on backwards. I looked right at home.