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Sandboarding at the Green Sand Beach In Hawaii

Green Sand Beach


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Just what have I gotten myself into?!

This was hardly my first trip to the Green Sand Beach. I had been there several times since first moving to the Big Island of Hawaii nine years ago. Being one of only two green sand beaches on Earth (the other is in Guam), it is truly one of the world’s most unique places to visit. It is also the only place on the Big Island of Hawaii to sand board, being the only beach with a slope.

The Green Sand Beach sits at the bottom of a caldera, its green sand made of a mixture of olivine and peridot, contrasting with the vivid turquoise sea. It is believed the green sand is created from a mixture of lava from the Kilauea, Hawaii’s eternally active volcano, mixing with the ocean, the weight of the minerals causing the green sand to deposit at Hawaii’s southernmost point, while the heavier black sand which Hawaii is famous for settles closer to the lava source. The really strong current at Hawaii’s South Point also helps to create the inlet that contains the Green Sand Beach.

Two years ago, I took my snowboard to the Green Sand Beach to sand board. I had brought along fireworks to tape to the back of my board, as well. Unfortunately, I lost my nerve. Some visitors from Colorado were there, and I let one of them sand board on it while he held sparking wands. Jayson Beste, here is your proof that you sand boarded in Hawaii – and at the Green Sand Beach, no less! I tried to send it to you, but it didn’t go through.

Jayson Beste Sandboarding at the Green Sand Beach

But this time, I really was going to have to sand board because Kyle, my skateboard coach, was coming along to videotape me. I had met him a month ago, at the skate park in Kona. I was working on my limited skills when he approached me, and we started talking. “I took up skateboarding to cross-train for snowboarding,” I told him.

“I used to live in Oregon,” he said. “I was a coach there.” Then he proceeded to tell me about all the contests he’d won, and his snowboard, skateboard, and surf sponsorships.

I asked if he would work with me, and he agreed to do so. He turned out to be the hard-edged sort, who didn’t believe in helping people; rather than easing into new activities, you’re supposed to just jump into things. I stayed on with him anyway, because on the Big Island of Hawaii, skateboard coaches are not exactly a dime a dozen.

So here I was a few weeks later, heading for West Hawaii. The plan was a lesson, then head for the Green Sand Beach. I had to go through with sand boarding this time, since Killer Kyle wasn’t going to tolerate any “fraidy cat” nonsense.

Eventually, I reached the Kona Skate Park, one of 4 on the Big Island of Hawaii, and the largest. Kyle was already there, skating, and in a very good mood. Overall, the lesson was extremely mellow. Though he still refused to help me, he didn’t make me do anything scary.

After two hours, it was time to head to the Green Sand Beach. “It’s getting kind of late. How long does it take to get there?” Kyle asked me.

“It’s an hour’s drive, then a 2½ mile walk,” I told him.

“Uh – what’s the trail like?”

“Actually, it’s a dirt road. It’s really rough, so I don’t like to drive it. But some people do.”

“Does it really have green sand?”

“Yeah, really. It’s the color of pine needles.”

I bought us meals at McDonald’s, then we made the trip to Hawaii’s South Point, arriving at 4:30pm. Strapping my snowboard to my backpack, we began the walk to the Green Sand Beach. Fifteen minutes into the hike, Kyle asked, “How far away is this place?”

“See that ridge over there? That’s where we’re going.”

Way over there? I thought you said you’ve been to the Green Sand Beach before!”

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“I have,” I answered. “Loads of times. I know the ridge looks far, but it’s only about a couple miles.”

“No it isn’t! It’s at least ten! We’ll never be able to make it!”

“We’ve been walking 15 minutes. It should take less than an hour.”

Grudgingly, he turned around and we continued. Five minutes later, he stopped again. “This is too far. We’ll never make it!”

“Yes we will, but we can’t keep stopping like this.”

“That ridge is still far away!”

“We’ve only been walking 20 minutes.”

“Look, I can’t do this. I think we should head back.”

“Are you tired?” I asked.

“No, it’s just this hike is too hard.”

“Hard?” I was puzzled. “What’s hard about it?”

“This is making my bones soft. See?” He pressed on his shin.

“W – what do you mean? Whoever heard of soft bones?”

“That’s what happens when you go on a difficult hike.”

“This isn’t difficult. People drive this road. Here, have an energy drink.” I removed my backpack and dug into it.

“No, I want to go back.”

“Look, I really want to be filmed sand boarding. We’re wasting time talking here. Let’s just hurry up; it’s only 40 minutes away.”

Growling, he continued. I had to hurry to keep up with him, since I’m not a fast hiker, plus I was carrying all the gear. Fortunately, the road was mostly flat. It divided into several ruts; we walked along a dusty one nearest the ocean. “Thought you said people drove this thing,” Kyle grumbled.

“They do.”

“Then how come we haven’t seen anyone?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, shrugging. “Maybe because Hawaii doesn’t allow rental cars here, so that makes it hard for tourists.”

“We could have asked for a ride to the Green Sand Beach back at the parking lot!”

“Actually, I think not many people like to drive this road.”

“I can see why! This ain’t no road; it’s a trail!”

“We’re almost there,” I said.

We walked on in silence for a couple minutes, then the road began to rise; this meant we were nearing the Green Sand Beach. Suddenly, Kyle stopped and turned to me. “I’m not going any further!” he declared.

“But we’re nearly there!” I told him.

“No we’re not! I don’t see any Green Sand Beach!”

“It’s right in front of that ridge. See how much closer it is?”

“That ridge is 10 miles away!”

“You said that half an hour ago!”

“It’s 5 miles away!”

“Are you saying I walk 10 miles an hour? I don’t even run that fast!”

“Whatever! I’m not going any further! You can keep the $20; I’m going back!”

“Look, I’ve come this far, and I really want to be filmed doing this. Not many people get to sand board in Hawaii. Besides, how are you getting home?”

“I’ll hitchhike!”

Sighing, I rolled my eyes. “I can’t believe I’m hearing this kind of talk coming from a pro,” I grumbled.

My remark stung him. He turned around and continued hiking, and I struggled to keep up. The rest of the way, he said nothing else.

We reached the caldera that contained the Green Sand Beach at 5:30. The Hawaiian sun was just over the ocean horizon. “Wow!” exclaimed Kyle. “This place really does have green sand! And it’s perfect for sand boarding! Think we’ll have time for this?”

“I think we can get in one run,” I answered. Looking at that steep slope made me nervous all over again, but I didn’t dare say anything.

We climbed down the natural staircase to the ocean, then picked out a line to sand board. I handed Kyle my digital camera, and nervously climbed up with my snowboard. I saw four little boys standing at the top of the caldera, staring at us. No doubt, they wanted to see if this grown lady was really going to sand board the slope. So here I was, between an impatient filmer and kids daring me! Maybe I should have returned when Kyle protested at the halfway point. But it was too late to back out now.

I reached a point where the sand was too thin to support me, then I strapped in. “I’m ready!” I called to Kyle.

“All right, it’s rolling. Go for it.”

I pointed my board downhill at an angle; it barely moved. “Hurry up; what’s going on?” Kyle asked.

I aimed it more into the fall line; the toe tip dug into the deep sand, and I fell. Finally, after angling it straight downhill, I got up enough speed to finish the run. So I had nothing to fear, after all! I looked up the caldera; the boys had disappeared.

“I want to sand board,” said Kyle, totally inspired. “Do we have time?”

“Yes. I’ll film you,” I told him.

Removing my board, I handed it to him, and he gave me my camera. He quickly hiked up past the point where I’d been, strapped in, gave me the signal, then he zipped down the slope in record speed.

“Wow! That was awesome!” Kyle exclaimed. “I’m glad we did this, now. I wish we had more time.”

“Now you can tell everyone you sand boarded at the Green Sand Beach,” I told him. “Maybe next time we can come early, and make a day of it.”

“Only if you drive,” Kyle answered.

The Hawaiian sun was just touching the ocean when we reached the top of the caldera. Kyle found a cigarette pack on the ground; it still contained 5 cigarettes. “I want to smoke one while we watch the sunset,” he told me.

This sounded totally odd, coming from a pro – almost as bad as all his whining during the hike. I decided not to call him on it. “Uh – remember we still have to get back,” I reminded him. “I have a flashlight, but I still would rather return before it’s too dark. At least walk while smoking.”

“Right.” He lit up, and we began the hike back to the parking lot.

Barely 5 minutes later, we came across a pickup truck. The four little boys I had seen earlier were sitting in the back. “Oh, good!” exclaimed Kyle. “Maybe they’ll give us a ride.” He hurried over to the man in the driver’s seat, and offered him a cigarette. I wondered if the driver had dropped the pack earlier, and now here was Kyle offering him his own cigarette!

“That was good,” one of the boys said to me. “I noticed you brought a snowboard. Did you come all the way out here just to sand board?”

“Yes,” I told him. “Kyle filmed me. “Then I filmed him sand boarding.”

“Have you ever snowboard on Mauna Kea?” another boy asked me.

“You bet!” Snowboarding in Hawaii is another experience few know about.

Kyle came over. “They’ll give us a ride back.”

“Great!” I answered. We both climbed into the back with the boys.

“It’s cramped back here,” Kyle complained.

Do you live here in Hawaii?” the oldest boy asked.

“Yes. I live in Hilo. I drove to Kona to take a skateboarding lesson from Kyle, who’s a pro,” I said, in a tone that told Kyle not to complain.

“Wow! You drove all that way?” the boy exclaimed.

“Yes. It’s worth it, to be able to sand board at the Green Sand Beach. Do you guys come here often?” (Long drives are a way of life on the Big Island of Hawaii.)

“My knee hurts,” whined Kyle. His knee was squished up against a cooler. I very deliberately shifted my position, to show him what to do about it.

“Yeah, we come here quite a bit.”

“Did you know Hawaii is 1 of 2 places in the world that has a green sand beach?” I asked them.


“It may also the only place in Hawaii you can sand board.”

“This ride’s rough,” grumbled Kyle.

Losing patience, I snapped, “I suppose walking would have been smoother.”

My statement had the effect I wanted; Kyle quit complaining. We reached the parking lot just as the last light faded from the sky. Kyle and I climbed out of the truck back, and went around to the driver. “Thanks so much!” I exclaimed. “We never would have made it back before dark.”

“Yeah, thanks a lot!” chimed in Kyle.

I drove him back to Kona. “Are you going to be able to make it to Hilo, after all this?” he asked me.

“Sure,” I answered, opening a can of energy drink.

I dropped Kyle off at the skate park, where he had left his truck, paid him the $20, then headed back to Hilo, playing heavy metal music along the way to help me stay awake.

I got home around 11pm. Entering the kitchen of the boarding house where I live (rents in Hawaii are expensive), I saw Mike, one of my roommates. I told him all about the adventure Kyle and I had, sand boarding at the Green Sand Beach.

“Can you believe a pro would whine so much?” I asked him.

“How do you know he’s a pro?” Mike answered. “He could have been B.S.-ing you. Why don’t you Google him and see?”

I booted up my computer and typed Kyle’s name into the search engine. A Transworld Skateboarding article came up, and lo and behold, Kyle was in it! “Look,” I said, showing Mike. “Can you believe this?”

“Wow! This article is only two years old. Sounds like he burned out fast,” answered Mike. “I can see why, since he was desperate enough to smoke cigarettes some stranger had dropped.”

Then we both laughed.

Me, Sandboarding at the Green Sand Beach

Coach Kyle Sandboarding at the Green Sand Beach

© 2012 Yoleen Lucas


Yoleen Lucas (author) from Big Island of Hawaii on September 16, 2013:

Yes, there's the advantage of warm weather. The disadvantage is that there are no mile-long runs! I prefer snowboarding.

Neil Sperling from Port Dover Ontario Canada on September 15, 2013:

Cool - no snow - try sand boarding. I like the idea better than snow. WARM

Yoleen Lucas (author) from Big Island of Hawaii on July 18, 2013:

The Green Sand Beach is the only one on the Big Island that has a slope. All the other ones are flat. I understand some sand boarding is done on Maui, but I don't know anything about it.

Oregon actually has a resort for sand boarding, complete with rentals and lift tickets! Here's the link:

tastiger04 on July 17, 2013:

This sounds like a lot of fun....not to mention how fascinating the green sand is! There is a place in New Mexico that has a bunch of sand dunes where sand boarding is also popular...something i need to try! But Hawaii seems like a much prettier place for it :)

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