Ma`ili Beach - "Tumbleland"
Permission granted by Edward E. Lee Jr.
Ma`ili is an area located about 20 miles west of Honolulu on the Leeward coast of Oahu. the name Maili is a contracted form of the word Ma`iliili, which means "lots of little pebbles". The iliili pebbles, or stones, were used for many purposes such as net-sinkers, percussion instruments for Hula, and even as jacks by children playing the game of Kimo. (Clark, 44). Ma`ili is a small beautiful town accented by its long stretch of white sandy beach. Ma`ili beach extends from Maipalaoa Stream to Mailiili Stream along the length of Farrington Highway. My dad, who was born and raised in the area, describes Ma`ili beach in his own words:
"Back in the fifties and sixties, I remember tall shrubs and Kiawe trees covered the entire length of Ma`ili beach. The only access to the water was by rough dirt paths. It was a very isolated area and not too many tourists visited the place because of its inaccessibility. However, it was a very good spot for body surfing and skim boarding." (Lee).
Anyone who walks along the now beautifully landscaped shoreline can sense the sweet smell of fresh salt air and see crystal blue water lapping on a white velvet plain of sand. Right in the middle of this white velvet plain is an awesome and natural phenomenon.
Ma`ili's natural phenomenon is located directly across from Mana Street off of Farrington Highway. It is a 100 yard by 25 yard area of flat smooth reef. The 100 yard side runs along the shoreline, while the 25 yard side runs from inland to ocean. The ancient Hawaiians called this flat level reef papa. My dad said they simply called it "Slippery Rock" because of the slippery moss which grew on the reef. However, in my generation, we called it "Tumbleland" because of the many people who would fall trying to walk, fish, or surf on it. The name "Tumbleland" was made even more popular by a well-known local music group named Kapena which recorded a song titled "Tumbleland". (Kapena). My brother, who is also a musician for a local recording group named the Kanilea Collection, wrote and recorded another song about Tumbleland titled "Na Nalu Hai O Maili". (Kanilea). Both songs ("Tumbleland" and "Na Nalu Hai O Maili") exquisitely describe and exemplify the art of surfing at Tumbleland.
Tumbleland is a natural phenomenon because it is only visible during the months of mid-April to about mid-November. During the rest of the year, this reef is totally covered with sand, making it virtually nonexistent. This sleeping giant slowly awakens and reappears every summer like clock-work. As summer approaches, seasonal currents change, and the south or south-west wave swells push the sand along the shoreline up onto the banks of the beach, exposing this huge mass of rock. As winter approaches, currents change again, causing the sand along the banks to recede and cover whatever reef which may be exposed.
Summertime is always a highly anticipated time of year for all water-sports enthusiasts living in the area of Tumbleland, waiting for its reappearance. When Tumbleland first appears, it is simply naked like a newborn baby, making it easy to observe the many layers of coral which make up this miniature wonder. In the heart of summer, a thick slippery moss covers the exposed reef, resembling a silky green blanket.
For swimmers and sunbathers, Tumbleland offers a safe haven for simple recreation. Some parents play passionately with their children in little tide pools. Others hold their children on the reef's edge and simply let the current take them for a free flowing ride along the shoreline. Still, other parents just bask in the sun as their young ones build sand castles. For divers and swimmers, Tumbleland is like a buried treasure found. the reef draws in all kinds of game which feeds off of its lush vegetation. Some of the fish which frequent the reef are: Menpachi, Manini, Kala, Awa, Lai, Taape, Papio, Weke, Palani, and Uhu. The styles of catching fish varies almost as much as the different kinds of fish. However, most divers use the simple Hawaiian-sling spears, while most fishermen simply use normal dunking or whipping fishing poles. For surfers, Tumbleland is like a diamond in the rough. The reef produces some impeccable surf as summer south swells roll in.Because the reef has a certain formation, it tends to pitch in-coming swells into hollow and tubular waves. On a big south swell day, it is not uncommon to see a surfer stand straight up inside of a perfectly tubular wave. Some surfers use the common surfboard to ride the waves, some the popular foam bodyboards, and still others just their bare bodies.
Like all good things, everyone of Ma`ili knows its must slowly come to a sad end. It is like the parting of a dear friend, the end of a memorable vacation, or the last thought after a beautiful sunset. Slowly winter approaches, and the north swells begin to set in. Again the sand is shifted, and this time it creeps down to cover the natural phenomenon. Eventually the reef disappears, and the summertime playground is now just a fond memory. Like a bear going into hibernation, Tumbleland burrows itself in a hidden cave as the full force of winter sets in.
Clark, John R. K., The Beaches of Oahu. Hawaii: The University Press of Hawaii, 1977.
Kapena. Stylin. Kelly De Lima, Tivaini Tatofi, Teimoni Tatofi, and Joe Ching. KDE Records, 1990.
Lee, Edward E. Sr. Personal interview. 16 October 1996.
The Kanilea Collection, Nahenahe. Eric Lee, Brian Mersberg, and Jay Kauka. The Kai O Mokulua Company, Inc., 1994.