A grommet surfing a clean breaking wave, with peachy clouds in the background.
The Dispatch

Chasing Sunrise

30 hours and 11,000 kilometers represents the lengths Joel Hyppönen is willing to go to chase the sunrise.

  • Photography & Words — Joel Hyppönen

As both an early bird and a photographer, it’s no secret I love getting up before everyone else to take advantage of the peace and quiet, journaling and brewing a cup or two, all while still having the whole day ahead of me. And what a first day it would be.

Joel Hyppönen
Free diver lying on the sea floor, within some coral-crusted wreckage, observing a large green sea turtle in the foreground.

Chasing Sunrise — Hawai’i / O’ahu

From the place I call home in Norway, it takes more than thirty hours to get to the tropic of Hawai’i—but take it from me, considering all the time it actually takes, the very idea of the humid paradise makes it a lot easier to sit on a plane for all those hours. Sure, it’s always a shock when exiting the plane into what could only be described as a mild sauna; but the good thing is that sauna of an American state yields incredible benefits to your mind, body, and soul, and I could feel almost instantaneously that I was in the right place.

Banzai Pipeline on the island of O’ahu is arguably the most legendary place in the entire world of surf and the closer you get to that center of the universe, the more you feel it pulling you in. With that always-vital brew in hand, I was able to take in sunrise on the North Shore while witnessing surfers of all ages run into the water, seemingly as stoked as they were the first time they took the plunge. Easily, the more you sit at any beach watching surfers do what they love, the more you realize that, indeed, this was far from their first rodeo.

Following the awesome sunrise at Pipeline, it was recommended that I try a local gem called Sunrise Shack for breakfast. Run by three brothers right across the street from the entrance to Pipeline, these guys know a thing or two about bang-up breakfasts which will set you right for whatever the day ahead has to offer.

For me, it meant catching up with friends going out for some more surf—always rain or shine—and bushwhacking our way to the waterfalls the island hides under its mind-blowing rainforests. There’s a ton of great hiking on the island of O’ahu, which means you better have a great excuse if you ever say no to one—and that’s whether you look at a weather forecast or not. As for two things to keep in mind when on the Hawai’ian islands: one is to simply ignore the forecast as the weather changes all the time, and the other is to travel with a local (or someone with some iota of local knowledge) when you’re out in the mountains. Needless to say the trails definitely aren’t the safest ones in the world, and there is a reason they’re often officially illegal.

The reward of making it up to the summit, however, is without a doubt worth all the sweat. Never have I casually strolled along a trail watching a waterspout rolling in the horizon. For a nature lover such as myself, stuff like that is the salt. No matter how you plan your visit anywhere, always leave room for the unexpected to happen—for better or worse.

A man drinking coffee while sitting on the parapet of a modern windowed balcony, overlooking the ocean.

Chasing Sunrise — Hawai’i / O’ahu

Another bucket list item for my trip was to get a feel of lava that the Big Island of Hawai’i is well known for. There are definitely ways of hiking your way to the flowing lava streams, but due to some time limitations (and my love for flying) I took the higher route and hopped on a helicopter to see things all at once.

There aren’t too many things that have made me feel as small as cruising above roughly 2,000-degrees Fahrenheit of hot, glowing streams of lava; but if you do just one thing on the island, let it be that one alone. You are welcome.

Not to say there isn’t a lot more to see and do—going where the locals go is nearly always a good bet to find something unusual and not-to-be-missed. Waipio Valley is just one of those, and it’s best known for its deadly backwash and black sands beach. Getting there is a car ride, and hitchhiking is surely the only way to go. Be sure to make yourself comfortable with the wild horses, the true locals, and to say hello to everyone you meet along the way, and you’ll be guaranteed a day like no other.

The downside of Hawai’i—if there could ever be one—is that as soon as you start feeling like you’re home, it’s time to go.

Wide shot of a sea kayaker, crossing in front of an island way in the background.

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