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Posted by Mark on

Six Lessons from the Sea by Jaimal Yogis

All Our Waves Are Water

(We’re excited to let you know Jaimal Yogis, our first Books & Spirits author, has a new book out: All Our Waves Are Water, and even more excited to say he’s back in the islands in September – you can see  him at a book signing at Barnes & Noble Ala Moana at 2 pm on Saturday September 16th and a talk and book signing at Lumeria Maui at 5 pm on September 17th. In celebration, we wanted to share with you a recent post by Jaimal, reposted with permission from Spirituality & Health Magazine).




After a couple of decades of surfing and traveling, and writing about surfing and traveling, these are six lessons that I use every day.

1. The struggle is the joy.

Videos and films make surfers look like we’re always cruising around, carefree, on crystalline waves, no work involved. But extremely little of each surf session is spent actually standing up on your surfboard on a wave—maybe 1 percent. Most of the time you’re paddling until your shoulders feel like they’re being cattle-branded. If you’re looking to have a good time, it’s essential to find a way to enjoy paddling, or at least good-naturedly bear it. So surfing is life. The good stuff—chocolate and great sex and weddings and hilarious jokes—fills a minute portion of an adult lifespan. The rest of life is paddling: work, paying bills, flossing, getting sick, dying. But nobody ever found lasting joy from being fed beauty and riches and ease from a silver spoon. The sea has taught me that if I’m clear on where I’m going and why it’s good, the struggle is the joy. Plus, the burn helps you enjoy the good waves even more.

2. Celebrate. Let go.

Because those exceptional waves come along only once in a blue moon, I think it’s important to celebrate them. Hoot, high-five, shake your butt. Too-cool-for-school stoicism isn’t any fun. Recent neuroscience shows that the more positive emotion we bring to an experience, the more neurons fire and wire together, leaving our brains more optimistic and open. The flip side, however, is that if the waves are perfect today, you can bet a storm is coming. Clinging to good conditions is like trying to hold the sea still. It leads to frustration. So dance, sing, toast. Then let go of its ever happening again.

3. Never give up. Do question your approach.

My home break in San Francisco is notoriously difficult for paddling out. Complex wave fields, plus ferocious tidal currents, can, on big days, mean even the strongest surfers end up paddling for an hour and never making it out. But when you’ve been sprinting for 45 minutes—getting mashed into the sand by cold, angry wave after wave—if you just believe you will make it, if you keep going forward no matter how much it hurts, you will get out there.

Except when you don’t. When sheer grit and faith don’t work, get out of the water, catch your breath, question why that approach didn’t work, then look for a more favorable current that can help ferry you out—preferably one that’s working for another surfer. If that approach fails too, go home and have a cup of tea. You haven’t given up. All your paddling has put you in better shape for making it out tomorrow.

4. Feed courage.

To get better at surfing and have the most fun, we need to challenge ourselves with more difficult waves. Courage is key. But courage is not the same as bravado. Courage stems from the French word cœur, heart. It’s tied to humanity’s need for novelty—to grow, learn, and love. Bravado is all about proving something because of hidden insecurity. Courage is patient. Courage trains, observes, selects the right board to match the type of waves, then paddles out in waves that are just at the edge of its ability. Bravado is repressed fear, so it’s impatient. It’s rushed. Bravado paddles out into surf it probably can’t handle just because the cameras are on. Bravado might bring some moments of fame, but it will eventually backfire: injury, loss of brain cells, early death. Courage is the long game.

5. Be still. Be clear.

Humans are mostly water. Even our brains are about 80 percent water. The stillest water is the clearest, and there is a corollary for our aqueous brains. To find out what’s going on deep down—what we want, who we are, what we’re made of—we need stillness and clarity.

The sea calms itself by stopping the harsh winds, and we can calm ourselves with breath: meditation, yoga, prayer, stargazing, just sitting quietly on your board between waves. Whatever form it takes, stillness brings more steady breath. Steady breath brings clarity of mind. These moments of clarity don’t last. Life can be violent, murky, and stormy. But if we’ve stilled ourselves—and know the reef or rock formation that’s underneath that murk—when the monstrous rollers come off the horizon, we can ride them with confidence, or feel okay letting them pass.

6. Accept yourself. Accept others.

Waves arise when air molecules, seeking pockets of low density, blow over water. Like goose bumps, wind forms ripples on the water’s skin, and those ripples act as sails, trapping more air. When wind is sustained, that energy congeals into hefty mounds of water. Swells. Energy in motion will stay in motion. So the swells travel, often for thousands of miles, sorting themselves as they move into tribes of similar speed and size, sets. From above, these sets appear like a parade of blue objects: hard, defined. But this is an illusion. Little water is moving.

The definition of a wave is a “disturbance moving through a medium,” and the memory of wind is spiraling through the medium of ocean. Atoms, molecules, cells are bouncing air’s message in an endless domino effect—a game of telephone. Each swell is a sort of illusion that only looks like firm matter in motion. And people are the same way. We look firm: head, shoulders, knees, and toes. But the bits of matter that compose our bodies are constantly getting traded out by new water, new food, new air, new chemicals. There is no static amount of stuff that stays with us from birth to death, no lump of clay you could point to and say, See? Here I was as a baby, and now I’m stretched to my current size—roughly the same lump I began as.

Just as the wave only exists as the memory of wind moving between particles, we are the memory of some primordial, beginningless exhalation—the cause that caused the cause of the Big Bang and every Big Bang before it. And we only exist as separate entities insofar as this breath has evolved us to perceive ourselves that way.

Jaimal Yogis is the author of All Our Waves Are Water: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment and the Perfect Ride, just published by Harper Collins.

Posted by Mark on

Our next event, with Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Johnson

TL/DR: You need to be at the next Books & Spirits on September 11th!

After a bit of an hiatus, we could not be more delighted to get Books & Spirits back in action. In partnership with The Hawaii Book & Music Festival, we are stoked to have ANOTHER Pulitzer Prize winner, Adam Johnson, as our guest. His book The Orphan Master’s Son is the once-again highly topical, Pulitzer Prize–winning, New York Times bestselling novel of North Korea: an epic journey into the heart of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship.

“Imagine Charles Dickens paying a visit to Pyongyang, and you see the canvas on which [Adam] Johnson is painting here.”—The Washington Post

More recently his book Fortune Smiles won the National Book Award. He’s also won any number of other awards we won’t bother listing. Please join us for an intimate conversation with this talented artist.

We are happy once again to be hosted by Revolusun in Kakaako.

We are super excited to have pupus from Encore Saloon, an Ocean Friendly restaurant that makes some of the best Mexican food in town! Our mixologist is Dave Power, the “barman in residence” (how cool a title is that?) with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Hawaii.

Get tickets here


Posted by Mark on

See the Abrams at University of Hawai’i

Mahalo for such a fun time last night at Books & Spirits!

If you want to see the Abrams (again!), with film clips of The Dalai Lama and ArchBishop Desmond Tutu, you can do so at the University of Manoa event tomorrow night. Thursday, March 2, at 6:30 PM.

The event is FREE. No need to register. But we expect a full crowd!

The event will be held at the School of Architecture building, School of Architecture Auditorium,

Rm. 205, 2410 Campus Road
Honolulu HI 96822

There is parking in a nearby parking garage, or street parking.

See this flyer for more details: Doug&Rachel Abrams-UH Panel-Flyer’17

Posted by Mark on

Doug Abrams (The Book of Joy) and Rachel Carlton Abrams (Bodywise), Feb 28th!

Our fourth event will combine body, mind and spirit through a pair of unique and insightful authors.

Douglas Abrams is the co-author (together with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu) of The Book of Joy. The Book of Joy explores how we might find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering. Douglas is the founder and president of Idea Architects, a creative book and media agency helping visionaries to create a wiser, healthier, and more just world. He is also the co-founder with Pam Omidyar and Desmond Tutu of, a public benefit company working to share life-changing and world-changing ideas. Doug has worked with Desmond Tutu as his cowriter and editor for over a decade, and before founding his own literary agency, he was a senior editor at HarperCollins and also served for nine years as the religion editor at the University of California Press.

Rachel Carlton Abrams (“Doctor Rachel”) is the author of BodyWise: Discovering Your Body’s Intelligence for Lifelong Health and Healing. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University, received her MD from UC San Francisco and a Master’s Degree in Holistic Health from UC Berkeley. She is Board Certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine. In 2008 she opened the award-winning Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine Clinic. Dr. Abrams treats many of the world’s most influential people, from CEOs to billionaire entrepreneurs to Nobel Peace laureates. She has been voted “Best Doctor” in Santa Cruz County every year, from 2009–2016.

(Unfortunately Archbishop Tutu and His Highness the Dalai Lama will only be joining us in spirit).

Doug and Rachel are married as you may have guessed. Having them together on stage offers a unique opportunity to explore the connection between body and spirit in a literary context. They’ll probably surprise us. We expect to laugh a lot. We hope you’ll join us.

Cocktails and pupus will be provided by Koko Head Cafe. Ocean Vodka is graciously providing us with spirits!

Your ticket includes two drinks, food, and admission to the event at 7PM. There are a limited number of early admission tickets for a small group social with the authors before the main event at 6:00PM.

The event will be held at RevoluSun Smart Home in Kaka’ako. (Map). Mahalo RevoluSun Smart Home for making the space available!

Posted by Mark on

A review of Barbarian Days from the Maui Time

Aloha everyone! We had a great time with Bill Finnegan at Books & Spirits last week. A synopsis coming soon, but in the meantime we spotted this great review by Andrew O’Riordan from Maui Time. Enjoy!

“Pictures tell our story better than words ever can,” Pipeline Master Gerry Lopez once said about surfing. Yes and no. Yes, the camera best captures the rainbow spectrum of translucent green-blues, the wafting sea mist, the taut muscles, the thousand-yard stares and the cavernous barrels. But it’s the more ancient medium of words that allows us to penetrate deeper into the myths of surfing, deeper into the proverbial tube of life, deeper into that sacred philosophical space we all seek….

Posted by Mark on

William Finnegan – November 30th!

williamfinnegancomboOur November 30th event is shaping up nicely! We are delighted to welcome William Finnegan to the November 30th Books & Spirits. William is the author of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography!

He is also the author of Cold New WorldA Complicated WarDateline Soweto and Crossing the Line. He has twice been a National Magazine Award finalist and has won numerous journalism awards, including two Overseas Press Club awards since 2009. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography. A staff writer at The New Yorker since 1987, he lives in Manhattan.

Our mixologist and food sponsor for the November event is The Nook! The Nook won the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Critic’s Choice I’lima Award for Best Casual Restaurant in 2015. We’re looking forward to see what co-owners Anicea Campanale and Hailey Berkey whip up!

We hope you can join us! Tickets here. Be sure to get a ticket that includes a signed copy of the book!


Posted by Mark on

William Finnegan, author of Barbarian Days, A Surfing Life. November 30th!!

Hi Folks,

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Kaui Hart Hemmings will not be able to join us on November. We look forward to rescheduling her for a Books & Spirits in the new year. Those of you who purchased tickets already will receive a refund. In the meantime, we suggest reading How to Party with an Infant. It’s an uproariously funny “Bonfire of the Vanities” for the mommy and daddy set.

But have no fear, we are on the job. We are delighted to welcome William Finnegan to the November 30th Books & Spirits. William is the author of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography!

William Finnegan is the author of Cold New WorldA Complicated WarDateline Soweto, Crossing the Line, and Barbarian Days. He has twice been a National Magazine Award finalist and has won numerous journalism awards, including two Overseas Press Club awards since 2009. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography. A staff writer at The New Yorker since 1987, he lives in Manhattan.

He lives and works in Manhattan but is no stranger to the islands, having first lived here as a teenager and returning regularly. We’re excited his schedule lined up for this!


Posted by Mark on

David Helvarg, Seaweed Rebel

Thanks to everyone for coming out to see David Helvarg! David’s passion for the sea washed over everyone who was there. It was very interesting to hear about the recent expansion of Papahānaumokuākea – a ocean-based national monument 10 years in the making. We also had fun hearing about David’s adventures as a war reporter & private investigator. Our favorite: the time his car helped solve a case. Who knew car talk could offer for a crime?

Christian Self & the crew at Bevy knocked it out of the park. His Seaweed Rebel (a seaweed-infused, grapefruit laced cocktail) had people raving, for both the taste and the uniqueness. It’s no surprise he’s an international award-winning mixologist. And the pupus were onolicious. Visit Bevy, you won’t be sorry. As always, Mahalo to Revolusun Smart Home for lending us their wonderful space!

OK so we’ve done two of these Books & Spirits now. We’re digging it. Are you? Would you take just a moment to take our survey? We’d love to improve! Click for Survey.

We’re also excited for our next event on November 30th, featuring Kaui Hart Hemmings, author of the recently released How to Party With an Infant, and The Descendants, on which the Oscar-winning film starring George Clooney was based. Get Tickets.

Some photos from the event, courtesy Edgar Espero ( & others:

See more on Facebook.

Posted by Mark on

The Saltwater Cure: A Review of David Helvarg’s Saved By the Sea

(a profile of David Helvarg, by Stuart Holmes Coleman)

Like the Olympics, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) only meets every four years and brings together some of the best and brightest minds from around the globe to help protect and preserve our natural world. Hawaii is lucky to be the first U.S. state ever to host the event, but our island home also has to face the serious challenges of climate change, sea level rise, extinction and pollution of our land and waters.

Hawaii’s greatest waterman Duke Kahanamoku used to tell locals and visitors alike, Never turn your back on the ocean. He said this as a warning about water safety, but it also had to do with respect and environmental stewardship. Malama i ke kai. Take care of the ocean, and she will take care of us, as Rell Sunn used to say. But modern culture has turned its back on the ocean and its endangered creatures, and we are now beginning to suffer the consequences.

Ever since the publication of his wave-making book Blue Frontier in 2001, David Helvarg has become the premiere chronicler of America’s complex relationship with our oceans and coasts, our last frontier. He writes that our tempestuous love affair with the sea has gradually become abusive, with constant assaults from over-fishing, water pollution, climate change, oil spills and destruction of our wetlands. His next book 50 Ways to Save the Ocean tried to turn the tide by coming up with practical ways each one of us can help protect our marine environment. Although it’s been a losing battle, Helvarg has never turned his back on the ocean.

In his book Saved by the Sea: A Love Story with Fish (New World Books, ’15), Helvarg adds a new and moving dimension to his work by exploring his own personal relationships with the ocean and the three main women in his life: mother, girlfriend and sister. As he describes the declining health of the seas, he also writes about the illnesses that would take away those closest to him. Like a modern day Job, his life is beset with tragic losses and difficulties. But he finds joy and meaning in his personal struggle to save the ocean.

Helvarg has come to Honolulu as a presenter at the IUCN and will be helping to lead a presentation on the importance of bio-narratives and storytelling in conveying scientific ideas and conservation policies to the general public. He will also be the next author in the new Books & Spirits series, which features award-winning writers and culinary sponsors who prepare literary-themed cocktails and pupu for each event. For Helvarg’s talk, the renowned mixologist Christian Self of Bevy has created a special cocktail called a Seaweed Rebel in honor of the author and all those who fight to save the sea. On Thur., Sept. 8th, from 6:30-8:30pm at RevoluSun Smart Home, Helvarg will talk about his memoir Saved by the Sea and his journey to protect and explore the blue frontier.

A jack of all trades, Helvarg describes his evolution as a political activist, war reporter, private investigator, environmental journalist and ocean activist. Throughout the memoir, he weaves together intriguing stories from his adventurous life: his dark family history and bizarre career changes; exotic travels to the melting poles and deep dives in the tropics; romantic love affairs and heartbreaking losses; and close encounters with death and destruction, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Persian Gulf.

The son of Holocaust survivors, Helvarg grew up on the East Coast with his mother and sister, not far from the ocean. His mother was politically active, and he came of age during the modern environmental movement of the 60’s and 70’s. After snorkeling during a trip to Key West as a teenager, he became a lifelong diver and avid student of marine life. He studied journalism in college and took part in student demonstrations. But after his mom died of lung cancer, he became a war reporter in Ireland and then Central America, where war “proved to be an effective antidote to depression after my parents’ deaths.”

After burning out on war reporting, Helvarg moves to San Diego and finds peace living by the sea. Working part-time as a private investigator, he spends much of his time bodysurfing and diving. He eventually meets a fellow ocean-lover named Nancy, and they become inseparable. Living in San Francisco, the pair spends all their money flying to remote places like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef so they dive and experience one of the few remaining pristine coral reefs. Helvarg’s descriptions of diving in these undersea habitats are breath-taking, but it’s heart-breaking to learn that most of the world’s reefs are in rapid decline.

The most moving part of this memoir comes when Nancy develops breast cancer. Although the two had separated, she clearly remains the love of his life, and he stands by her side during the last months of her life. Like Hawaii’s Rell Sunn, she finds healing in the ocean until the very end. Before her death, Rell wondered if the prevalence of cancer in our age was a direct result of our pollution of the land and sea. Years later, Helvarg’s sister dies of cancer as well, leaving behind two sons.

Devastated by their premature deaths, Helvarg writes about finding some comfort in the ocean’s warm embrace. As the writer Isaac Dineson once wrote, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” He has had his fill of sweat and tears but never tires of being in the ocean. This is where all life originated, and it is where many of our ashes will be scattered one day.

In the end, Helvarg’s Saved By the Sea is about survival. That’s why the author continues his crusade to write and educate people about the declining health of our oceans. “After a time of pain and uncertainty, I determined to fight for the one love that that still might (or might not) be saved, the one I will always return to, whether for wave-gliding fun or as light gray ash. In seeking to protect our mother ocean, I will also assure myself continued risk and adventure, a larger social purpose for living, and perhaps even the occasional moment of transcendence, something any one of us might aspire to by taking the plunge.”

Helvarg’s final question to the reader seems to be: Will you turn your back on the ocean or take the plunge to help save her?

For more info about David Helvarg and his talk at Books & Spirits, go to

(Stuart H. Coleman is the Hawaii Manager of the Surfrider Foundation and the author of Eddie Would Go and Fierce Heart.)