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Dec 02, 2016

The Dawn Patrollers

In the early morning hours, when Honolulu is still blanketed in darkness, surfers across the city rise well before the sun.

They gather their gear—surf wax, their boards, and a sweatshirt for the drive—pour themselves a strong cup of coffee, and set out into the quiet morning in search of waves. Searching for waves at sunrise is called dawn patrolling and it's an integral part of surf culture the world over. Its purpose is simple: wake up early, get to the beach before anyone else, and hopefully score a few decent waves before work or school. To the outside world, the prospect of waking up at 4:30 and paddling out into the void in the dark, well before the sun even rises, may seem crazy. But to a surfer, it's all part of who we are. In the gallery below, staff photographer Lance Arinaga chronicles the dawn patrollers of Ala Moana.


Dawn Patrol 000

Just as the sun pulls itself over the horizon, a bird makes its way through the lineup at Ala Moana. Most of the world will never know what it feels like to be in the ocean at this hour; it's just you, a handful of committed surfers, and the early birds.


Dawn Patrol 002

All the hassle of waking up in the dead of night, of forcing yourself into the chilly water, of stumbling out past the reef and into the lineup washes away when you link up a solid set wave all to yourself.


Dawn Patrol 006

A dawn patroller makes her way over an early morning set at first light, searching for a bit of solitude and an open-ended line.


Dawn Patrol 007

At 6 am, the sky is soft but the waves are nothing short of perfect. Here's professional surfer and early bird Kekoa Bacalso, starting his day on the right foot.


Dawn Patrol 008

Yes, getting up early and squeezing in a surf before your workday is inherently difficult and at times legitimately uncomfortable. But when the conditions align—perfect surf with just a few fellow early risers—you're left with a session that you'll never forget.


Dawn Patrol 011

Despite all of the work that goes into dawn patrolling, it's still a gamble and the waves aren't always pumping. But then again, it's hard to complain—good waves or not—when you're surrounded by this much beauty.

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