Earlier in the week during my walks along Kaanapali beach I'd watched as young, mostly male, tourists climbed one after the other to the top of Black Rock where they would promptly loose their nerve. Once at the top they'd sit, then stand, fidget, then face the other direction. When no recourse was left they would finally take the three story leap into the swirling brine below. It was not a pretty sight; the fear, the anticipation, the wobbly knees, the stalling.
I suppose that might have been how the cliffdiving pros of the Sheraton's nightly torch lighting and dive ceremony started many years ago. Yet, it is hard to imagine they ever wavered when you watch them now so skilled, strong and graceful at their task.
The other day we watched the show once again under the glow of a sudden burst of sundown breakthrough light that followed a long day of overcast skies.
The Melemele, that stupendous golden, honey rich light that drapes itself over Hawaii with almost unreasonable regularity
drove us once again to witness the ritual. Always a thrill, the sun setting over the Pacific beyond Lanai from Kaanapali captivates everyone with an unceasing array of colors and patterns across the sky. On nights of the melemele the vast kaleidoscope whirls all shades of gold, fuchsia, crimson, violet against brilliant blue patches of sky and sea.
But that's not the only WoW! of sundown at the Sheraton. When the sun gives out, leaving behind only dim silhouettes, distant sails and a beach littered with newly inspired souls, a distant sound of chanting and the wail from a conchshell turns all eyes mauka.
As if from out of nowhere, a sarong clad torch-bearing runner thunders toward the beach. With swift and sure footed leaps, steady as a gazelle, he gracefully bounds up the craggy lava rocks. With great flourish and uncanny accuracy he lights the torches lining the path in a ceremonious gesture to honor all the souls that had reentered the great beyond from this point. (Legend states that at Black Rock the souls of the departed pass from the land of man into the hands of God.)
Once the final torch is lit, the bare chested warrior silhouetted at the top of Black Rock by the only remaining light the sun would cast that day, raises his arms high in salute to the earth, the sky, the sea, the souls...and then plunges into the waves below.
I would guess this is how those young tourists envision themselves when they climb Black Rock, all bold and confident and powerful. It is a wonderful image that would inspire just about anyone to do anything.
The Black Rock torchlighting and dive is a nightly event at Kaanapali. Sundowners at the Sheraton offers the best views, but you can also bring your own libation, nab a lounger in the sand and enjoy all this for free. Daily.