We’ve been busy settling into our new home downtown and exploring the surrounding area, but took a break this past weekend for a trip to the north shore after having been invited to a polo match by a new friend.
Yes, that’s right, I said polo match. Having lived in/near NYC my whole life, polo wasn’t something that was ever on my radar. My only recent exposure has been the couple of polo matches briefly featured on Bravo’s Southern Charm, (what can I say?, I’m hooked) and even then the focus was more on the drama on the sidelines. We were surprised there was a polo culture here on Oahu, and since John was also unfamiliar with the sport in general, we weren’t sure what to expect.
We decided to make a weekend trip out of it, as the polo match was on a Sunday. We secured an AirBnB within walking distance to Sunset Beach, our favorite on the north shore, and headed up on Friday afternoon. Sunset Beach is about a 10 minute drive east of Hale’iwa (pronounced Hah-leh-ee-vuh), a great little beach town with cute shops and restaurants.
But, back to Polo. If, like us, you’re surprised to hear Hawai’i has a polo culture, you might be even more surprised to learn it dates back to the late 1800s. Also interesting is that it was introduced to Hawai’i via Asia, not the mainland, by way of an Australian cowboy visiting from India. It became mingled with the deep seated Hawaiian paniolo (cowboy) culture, which actually predates the cowboys of the mainland and its wild west days. The Hawaii Polo Club in Mokuleia on the north shore was established in 1963, and the field is situated right on the beach, with the mountains on the opposite side.
This past Sunday was the 2017 season opener, with tailgating starting at 11am and both the women’s and men’s club team matches from 1:30 – 5:00pm. Food trucks supplied ‘ono grinds (delicious food) throughout the afternoon, and a local band performed after the matches. It was a fantastic time.
We were invited by a new friend John made at a local software meetup, and were part of a group of about 20 people, mostly “ex-pats” like us. It might sound odd to refer to us as ex-pats — given that we are still in the U.S. — but until you’ve made it here long enough to become immersed in the local culture and become a (very unofficial) part of Hawai’i’s kama’aina (which technically means you were born here), that is pretty much what it feels like. In the meantime, many of the folks from the mainland come together and form their own local ‘ohanas (extended families). This sense of extended family is really evident, as John was even referred to as “Uncle” when our friend was introducing him to her young niece: “Can you tell Uncle how old you are?”
Everyone contributed a dish or two to the spread, and we had a wonderful time meeting new people, chatting with everyone, and enjoying great drinks and food while catching glimpses of the polo match in between. We also met a lovely couple from just north of Boston who moved over while their son and his family are stationed here. They’ve been here for a year and are excited to meet up with us soon and show us some pau hana specials we have yet to discover.
Our polo outing was well worth the trip to the north shore, and we enjoyed it immensely. We’re very thankful to have been invited and hope to head back for at least one or two more matches during the season.