Dawn is sneaking over the craggy koolau range, a thick spine of lava cliffs and rainforests that bisects Oahu, while my rusty VW van rumbles into Haleiwa, epicenter of Hawaii's surfing. I join a line of cars stacked with nine-foot-plus surfboards heading for what was called in 1966 the "Seven-Mile Miracle" because of all its world-class surf spots. Today, in mid-February, the legendary winter swells have subsided enough to make the 27-mile drive from my Honolulu home worth the effort to find uncrowded waves. Or so I think. Then I see 20-foot swells breaking a half-mile offshore, well beyond my abilities.