My Uncle Dave Hopkins was a master of the green flash, that split-second when the sun dips below the horizon and a brilliant green flash lights the sky at sunset. It’s thanks to him that I saw it as often as I did growing up in Kalama Valley. We’d all be piled into his car coming around Hanauma Bay on our way to volleyball or back from the beach and he say, “Today’s the day!” and whip the car into the overlook turnout above Koko Marina. From there you can watch the sun set into the ocean, and we’d sprawl over the rock walls, relaxing in the tradewinds, waiting sometimes half an hour or more, and end up late to wherever we were supposed to be. Time was a flexible concept in Uncle Dave’s world. But it was worth it. Most times he was right. Long before anyone scientifically analyzed this phenomenon, Uncle Dave knew it was a matter of location, horizon, and atmospheric clarity. He’d watched a lot of sunsets.

Uncle Dave always had time to smell the roses, sample the kim chee, or teach kids how to catch crabs, boogie board, or the best way to set the volleyball just off the net for the perfect spike. Our families used to go beach camping and that’s where he taught me how to cook fried rice for breakfast using leftover rice we’d made with ocean water the night before. Uncle Dave loved to eat and knew all the best places around the island to eat anything—crackseed, shave ice, guri guri, teri chicken—he was better than a restaurant guide.

Like many people with big hearts and even bigger opus, Uncle Dave died young, too young,  when I was a sophomore in college. I miss him. I’m sure he’s up in heaven yelling down at us to slow down, relax, and enjoy the journey. A hui hou, Uncle Dave!

Tips to Spot A Green Flash at Sunset

Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to see a green flash at sunset. But be careful; there’s a true green flash and a false green flash. The false green flash isn’t as spectacular; it’s more of a green haze over everything and lasts too long; it comes from staring directly at the sun as it sets and damaging your retinas.

  1. You need a clear, distinct, and distant horizon. A sun setting into the ocean’s the best bet.
  2. The sky has to be perfectly clear; no clouds, vog, or haze on the horizon.
  3. Position yourself so you’re looking right into the setting sun, but keep your eyes off the sun itself until just the barest hint is above the horizon.
  4. Don’t blink! A true green flash only lasts a fraction of a second. Watch for a green flash, flicker, or glow about the setting sun. If you look away and everything has a green cast to it, it’s a false flash.
  5. Have patience. Like my Uncle Dave and Uncle Kahana in One Boy, No Water say, you many see a green flash only a handful of times in a lifetime, but once you’ve seen it, you’ll never doubt again!

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