A surf lesson, a slippery wedding ring and a leap of faith

It’s a beautiful morning on Maui’s south Kihei Road, a beachfront lined with palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze. The offshore waves are regular and gentle, making it a perfect spot for learning to surf, lulling me into believing everything’s going to be fine.

Mike, the surfing instructor, teaches me how to pick the right wave, orient my board perpendicular to the wave, paddle up to speed, and then stand up. It looks easy on TV, but I wipe out several times before catching my first wave. I balance on the board and ride it unsteadily into shore. A large blond woman blocks the channel, holding her phone out to take a picture of her husband. I yell at her to get out of the way but she walks right into my path. I try to avoid her but lose control of the board which shoots up and hits her in the head. I tumble into the water, cushioning the fall with my left hand. When it hits bottom, my wedding ring slips off.

I stand up and apologize to the woman.

“I’m OK,” she says, holding her head. Her son and husband help her back to shore.

I return to the spot where I lost the ring. I search in two feet of water, sand obscuring the depths. I try for several minutes but can’t see bottom. In the afternoon, I continue the search. Nothing.

Back at the condo, I tell my wife, Lisa, I lost the ring. “Oh, honey,” she says, very disappointed. We’ve been married for 28 years, the ring a concrete symbol of that union. It’s hard to predict how a spouse or partner will react to the loss of a ring. There are superstitions around losing rings. Sometimes it’s no big deal; other times it’s a crisis, the wife going ballistic and locking the husband out of the hotel room.

When I tell my sister, Anne, about the ring she gets out her phone, Googles the term, “lost ring Maui,” and finds the site, “Dave’s Metal Detecting.” He boasts 80 five-star Google reviews and a success rate of 90%. I’m skeptical, but I decide to give him a call. He asks me to pay $80 up front and asks what I’ll pay him if he finds the ring. I say $120, not really believing I’ll get it back. He agrees to meet me tomorrow where I lost the ring.

A fit, tan, barefoot 48-year-old, Dave wears sunglasses, board shorts, a red windbreaker and flashes a Hawaiian shaka hand wave. I show him where I lost the ring, some 100 feet off a rocky point. It’s yellow gold with the inscription: Lisa + Nick. That’s good, he says, as it will allow him to identify the ring if he finds it.

He searches for it the next day and finds old fishing lures. I have to fly back to Seattle and have pretty much given up on it. He tells me he’ll keep looking. He visually marks out a grid, working the detector over the sector to the right. Nothing. The next day he goes to the left. Nothing. The third day he’s looking for a client’s lost Garmin watch. Forty minutes later he gets a signal.

“Look what I found,” he texts me, including a photo of what looks like my ring.

“Wow,” I text back. “You’re a hero!”

Attending a conference in Maui a month later, I arrange to pick up the ring.

When I tell a friend about this, she responds, “Are you sure this isn’t a scam?”

“I don’t think so,” I say.

I meet Dave at the Honokowai Fish Market. He tells me about how he got into treasure hunting and found his calling. “It’s my life now,” he says. “It’s all about the return and the big smile.”

Back at his truck, he hands me the ring. I examine the inscription. Yes, it’s mine! I Venmo him $200, shake hands and give him a big grin. I not only have the ring back, but he’s reaffirmed my faith in humanity. What’s lost has now been found.

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