Maui Nov 2013
See all the trip photos here: http://artzy.photostockplus.com/album_1576928
From the ocean paradise of Maui. Just east of a very quaint town called Paia. We are on the famous North shore of Maui that draws the best surfers and windsurfers from all over the world in the fall and winter months. We arrived only days after a large north swell. In fact, the legendary big wave at Peʻahi “Jaws” had gone off only a day before we arrived. This only happens a few times a year. You could hear the large sets pounding in the backyard and we knew the morning would be challenging. I stayed on the waters edge with my family in Kuau. Sheltered from the wind, Beautiful waves peel into the shores of our backyard too a spot called Tavares. The outer reefs were huge but smaller clean sets rolled past for the surfers to launch 360’s and arial maneuvers at will.
Kuau is one of the last populated towns just before heading east along the rugged road to Hana, a scenic road through the Maui jungle. It has something like 60 narrow bridges and 620 turns. Bridges are one lane passageways so you need to stop and give right of way before crossing. Stops along the way feature pristine clear water pools, waterfalls, black sand beaches, red sand beaches and other island natural wonders. My family was with me and so was my windsurfing brother JF Lemay. He has a quaint one bedroom facing the Haleakala Crater just a few hundred meters from our place.
Noam and I were first to wake on our first day and headed a few hundred meters up the coast to the famous Ho’Okipa beach park. The very first wave we saw… was the biggest either of us had ever seen. I would say it was about 25 feet high and perfectly shaped with a side offshore breeze peeling the top off of it.
We later watched some windsurfers sailing in the huge waves with very light winds. Not many dared to go out but Kevin Pritchard and Jason Polakow were on hand to show us how it’s done. I had met both of them before and introduced my son to them, he was blown away being able to meet these men and watch them attack the big surf. Ho’Okipa is known for breaking gear as the wave literally ends on an outcrop of sharp coral rocks. Even the pros need to gather their gear when they mess up on big days. It’s not for the faint at heart even though Jason and Kevin make it look easy.
So I snapped some photos and headed for Kanaha. It’s down the coast near the airport and the wave’s breaks far out so no shoreline rocks to deal with. You can see the west Maui mountain valley from here and the park is spacious and filled with nice shady spots and flat water near the shore for the family to enjoy. Its only a 10 minute drive down the coast on a sugarcane lined Highway. Kanaha is notoriously crowded but the wind was light so we lucked out with a session that allowed us to catch lots of waves. One bomb was well over mast high. I think this was the set wave of the day. I came down the peak and looked right to turn up only to see the entire wave closing out. The wind was light so I pumped my sail and looked back. I had time to examine the wave and it was clearly way over my mast. I pumped some more and took another look back. The entire wave had exploded and the white water looked like an exploding iceberg. I was maybe 30 feet out front and I gave one last pump, took a deep breath and braced myself but as the wave hit my heels I held tight and ended up on top of the ferocious white mass. I managed to ride it in and not crash! I was so excited, I let out a joyous scream. I did absolutely nothing on this wave, but I survived and it felt GREAT! I have a much better understanding of the joys of big wave surfing for sure. Living… is the reward lol.
On day two, we had a session at Ho’Okipa in about 6-10 foot waves. The place was mega crowded and we had a hard time deciding if we should hit Kanaha or dance with the pros at Ho’Okipa. Its intimidating for sure and finally a decision had to be made. Greg was with us as well and was leaving soon so he said “lets just do it” and we followed like villagers going to battle. It felt like our duty. We had to sail Ho’Okipa but the wind had dropped and the waves were still in full force. We manned up and got out there just as everyone was getting off. We had to shlog for about 45 minutes picking off sets and finding our right of way but then the wind started up again and we were only 6 on the water. It was HEAVEN! We had our pick. At one point I gave up 4 waves only to catch the 5th and all of us scored a great ride. One after another we were scoring true Ho’Okipa gems. What a day!!! We got to enjoy real Maui conditions I will not soon forget.
Luckily the first two days offered exceptional windsurfing because the forecast started to look bleak. We started touring the island as the waves and wind peeled back after this big North swell. FIVE days no windsurfing :-(. We went to top of Haleakala Crater to watch the sunset from above the clouds. Haleakala is a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Really impressive views from here and the weather drops off fast as you reach altitude “jackets and hats required”. We finished at a small local restaurant called the Fish market in Paia. Incredibly fresh fish in a market style restaurant at the center of Paia where Baldwin avenue meets Hana hwy. You’ve never had fish like this! Order in front of the kitchen, find a table amongst others and dig in.
We took a boat from the South side to visit Molikini crater. It’s a moon shaped crater that you can snorkel above. Perfect visibility and some pretty cool fish. The boat had a slide and the kids had a great time. The second stop was closer to land where we could see Haliakala in the background and we snorkeled with turtles. The trip finished by noon and we met up with JF who had gone for a run in some kind of Sherwood forest. We circled the south side of the island to the west coast for some paddle boarding in a modest but super clean wave at Launiupoko State park. Noam was a rock star. It was very shallow and filled with sea urchins. My not so skilled flat landing on one fouled wave ended in a close encounter with one of the spiny little buggers. There I was on my board picking spikes out of my ass (priceless)! A spectacular backdrop of the West Maui Mountains with palms swaying in the light breeze made for an impressive afternoon. The place was equipped with a little rock pool for Mila near shore to play in. On down the coast just past Kapalua JF had found a picturesque coral outcrop and with closer investigation we saw a family of turtles bumping across the shallow water . These guys were bigger than manholes and we spent about 20 minutes watching them feed in the rocky outcrop.
On the way back to Lahaina for dinner we stopped at a little bay/park that had a spectacular forest “Honolua Bay”. It was one of the most magical forests I had ever seen. What a treat. At the center was a jungle tree filled with hanging string like vines that made it seems like the tree of life in Avatar. The signs asked that we not leave the trails as it was an ancient Hawaiian burial spot and as with many of the stops on the road to Hana, this was a sacred place. We finished the evening at an amazing restaurant by the sea in Lahaina called “Honu”. The Tuna Bruschetta was insanity!
We have several great beaches a stone throw away from our place were the kids can play. But we finally discovered Paia bay and the shoreline sets are enormous. Noam is proving he is qualified to ride these giants, but I am scared for him. It’s truly nuts, but he is so good and confident I have to let him play. Both of us pay the price at times but we survive the biggest days unscathed.
Finally we did the road to Hanna. It was a long day. We headed out a touch late at 8:30 but still managed to see several impressive waterfalls, pristine pools and yes we made it to the black sand beach near Hana. We did not stop at all the stops. We rather selectively found some gems and took our time. The first stop we saw Rainbow Eucalyptus trees that have such strong colours (brown, green, orange) you could swear someone painted them. Then we stopped at several nice waterfall spots. Small hikes took us through luxurious green, wet gulches that end with beautiful moist caverns with water flowing from the sky. The humid smells and peaceful trickling sounds make it really special. We stopped for some island fish tacos along the way. Our next stop was Honokalani Black Sand Beach, located in the Wainapanapa State Park and is also a Hawaiian burial ground. We spent a good hour playing in the waves and taking in the vibe. It really is an AMAZING and special place. You feel like you are in a lake as the lava rock has been transformed into black river like stone and fine black sand on the beach. The beach has a cave off to the right that you need to duck into. It leads to the beach and opens at the water front. We left there rejuvenated and went on to Hana. The town has little to offer itself. It’s the areas wonders that make the trip worthwhile. We stopped at Koki Beach on the way out. Also beautiful and impressive but the highlight was the wave. Even though the rest of the island is flat right now, with no surf… Koki had the nicest, clean sets coming through. We were so bummed we had not brought surf boards and had to settle for body boarding but it was really, really great! I can’t even imagine what it would have looked like with a big wave. It was already almost 6 feet. We circled some impressive cliffs leaving Hana at dusk and made our way back in the dark around the eastern side of the island for a 2 hour bumpy ride home
It’s been nice to have some family touring time but now I start meditating, praying, and spiritually summoning the wind and waves. Please god!!! Bring us some waves! Lol.
The swell did come back and we got some really decent days with good waves but not so much wind. We finally got a really good day but Ho’Okipa had a kite competition going on so we can’t sail there. Pat Bergeron is around and lets us know that the waves should be good at Lanes and we should check it out. We followed him over there and these waves had some Hawaiian punch! Lanes is just below Ho’Okipa and filled with kiters. Higher up near the point only a few guys are out so we manage to hit wave after wave. I was sailing hard and managed a few great hits but one of those ends in total annihilation and a swim for my gear. I really was not sure I would get to it in time but I was close and a kiter actually stops to hold onto the gear for me for a minute so I can catch it. Thanks dude… I start to sail a little lower and soon enough after taking another bomb on the head I realize I am standing in little more than a couple of feet of water on the reef.” Holy shit” lol. All’s well that ends well and it was a rocking day. Thanks Pat!
The time to leave is near but… there are snow storms on the mainland and the possibility of being stuck in an airport when another swell is scheduled to hit Maui drives the decision to extend. Poor JF has to be home for a meeting which in the end got cancelled due to the snow storm, but my family and I stay and man, am I ever glad we did!!! The forecast delivers! The waves are pumping… the wind is pumping and its building. After two and a half hours riding in Maui’s well known secret spot I start to take some beatings.I am riding a little higher up on the break than some of the others again and catching wave after wave. I am ejecting off tiny aerials which often end in a wave closing over me and my sail (a scary way to go down). On one set I am being tossed like a rag in a pot of boiling water when my mast smacks me upside the face. Not the end of the world but… it wasn’t pleasant. I ride a few more and decide to take a break. My senses crave more, but my gut tells me to back off. I decide to hit Kanaha for the remainder of the day. I am alone today and should be reasonable. Kanaha is packed solid and the waves are nice and long but a challenge to catch as you are competing with hoards of windsurfers and I am truly exhausted. I finish the day out and pack it up. The final day is light but I manage to catch a few waves and say my goodbyes to the reef. I know it will be some time before I sail here again.
Its been a memorable trip. Not as windy as my last one but a more diverse trip with family and other Maui goodness. I have discovered a lot, but I still crave more. Maui has a lot to offer and without question I will be back to discover her treasures.I have plenty of video and photo memories to help guide my thoughts on those cold winter days ahead 😉
A Hawaiian saying sums it up for me.
Makemake oe ~ I desire you, I miss you
You can view all the pics here: http://artzy.photostockplus.com/album_1576928