We left Kahului Airport at 11:30 on Sunday and by noon we were neck deep in a full-immersion course on SUP on Maui. We had pre-planned our SUP rental from Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport on Maui but we didn’t anticipate the connection with their staff – particularly with Deja! A few early conversations with Dennis O’Donnell had prepared us for getting a great SUP board and paddle for our week’s vacation. Once at the shop, we met the personification of customer service, SUP skills and local history – Deja Howard.
Deja helped us select our board and while loading them on the car inquired about our interests, our visit, our curiosity about Maui. We let her know that we planned to do the Fun Race 3 mile segment of the larger Maliko Gulch Run. Cool, Deja planned to do the Maliko Gulch as she does each year. Luckily for us she’s a walking encyclopedia of Maui and Hwaiian lore.
We had no idea of the history that Maliko Gulch had and its impact on the agricultural progress of this area of Maui. In 1876, Henry Baldwin, who lost an arm and almost lost his life to a sugar cane grinder, managed to pioneer the processes around Maliko Gulch to bring water to the cane fields of the area. Today’s SUP pioneers negotiating the tricky conditions at Maliko Gulch continue honoring Maui’s potential as Baldwin did. Sport, tourism and agriculture don’t intersect often, so it was very interesting to hear Deja weave history with the exciting event coming up.
Our experience in the Olukai Ho’olaulea would be our first and we were a bit nervous as the afternoon prevailing winds whipped our hair, and almost whipped the SUP boards off the car. Noticing our questions, Deja shared some advice for us as we paddled the week before our fun race.
She advised us to practice paddling in all types of weather conditions; rain, big chop, side chop, light to heavy wind, gusty wind and even practice paddling directly into the wind. She thought we should do some “mini” downwinders at a shorter distance to get our legs used to the chop.
We found that downwind paddling is a blast and very addicting. Our experience was definitely enhanced by our first hour in Maui and the great customer service from Deja, Dennis and the entire team at Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport .