It is possible to standup paddle all the way from Maui to the Molokini “seems like a crater but isn’t” area off the coast, but the weather and your paddling buddy need to be spot on. So we were fortunate to get aboard the Pacific Whale Foundation’s boat, Voyager, for a snorkel trip with entertaining and so capable, Capt Doug Hunt. The day dawned sunny with barely a breeze. Whales were breaching and rolling, nursing their young and putting on a show all the way out. (Learn more here)
The snorkeling was great in spite of hundreds of people in the water. Once eyes were aimed at the reef and the antics of the wide variety of tropicals it seemed like we had the area to ourselves. On board, we were served fresh fruit, breads, juices and coffee by highly experienced crew, all with degrees in some form of marine biology and environmental studies. They were personable and shared information in the most engaging manner.
Huge mahalos to Emily, Karin, Mel, Liv, Jamie and Mariah!!! After our second dive at Turtle Arches (wow, even cooler diversity of tropical fish) we had the best cookout! Veg burgers, ballpark steaks (beef hotdogs) and grilled chicken – with sides … and there were cookies! Can’t get all that on a SUP!
The best part of the experience was the knowledge that more than 80% of our ticket price goes directly to the Pacific Whale Foundation, everything we purchased in the store and our membership dollars all support dedicated people serving the source of “every second breath we take” – the Ocean.
If you love watching the whales of Maui at play – or wish you had…. go ahead and learn more about the Pacific Whale Foundation>
Sometimes I wish we had a drone with a great camera – and of course, some sweet editing skills to really document the fun we have had on knee to chest high waves on Maui this week. The zoom on our iPhone can’t quite capture the take off, far out from shore. Sometimes a still shot catches the wrong image. The videos show a small dot moving across a sweet wave. What can we do to really grab the most amazing images from a special trip?
So, I have no great pictures from this week, but I do have a strategy. I have a collection of images captured in my mind. It is a skill I learned from my son about 15 years ago. I requires an active and vivid reflection on the experience you want to save as an “image in the mind.”
I was out at Launiupoko and it was bigger and different than it had been the past few days we’d been there. I got some rides and I got hammered some. To be 68 and to get pounded is cool in itself. Anyway, I was taking my last wave in and I caught a chest high glassy swell. It was a right (my fav) and the wall held up so that I could carve up and down the face of that beauty.
I can feel my feet on the my board, the rail responding to shifts in weight bring me from the left angled take-off, to a bottom turn toward the right. I see the green blue of the wave face shimmering ahead of me. I usually find a breaking wave in front of me, but on this ride the wave held up and I carved toward the top, then slid smoothly back down. There was time to do this twice, so rare for me. With very little effort i can bring the image to my mind at will. I believe that ride will stay with me for a long time.
The funny thing is, the ride is a lot more beautiful and extraordinary in my mind than it likely would have been even if the best videographer captured it. I invite you to hone your mental-image photography skill.
I cut out of the wave, went in and now we had a Big Swell IPA while watching the US Open at a bar on the beach. Life is so good.
The air was electric with anticipation, the athletes quietly checked equipment as the rhythm of swell surging in Kahului Harbor reinforced the truth. While one water athlete would reign victorious by the end of the day, each knew the true opponent was a wave named, Pe’ahi. There would be no beating her, only the chance to be patient enough to wait for her to deliver the right wave and then ride it with a lifetime of experience blended with courage and focus.
In the pre-dawn darkness we arrived at Kahului Harbor as the boats and jet skis were being launched in preparation for the first paddle-in event at Jaws, the Pe’ahi Challenge. We were there to observe the pule, the traditional moment of prayer shared by the athletes as they gather in a circle offering their gratitude, asking for safety and protection, blessing the endeavor they will experience today. One image comes to mind.
One of the competitors emerged from the cabin of his boat with a handful of ti leaves. Traditionally ti leaves are used in ceremonies for protection and to call in good luck and spirit. The young man shared the ti leaves with drivers of the jet skis, the link to safety for the athletes. No words were needed, the jet ski drivers knew their role was crucial and one that was built on training as disciplined as that of the athletes.
One by one the boats headed out for the long ride to the deep channel just off the shoulder of Pe’ahi. We had the good fortune to be on the cliff with a bird’s eye view of every ride. Within earshot of the spot-on commentary and “talk story” gift of Dave Kalama, we were fully immersed in an epic day that will go down in history.
Before the comp even started, Kai Lenny caught what looked like the best wave of the day, a huge barrel, moments after Shane Dorian’s monster drop. Kai’s wave was caught on camera but from a distance. People continued to remark throughout the morning that it was easily the biggest and deepest (made) barrel they had seen. If you want to see the footage, FOLLOW Kai on Instagram – and prepare to be blown away by that video.
With near-perfect Jaws conditions, the best big wave riders on the planet were queued for heats and a chance at the the wave of their life. Yes, there was a hefty purse of $100,000 – but at the moment the laser focus was on the swell, on the power of Pe’ahi. Before the event even started, things got crazy. Mark Matthews took off on a bomb and separated his shoulder. Every ride had a price tag.
The predicted swell delivered with power and resulting carnage that had every spectator holding their breath until the athlete popped up out of the churning foam and grabbed the rescue sled. Commentator, Dave Kalama, explained that after a crushing wipeout the full focus is on getting a board (in so many cases the board has been splintered by the impact) and getting out there as soon as possible for another ride. You have to get out there and go again before the realization hits you. What an absolutely insane path you have chosen as yours.
The day was full of rides that brought gasps, then cheers. Dave Kalama called Greg Long’s cavernous deep 9-pointer “one of the biggest waves ever paddled into.” Every heat brought incredible rides and the gnarliest of wipeouts. One of the runaway jet skis, hammered sideways by the wave, was pounded toward the rocks, then methodically smashed to bits in the crushing foam. Watching that gave each of us spectators a full understanding of the forces the athletes endured at any misstep or wipeout. Their preparation and training mixed with courage and absolute passion for what they do is nothing less than heroic.
Huge cheers erupted in the VIP tent when Albee Layer threw down some incredible tube rides. It was nail-biting good to be seated next to Peter Walsh (father of competitors Shaun and Ian). Shaun Walsh’s steep drop, which Shane Dorian said was one of the steepest of the contest, gave us all chills. Ian Walsh’s heat before the semi-final was a collection of one strong ride after another. From one of my favorite Maui paddlers, Peggy King, “Maui Local boys ruled today and Billy Kemper deserved the win!” Right on, Peggy.
The very next day we took our boards to Launiupoko on the West side for the polar opposite of waves, a gentle 2-fit swell. We always have fun at our favorite Maui beach – does what we do count as “real” surfing?
We got some insight later that day. It was really cool to read a post by Kai Lenny that made us feel a connection to one of the world’s best – simply because we hunger for time in the ocean and on its waves, “2ft to 20ft the fun is the same to me. I’m just happy to be in the water everyday!”
At the end of the day at the Pe’ahi Challenge, Billy Kemper won the well-deserved prize. Every competitor provided the honor of participating in this historic, inauguaral event was also a winner. In the biggest picture – we all won. Our sport is gaining fans and appreciation from surfers of all levels and non-surfers as well. Thanks to the World Surf League (WSL) and TAG Heuer for the vision to collaborate to bring us this event.
Months of planning and dreaming precede every trip to Hawaii or any of our favorite surfing and paddling destinations. When we head to Maui, it is so relaxing and cool to know exactly where we will rent top quality boards and feel “local” from the moment we walk in the door.
A quick phone call was all we needed to chat with Coach, Jay or any member of the team. We discussed December weather, surf probability – and got our Hokuas and our downwind Naish ONEs for fun all week,
Not only is the shop filled with great kiteboarding gear, apparel and awesome boards – but local knowledge and a casual willingness to share. For instance – the wind was blowing crazy, a Kona wind and we were not familiar with that. Jay let us know (by checking the computer right at the counter) where the protected bays and surf spots might be (Launiupoko not Ka’anapali Beach).
There is a culture that oozes from Naish Maui Pro Center. Naish is a company that builds awesome boards for every water sport – wind, kite, surf and downwind. Beyond the top quality manufacturing we expect from Naish, how often do you think of the culture behind the brand. Seriously – Robby Naish has soared past his 50th birthday and continues to seek adventure and challenges, records and fun on the water. (More here). That is the creative energy driving the company.
We will be back for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a in May and the fun race the last Saturday in April. If you want gear for that week – Reserve now! Whenever you head to Maui – be local, be a part of the ALOHA that is Naish Maui Pro Center. Whether we are surfing or downwinding (YES, the Naish ONE rocks) we find what we need at Naish Maui Pro Center (and can trade out as wind and weather dictate).
Have you got that SUP dream, that event that fuels your dreams and motivates your training? Do you have what it takes to make it happen?
We’ve heard it before, “Access to success is through the mind,” – but for Steve Gates access came through the heart, spirit, absolute grit and gumption, as well as the mind! I had a great conversation with Steve, GM of Big Winds in Hood River and coach of the JET team, yesterday. We chatted about his recent three-person team crossing of the Ka’iwi Channel at the 2014 Molokai2Oahu (M2O). Rob Dies, Gregg Leion and Steve made a plan to do the Molokai to Oahu – and they did it! But let’s back up just a bit.
I first met Steve, now a strong, tall, fit guy sharing smiles and stoke, in August 2012 at the 2012 Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. That event was his baby. A health issue had him terribly underweight but he was working hard and cheering on his JET team even though he was almost too weak to stand. By December he was fighting for his life. In June of 2013, about six months after Steve had been frighteningly close to death’s door, we went to Hood River for a down wind clinic with Jeremy Riggs. As we grabbed our glides and rode the 8 miles of Columbia River from Viento to Hood River there was an “energy bunny” paddling ahead and back, from paddler to paddler, joining Jeremy in on-water coaching with relentless grins and technique tips – Steve Gates.
According to Steve, “I was still denying the physical limitations of my body and was running on enthusiasm and joy just being out on the water and paddling.” And here’s the story too cool not to share. Six months before, in December of 2012, when Steve was too weak to either hold a paddle or stand he articulated a dream. As we rang in 2013, Steve shared his dream of doing the Molokai 2 Oahu in 2014 from a hospital bed while continuing his battle with a dire health situation.
As a life long water athlete and coach, Steve never asked others to do what he would not do. Ask any JET team member and they will tell you that they didn’t mind the early morning summer practices (well, not too much) because Steve was always there and he did what they did. He sweated with them and panted after a tough interval – and he made it fun. Steve always asked his team to follow their dreams and aspire toward what they really want – and so he did the same.
In early 2013 Steve, Greg and Rob were making plans for an escort boat, for local support they would need for M2O and for a training plan that would let them reach their dream.
There were plenty of ups and downs. One bout of dehydration nearly dashed all hopes for Steve to get to the physical level of strength and endurance he’d need. “Access to success is through the mind, ” and in Steve’s mind he was at M2O – and by July 2014, he actually wasthere.
According to Steve,”The morning flew by and before we knew it we had finished all preparations and were at the start point on the beach ready for the start. Soon, I was in the water, sitting on my board next to Connor Baxter. Neither of us knew what the day would hold.” For Connor it was a record-breaking win, for Steve and his team it was the culmination of a long journey from the start of a 32-mile paddle across the challenging and treacherous “channel of bones.”
The conditions did not deliver the usual tradewinds and nice push toward glides the paddlers dream of. In fact the swells were smallish and every glide was the result of hard work, sometimes against both wind and current.
Steve, Rob and Greg made their changes in and out of the escort boat. Their escort boat captain, Jeremy Wilmes and his helmsman and first mate Josh made everything possible. Steve shares, “You couldn’t ask for more, these guys are as good as they come.”
The hours flew by and they were at the China Wall and final legs of the race. Rob Dies put the hammer down and pounded past the gnarliest area of the race. The changes came more often and before Steve realized it was his time to jump in, get on board and paddle to the finish.
We all watch events and the competitors launching toward the finish. Sometimes we wish that we were competing or accomplishing some long dreamed-of adventure. Imagine, if you can, the enormous wash of emotion, satisfaction, happiness and awe that had to encompass Steve as he made his way across the finish line for the team. The journey had been long, and often seemed impossible.
From that day when simply standing was a challenge to this moment paddling strong across the M2O finish line. Steve was standing, tired and beat, but never beaten. Got a dream, got a goal? Think it is impossible? It’s there for you if you put your mind, heart, spirit and the support of friends and family into the mix. Now – GO FOR IT!
Martin Lenny told me a story once, it was a story that started with family – a family connected to the ocean. In the early days as Martin and Paula were working double jobs while raising their family, they recognized that their son Kai was active – super active. Kai, whose name means, “ocean” in Hawaiian was happiest in the ocean.The best way to feed his need for action was to top off each day with time at the beach – doing whatever ocean sport was suitable for Kai’s age.
Fortunately, his family recognized that Kai had more than just a love of the ocean, he also had a passionate dream. Kai learned how to surf at the age of 4, windsurf at 6, stand up surf at 7 and kite surf at 9. Learning how to do these sports all happened naturally, and from it grew his love affair with the ocean and the waves. Mentors have been integral to Kai’s ability to soar toward his dream.
The early days’ mentoring from Robby Naish has evolved into a lifelong friendship. Few his age have enjoyed training with not only Robby, but also legendary watermen like Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Buzzy Kerbox and Chuck Patterson. Kai eagerly adopted just about every sport that involved water, wind and waves.
A common thread among his mentors and his family has inspired Kai as he has become a champion, a leader himself: Give back to the next generation by mentoring and consistently sharing aloha. It was exactly this sort of mentoring and inspiration that helped Kai continue his life journey toward his own dream. It is very obvious that the entire Lenny family lives this commitment to sharing with the next generation of standup paddlers.
Age group races were an exciting part of the clinic but the real stories happened on the beach! One group of 8 year olds pow-wowed on the sand as the one more experienced paddler shared confidence and some words of wisdom to his peer.
A mom sent her 5 year old out into the windy bay with a grin. Why? She explained, “When she was 18 months old she began going paddling with me, sometimes napping on the board and sometimes falling off. But she has always loved being on the board with me. Now that she’s 5 she begged to come to this clinic and learn to paddle on her own.”
One exceptional paddler, Estani Bori age 10, had some obvious experience, skills and maybe that same passion that once fueled Kai when he was 10. He flew around the race course, then ran down to the beach to help collect the boards from the other racers as they finished. He was on the water doing tail turns and sprints all afternoon. I caught up with his father, Pablo.
“Why did you travel all the way from Tahoe for this clinic,” I asked. Pablo didn’t hesitate a bit, “Once I saw that Estani lives and breathes this sport I had to help him follow what he is passionate about.”
That sounds like something Martin Lenny said, back in the day. Pablo continued, “Estani goes to sleep watching his SUP heroes and he wakes up wanting to paddle, paddle, paddle. Once he started doing races it was great. The travel and the paddling is something we can do, father and son.”
Again and again all day long that is what stuck – the number of kids and parents, entire families smiling and sharing the stoke that is SUP. The energy of more than 400 people through the dance-off, the dinner of yummy burritos (Kai’s favorite) and the awards was stellar.
We ended with this from Kai, “I am inspired and stoked to see so many groms of all ages charging and having fun. You are the future of SUP and this is the best time to be a standup paddle athlete. The sport is young and has room for you to make your dreams happen – in SUP or whatever it is you dream. “
Conserving energy, maximizing stroke, honing effective technique. We all work on these a lot of the time if the number of articles and how-to videos out there are any evidence. When we can’t get to a clinic, it’s terrific to be able to access local coaching and online video tips.
Then it comes to getting on the water and paddling. Often, we prep for a race and discover that we’re working our hardest and giving it all with high RPMs and effort – but it just doesn’t feel FAST!
Distressed Mullet recently posted a very short and “to the point” video with some tips from Dave Kalama (now just a few days after his 6th place solo finish in the 2014 M2O against paddlers 2-3 decades his junior – Yay Dave!) The video is below and well worth taking a couple of minute to internalize Dave’s simple, but not obvious, message. “Go slow to go fast.”