by Shawna Cropas
“Mag-Nificent” Glossy Matter
I don’t think there is anywhere in the world like Maui which offers such a wild selection of SUP experiences. Whether it’s the winter storm troopers rolling in with ‘Goliath’ waves like Jaws awaiting their Davids, Races amongst ‘Titan’ like humans battling across the channel to Molokai, south side “Romeo and Juliet” style surf sessions chasing rainbows, or sweeping by breaching Humpbacks like ‘Aqua Tarzan’ deep into a Maui sunset.
Let’s face it. Just sitting on the cliffs of Peahi being a spectator at Jaws is a retarded experience of winter time big wave madness. It sometimes feels eerily like watching an execution as surfers are pummeled by Poseidon’s death blows. There’s a collective holding of breath as the audience waits for a rider to resurface. You know surfers are defiantly wresting giants and are at least 50 foot, when you look down from your perch on the cliff and the Pacific seems to shrink down to the size of a pond, when 120 ton whales breaching look like bait fish skimming the surface and the surfers riding ‘The Wave’ seem to scale down to the size of ants. Those guys paddling into Jaws have definitely raised the ‘nuts’ bar. I’m just not sure if it’s the ‘nuts’ upstairs or downstairs. Probably both.
To think this list of events are already regular features in the magazines.
Maui is that place where different walks of life coexist without much fuss. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and all its gems. A place everyone is invited to live a dreamy existence in an equal playing field. Interestingly all the money, fame in the world does not buy you a place amongst the local mer-people, islanders who have chose the ocean lifestyle and vitamin sea injection above anything else. Whether you are a well known actor, rock star, google exec, pro athlete, house wife, or a pizza delivery guy; doesn’t matter. Once on the water the waves are there for those who prize them. I love that the wild ocean and its waves can never really be owned (let alone hoarded), that there’s actually still things and moments left in life that cannot be charged to the mastercard.
So as the ‘Maui World Turns’: Film stars, professional watermen, billionaires, locals, tourist, dolphins and monk seals coast amongst each other and live in harmony while finding their place in the ocean hierarchy in their pursuit of the perfect glide.
As The Seasons Turn
Summer Time and the Living is Easy: The sea is ruffled by constant trade winds. The north shore would is littered with windsurfers and kiters zipping in and out along different beaches from Hookipa, Sugar Cover, Sprecks, down to Kanaha. The blue water a little further off the coast displays an endless train of Stand Up Paddlers sweeping the oceans clean on endless downwinder runs from Maliko to the harbor. Between the two mountains and through are miles of a gentle waves washing south side reef lines. Waves are usually small to shoulder high for most of the summer months.
Autumn and Spring are the Goldilock Seasons: Not too hot, not too cold, not too big and just enough wind. There’s surf on all sides of the island. The wind blows steady on the north shore becoming Maui’s center stage for insane windsurfing and kiting acrobats in the waves while there still remains radical Standup Paddling downwinders in manageable surf for those who like to feel charged up on a buzz of excitement.
Winters’ Brother Grimm: Winters can be so huge that we can’t find anywhere small enough to handle. Kanaha closes out and you are shut out of the north shore waters unless you are a ‘Big Wave Nutter’. Wind tends to shut off. Luckily in-between those huge days there are some awesome manageable big wave surfing to be done whether short boarding, standup paddling, towing in or light wind wavesailing. South shore turns into a a flat water safari park for Standup Paddle Boarders who enjoy being at hone with the marine life.
All Has Been Done Before.
Reading through the history of most water sports, one comes to the conclusion that ancient man has been surfing, windsurfing and standup paddling at least as far back as when the earth was still “flat”… Maybe as far back as when people first started to swim.
Meanwhile Hawaii’s deep connected history with the ocean, outrigger canoes and surfing made it the perfect petrie dish for the creation of Standup Paddle Boarding.
Who, what, when. I’ll leave that for other people to discuss.
For sure, over two thousand years ago humans arrived on the hawaiian island via canoes big enough to carry 80 people, edible planes, water and animals. Outrigger canoes were engineered for more stability to specifically handle rough windy waters and dangerous surf while fishing or transporting goods and people.
Outrigger canoeing in the Aloha State is still the official state team sport.
Surfing can also be directly connected to the islanders of pre-contact Hawaii, while “Samoans were known to surf on planks and single canoe hulls.” Regardless in what form: “wave sliding” has been part of the Polynesian heritage maybe from the dawn of their time.
I do like that Hawaiians “did not consider surfing a mere recreational activity, hobby, extreme sport or career,” rather surfing was considered art.
It’s also interesting to read in Wikipedia in regards of windsurfing that throughout history “Polynesians have been riding waves for many of them, undertaking day trips over oceans standing upright on a solid board with a vertical sail.”
So there it is, Polynesians and most likely ancient man and any people who were living island lives surrounded by thousands of miles of unforgiving Pacific elements have been windsurfing, sailing, surfing, and stand up paddling as part of their daily existence to survive, travel, manage heavy seas and big waves. Their ocean faring lives required all these skills for fishing, transportation and to manage dangerous oceans, high winds and ominous waves long before anyone became a pro-watermen.
Hawaii itself seems to be the melting pot where different ways to play in the ocean or travel the high seas have all come together to create hybrids of sailing, canoeing and surfing. Et Voila! Standup Padldle Boarding. windsurfing, kiting are born.
Now I’m getting where I want to be… To the core of why I wanted to write this article in the first place.
The most alluring part of standup paddle boarding is being able to go, “Where no man has gone before.”
I like the SUP to whisk me away on insane experiences outside of the routine, secret places and coves. Aqua trekking water ways where I can get away from it all. It’s my ticket to freedom and into the heart of the liquid outdoors.
Whether it’s paddling out towards a quiet reef on a big day without a soul in sight, or sneaking off beyond the horizon to catch one last wave as the sun slips into the sea. I love a lone snorkeling trip with my SUP so I can explore hard to reach underworld marvels in relative safety, or flat water cruising should I dare to travel deeper into the homes of the whales, sharks and dolphins. Not to mention dawn patrol missions when the whole world is still sleeping, to surf/sup a popular beach all to myself.
Best of all was my last ocean odyssey with a handful of friends, where we found ourselves chasing pots of gold and waterfalls along a rugged hawaiian coastline. We set out to sea on a boat just in time to watch the sun’s tentacles creep over Mt Haleakala shoulders. The volcano rose out of the dead calm like a majestic green mythic god, “Maui reaching up to snare the sun to beat it into submission to make it go slower because the days were too short for people to get their work done… “
We glided smoothly through the early morning butter. The world gleamed a turquoise and gold like only the earliest hours of the days can glow. I sighed in relief, patting myself on the back for choosing the right day for this kind excursion. Well, until we round the corner and the once perfect glassy waves I was kicking myself for not surfing turned into a a sea in turmoil, as the winds picked up and the chop on crests over troughs pounded the hull of the boat. We held on to steady our gaits in await for spine jarring hits. It definitely turned into an outing not for the faint hearted, some of us turned green and began to puke over the edge.
The pain of travel was worth it. As our final destination loomed ahead, it felt as though suddenly we were shrinking in size. That the ocean just got bigger and the towering cliffs grew to touch the skies. It’s ‘Jurrasic’ with rivers shooting off the side of the mountain, enormous waterfalls crashing into an already battling ocean. It’s a place where the wild bites back and makes you know you are vulnerable and incredibly mortal. This SUP adventure was right down my alley. A boat trip into the heart of a Hawaiian island. Places that get your pulse running because it doesn’t feel completely safe. We’re definitely off the couch and out of our comfort zone.
The flora and fauna exploded in shards of colors amongst dense foliage. The jungle reached out in absolute in a hushing quiet. It was isolated and breathtaking. I can hear my heart thumping in my ears as I looked around absorbing our surrounding. It’s paddle places like this where you can almost hear the ocean whisper, “I am untamable.” It’s reality and fantasy, fear and excitement ‘vortexed’ into an acute concentrated second. Before you know it, we are so absolutely in the moment that we transcended time and space.
We were dropped off where the world ends, where all the distance, size and expanse of the Pacific hurls itself against the timeless weathered cliffs. The ocean is a boiling cauldron of bubbles and foam underfoot as the waves backwash against the giant mountain’s steep feet to remind us there is no rest here. This was definitely an adventure for the capable paddler who is experienced in big rough seas. Our arms and thighs exploded and burned attempting to master the chaotic seas as we set down the coast.
That’s when the beauty over took the fear. Endless miles of paddling through supremely gorgeous exotic gushing waterfalls and rainbows. It was so fantastical that we half expected to see a unicorn. -magic, power and mana-. Just under the cliffs the deep sea teals washed over clear turquoises where the shallows greeted us. We found a quiet emerald bay crested by volcanic black boulder beaches to rest our anchor and eat lunch. We paddled to shore where rivers snaked through the trees and guided us deeper into the damp jungle before heading back home. I could not have dreamt a more dreamy invigorating expedition.
I am forever dazzled with the endless days of possible breathtaking moments of beauty that can be found in Hawaii, all within an hour of my doorstep- It’s unfathomable- and I get to call it home.