Traveling the world or having that trip of a lifetime is a must for any SUPboarder. UK SUPer Mark Ellis headed to the biggest SUP mecca of all… Hawaii. But as Mark explains you don’t have to be a big wave surfer yourself to enjoy Hawaii. As well as big waves and SUP legends, there’s also beautiful scenery, big whales and much more…
I’m a very lucky guy. I’ve just got back from the trip of a lifetime to Hawaii, visiting some of the most famous surf breaks in the world. Granted, a lot of our travels revolved around the annual hump back whale migration between Maui and Molokai, but if not on a whale watch boat, I’d be looking for the next board to hire.
I may not be the best surfer in the world but that doesn’t make me enjoy my time on the water any less than anyone else, I started out surfing almost 10 years ago, then moved over to SUP when I got tired of being utterly land locked (living in the Midlands) and I haven’t looked back since. That doesn’t mean there’s not still regular visits to magicseaweed.com to check for the next swell!
Maui is an incredible place, from the moment we arrived on the beach at our hotel, we were seeing blows from whales just off shore, it actually took only a few minutes before we saw our first breach, how 7 tons of hump back whale can propel itself almost completely out of the water astounds me, a beautiful set to see, and only the tip of the iceberg of what we were to see on the whale watch trips. Baleen whales such as the hump back were almost hunted to extinction. Thankfully the barbaric practice of hunting these beautiful creatures is almost eradicated now, and the the waters of Hawaii are a safe haven for them to have their calves, mate and rest before their return journey to Alaska. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
”Good point: there’s board hire at the hotel
Bad point: they wouldn’t let anyone hire them out because of a big shore break!”
This called for a trip a few miles down the coast to Lahaina where there was a great little break near the harbour wall. You could even see the whales breaching out in the channel as you paddled out. The surf was small but great fun, and you’d have trouble beating the view.
After 6 days we had to say a fond farewell to Maui, only to say aloha to Oahu, and Waikiki.
Only having 2 days before having to fly home, this called for a plan to get to the north shore. Luckily I came across a flyer for a “surf bus” tour on our last day, this turned out great! So (after we made the most of our first day with a trip to pearl harbour and a quick surf at Waikiki beach), we set off early for our bus. After getting out of built up Honolulu, you eventually find yourself winding through pineapple fields on remote roads, soon you see your first glimpse of ocean. Once we stopped, we had a couple of hours before we had to get to a paddle board trip we had arranged, so we took a couple of hire bikes and headed first for Wiamea Bay. I got to pay my respects to the first of 3 legends here, Eddie Aikau. Eddie was a lifeguard and big wave surfer at Wiamea, and is the namesake of the Quicksilver big wave surf competition that honours his name. It is only run if the surf is 35ft plus, leading to the expression that when no one else would paddle out, “Eddie would go”! He was lost at sea while trying to paddle for help after the Polynesian voyaging canoe “Hokule’a” (of which he had helped build, and was also a crew member), capsized in 1978. A legendary waterman who’s story is inspiring.
The first thing that struck me about it was how narrow it seemed. I had an image in my mind of the bay being huge, but that turned out just to be the waves! It was stunning. Looking out to sea the you could spot the sets coming in, it’s only when you caught a glimpse of something way out back to give perspective, (like a surfer, yes there were a couple!) you realised just how big the swell today was. You could almost imagine Eddie Aikau sat in the lifeguard tower, keeping a protective eye over all who dared enter the water here. (No one ever drowned while he was on duty).
While on Maui we’d been watching the pipeline pro on tv in the evenings, so that’s where we headed next, banzai pipeline. This was a different scene altogether, a long golden beach stretches out in front of the Gerry Lopez house (now owned by Volcom), and right outside is pipeline. The shape of the wave is unmistakable, it’s incredible to think how shallow the water is underneath, and it doesn’t seem that far from shore either. It was a shame that we’d missed the competition by only a few days, John John Florence had a deserved win. Little did I know there was another competition at our next stop, Sunset beach.
As we cycled up the path we started seeing SUP boards up the beach, and a small scaffold tower covered in the banners of a tour. As it turned out, this was the Waterman league round 1, day 1, sunset beach pro… my luck was in!
The swell was definitely a big one, but the conditions were proving very difficult for the competitors. At first you could hardly see anyone out back, then you’d see the safety jet skis…. then the paddle boarders, so far out you could hardly see them. You could see just how big the swell was by watching a paddler disappear behind it, down into sets I could comfortably fit my house in… twice!
Looking round you also notice how many snapped boards there are around the beach, the power in these waves is immense.
The scene didn’t seem quite as big as the prone surf tours just yet, but it’s only a matter of time I hope.
As I stood watching I noticed a guy getting ready for the next heat, and another crouched down in the sand next to him that I recognise. Turned out to be David and Austin Kalama. I was lucky enough to meet David, really nice guy, and very gracious when a random English guy wanted to say hello and thank him for his help. His technique blog has helped me out loads!
All too soon we had to be leaving, but we had some paddling of our own to do. A quick trip down to Haleiwa and we were soon heading down the river in search of sea turtles. We didn’t have to look for long. The turtles come into the river when it’s rough out at sea, and they were everywhere! Sunbathing on the banks and swimming around and under the boards, they’re incredibly graceful, gliding through the water underneath you.
Back in Waikiki that night, I payed my respects to my 3rd legendary Waterman of the day, the father of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, who’s statue sits on Waikiki beach. I wonder what he’d think of the stand up paddle scene as it is today, and as it grows into tomorrow?
”All I know is that surfing, and SUP has inspired me to take trips like this one, and to go to places that I’d never have thought of before, seeing them from a perspective that only the water can provide, I’m grateful for every last moment. Roll on the next adventure.”
Words by : Mark Ellis (Central SUP)
Has SUP inspired you to travel? If so, where has it taken you? And what travel adventures have you got planned for 2015?