Shortly after coming home from my family ski trip up in Lake Tahoe; I received a message that the Kui Kaika big wave SUP surf event at Makaha was going to run that following Monday. It was Saturday morning and I had to still book a last minute ticket, pack boards, make some calls to friends on the West side about a place to stay and above all, make sure my wife was ok with me pulling another disappearing act for another 3 day adventure. Sure enough I got the green light and everything fell into place by that night.
Up at 3 am Sunday morning, quick breakfast shake, hugged my dog, kissed my wife and out the door to the airport like Casper the ghost. I parked at long term parking, unloaded my SUP boards and crossed my fingers that the shuttle guy wouldn’t have a heart attack at the sight of my oversized board bag. The funny thing was, that the board bag wouldn’t fit into the shuttle door. I couldn’t help to laugh, but then got kind of nervous. How the heck am I getting this monstrosity to the airport?? Only a mile a way; I could run with it over my shoulders?? Just then the driver says, “no worries, I will open the back window”. That was pretty lucky… Next stop, playing Russian roulette with the ticket counter attendant with my oversized board bag. Lucky again; I just lifted it up like it weighed 20 lbs and nearly blew my shoulder out.. ha ha.
Travel now a days is totally different. I can remember way back traveling with all my windsurf gear to Hawaii etc. with a 10 ft windsurf board bag that carried 3 wave boards and a surfboard then another huge gear bag filled with masts, booms and sails etc. both bags weighing well over 100 lbs to where you could only drag them on the floor and only having to pay $125 for both. Now a days, you have to cross your fingers in hopes of getting a nice ticket agent that doesn’t give you the run around about opening your bag and counting boards etc. I have been lucky more times then not and found that a super big smile accompanied by the yes sir, yes ma’am attitude works pretty well.
A quick 5 hour flight and I arrive on Oahu, grab my boards and call my good friend Craig Davidson who is a Lifeguard on the West side as well as a stuntman, waterman and one of the most humblest guys I have ever met. We drive back to the West side towards Makaha and I was shocked to see how small it was. The forecast was calling for a solid 15 ft NorthWest swell to start filling in by the evening. As we passed Makaha, the waves were only 2-3 ft; kind of hard to believe that by this time tomorrow the swell would be pumping, but that’s what Hawaii is known for. I quickly got settled in at the Davidson property, met the family, had a bite to eat and set up my boards. Craig and his daughter walked me across the street, down a path to the ocean where he showed me a couple spots in the sharp volcanic reef to dive in with my SUP board and paddle down to the point at Makaha. I watched the waves for a while and decided it was too small to SUP, so I just paddle surfed on one of his short boards till dark. By the end of my session, you could see a couple pulses of the new swell starting to show. I was pretty burnt out from traveling, so shortly after dinner it was lights out for me.
Craig and I woke early the next morning and checked the surf in front of his house. There was definite swell, but still on the small side with a couple good sized sets a little on the inconsistent side. We drove down to the beach and met up with some of the local Makaha boys and competitors to see what the call was going to be about running the event. It was great to see everyone; kind of a who’s who of the Hawaiian water world, like Brian Kealana, Mel Puu, Archie Kalepa and Robby Naish to name a few.
The swell had turned a little North which made it look as if the swell was slightly missing the point with sets toping out at 8-10 ft, still not big enough to give the green light for the event. Glen Mancata of Quiksilver had to make a tough decision and after talking with several of the guys at C4, they all decided that the swell was too small and wait till next year. It was an unfortunate call, but what can you do?? I watched a couple solid sets roll through the point with strong off shore winds and only 3 guys out. I was pretty fired up to say the least, so we ran back to the house and got ready for a long day on the water. Sun screen and a full belly, ready to rock!! I walked across the street and made my way up the reef to study the conditions and look for a safe way out. It was pretty intense to watch the sets march in way up the coast and with in a minute or so it would just light up in front of the reef making it impossible to even think of paddling out. I must have run out to the jump off spot on the reef and back at least 10 times because the sets kept coming.
Finally, a break in the action and I tip toed across the jagged reef for my last time and plunged into the deep blue paddling for the horizon like an olympic swimmer. Safely outside the impact zone, I paddled down to the top of the point and waited for a set. There were only 3 of us at the top of the point and a handful of guys surfing the West bowl. Looking up the coast, I could see another big set starting to hit the reefs on the way down so I paddled out about 20 yards and waited. Sure enough the dark liquid mountains formed perfectly just outside of me. Rule number one; never take the first wave of a set with a building swell because the next couple waves are always bigger. I stroke over the first 2 waves and quickly spin around and aim for the West bowl. As I paddle into the wave, my board speed increases and I start to glide down the face, pumping past every section with more and more speed. The wave starts to bend hitting the West bowl section and I attempt to rebound off the lip, turning back going left and get completely swallowed and driven to the bottom. Still griping my paddle, I get pulled like a torpedo towards the beach and finally break the surface gasping for air. i take 2 more waves on the head and paddle on my stomach towards the safety of the channel. What a rush! what a wave! back out for another I go.
Within the hour, the swell really starts to pulse and fill in with a couple solid 12 footers and bigger. Paddling back out was as good as riding the wave because you could watch all your friends take off deep racing for the channel and sometimes fighting the close out with some great wipe outs. It couldn’t be more perfect; light off shores, hot and sunny with a building swell and only a handful of the best to share the day. Every hour, there was a changing of the guard and a new crew of guys would shuffle into the line up. Later Aaron Napolean joined me at the point and pulled into a bunch of insane close outs with the biggest smile on his face. By mid day he and I had the line up to ourselves for an hour just trading wave after wave. The water patrol sat in the channel on their ski all day, making rescues and pulling us out of the pit every time one of us would got hammered by the end bowl. Later the off shore winds really kicked in heavy making it almost impossible to drop into the wave. One of my worst wipe outs of the day was when I paddled into a solid set wave and just as I was making the drop, the wind picked up the board and hung me on the lip, flipping me side ways, free falling, backwards into the pit. I can remember floating for the longest time wondering when I was going to hit and explode. I wore 3 more on the head and got plucked out of the soup by the guys on the ski, who applauded my crazy effort in flight.
By 3, the wind had increase dramatically and my beaten body was running on empty. I caught the next wave in and ran back to the house to refuel. it’s amazing how long your hungry body will hold out when the waves are good. After a little nap and a huge lunch, I joined Aaron Napolean and the boys at the beach for a beer and listened to Mel Puu and Ekolu play their ukuleles. I wanted to go back out for another evening session, but after 6 hours of good waves and beatings I was pretty content to just sit and chill. That night Craig’s wife cooked a great dinner and then I slowly melted into the pillows for a long, uninterrupted sleep.
The next day the swell had dropped, but still pushed a couple solid sized sets through the morning. I decided to try my new 8’8 Hobie stinger, swallow tail quad and see how it worked with a little of the leftover Hawaiian juice. I got a couple really fun waves off the point that connected with the West bowl and reformed into a really fast racy left. The board really worked well, making super tight turns and rebounding off the section with ease. As the swell slowly faded, we all camped on the middle peak connecting long rides all the way to the beach.
After another great 4 hour session, I joined Sam Pai and his friend for some good Kalbi plate lunch and then a cool drive up the coast to the end of the road. It was great to get a first hand look at some of the hidden beauty and history on the West side. When traveling any where in the world, it’s really important to respect the locals, their way of life and the hidden beauty that makes it so special. “Respect, enjoy and leave it as you found it so that some day you can come back and do it all over again’.
Later that afternoon, I packed up all my boards for my flight back home and enjoyed playing with the dog and watching Craig show is daughter the simple pleasures of flying a kite. I can remember back when I did that with my dad, it was the coolest thing ever.
This West side adventure was truly a special one; making new friends, enjoying great surf with some of the worlds best and exploring some of the hidden gems the West side has to offer. Many thanks to Craig and his wonderful family for sharing their paradise with me and to all the Makaha boys for all the great waves and friendship and to my wife and sponsors for your support in making these adventure possible.
Aloha to all and check back for many more adventures coming soon.