Windsurfing, surfing, Maui, The Gorge, and random rants.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The sun has set on our Maui spring 2010 trip

We had fun and great adventures, there were epic big waves, a tsunami, we got run over and had gear destroyed and even got rescued. We sailed spots we never sailed before (Hookipa), we met lots of cool and very nice people, there were so many parties... I could go on and on.  In summary we had an A-mazing time!!

One measurement windsurfers tend to use when describing any trip that centers around their fav sport is "how many days"?  Not that this should be the only yardstick for success, but it's worth noting that between Feb 25th and May 15th we had 77 days of potential on the water activity (not counting our first and last days or the big tsunami "stay away from the water" day). We windsurfed 60 of those days, and surfed 12. And the windy days were spread pretty evenly over all that time. I don't think we ever had more than three non wind days in a row. And yes I am a bit tired right now! Plus I skipped two days that I deemed "too windy" - that is more wind than I wanted for my 4.2.  I love high wind days in the Gorge, but not so much on Maui where big wind = gnarly chop + blow out crazy waves (if any).  We also skipped some marginal wind days to go surfing.  Actually some of those days were totally sail-able in Kihei but we had surf boards and there were fun waves to be carved.  Actually I wish we could have surfed more.  Well, there's always next winter!

Another measure we like to use is "what new trick did you learn"?  For me this is a bit tricky to answer (hmm).  I'd have to say it was wave sailing and getting more comfortable on bigger waves.  Specifically improving both bottom and top turns, hitting the lip or at least getting much closer to it.  This is a gradually learned skill where the only way to improve is to get yourself onto big waves.  And fortunately we had lots of that on this trip.

In fact this season offered the biggest waves both Julia and I have every ridden.  On one of our first days in February a  very large winter swell turned northerly and aimed some 25+ ft sets at Kanaha.  There was one set toward the end of my sesh where I caught the last swell coming in - I was afraid to turn onto any of the earlier ones - and I rode it up the line trying to stay close to the channel and out of the impact zone.  As I looked down the line it peaked and pitched way outside of the normal break area.  I could clearly see into the pit of the wave, thinking this must be at least a small sample of what Jaws looks like up close.  Actually I've been told that on the bigger days, Lowers mutates into a different animal, and the gentle slow wave we all know and love is transformed into a much meaner, faster and larger beast.  Sort of a Jekyll and Hyde thing.  Well I on this day I caught a glimpse of Mr Hyde and I was impressed. And frightened.

So I didn't get onto that particular wave, except when it reformed inside into some mast high left over wash.  But on some of the later big days, especially after I got my KT custom quad fin, I did a much better job of staying on the peak.  After seeing anything approaching 25+, 15 ft waves seem so much more manageable!  There was another day I was turning on a 15-20 footer, when I saw Bernd Roediger a bit further down the wave which was starting to close out. There was one steep section getting ready to pitch. Bernd went for it at full speed, and got to the lip just as it closed, and at the very top he threw a goiter. He didn't quite make it, and the wave came down and he disappeared into an explosion of foam as I sailed by. But he went for it and it looked very cool from my up close perspective. From that point on I vowed to be more aggressive on all my wave rides because no matter how bad you eat it, it's usually not so bad. And BTW I saw Bernd a bit later so obviously he and his gear survived just fine.

The last really big wave day was my best ever. I was staying close to the face and turning near the top, occasionally actually hitting a lip or two and even getting some air.  These were mast high waves so not killer but not trivial either. And I came so close to landing a back loop! The only bummer was this was in early April and after that the winter swell basically turned off. I didn't realize at the time this was going to be it. If only I had my GoPro on that day. Whaaa! Oh well. I did film another later day that was pretty nice but... anyway we had some fun waves after that and in fact the conditions in April and early May were really good compared to last year. So no complaints at all.

Other accomplishements besides everything I listed in my opening paragraph?  My forwards feel more consistent, almost landed a back loop or two (still seems like an awkward move to me, forwards are so much easier!), got a few 360's in front of waves (but none actually on them), and sailed Hookipa and only got run over once!  And Julia had some nice accomplishments as well. Besides her own biggest wave days ever, on her last two days she made two legit forward loop attempts, rotating around but ending in the water each time. The hardest part of learning to loop is making the first few attempts. Once you get over that, you're really not that far. Also our friend Geoff, who has only tried a dozen or so loops, had some great attempts. I saw one he threw right behind me after I landed one. He was fully in the air and nicely rotated end over end, and just over rotated a bit on the landing. But it looked great. And I think he landed a few clean.  Awesome guys! (new loopers showing their stuff on right)

And now for some further updates and random stuff.  We're back in Hood River. Water temp is still a chilly 55 but we just had an 80F day - much better than our return last winter (< 20 degs)!  We are headed to the right coast this weekend so we probably won't be hitting the Columbia for another week.

I got my board back and it's nicely fixed.  I'll save that for the next post.

On one of our last days we hung out at the Hookipa look out (or as Geoff calls it, the Hookipa LOOK OUT!!) as the evening sun set.  See the first picture above.   Some small waves were coming in and the longboarders were working them.  I had a thought about an Endless Summer as I watched them. Maybe this is the start  of our endless summer.  (humming the theme song in my head right now).

A different evening and a different sunset, this time driving up Baldwin from Paia to Makawao.  I saw the sun rays in my rear view mirror and pulled over - screech! just in time to take these.  Yes it would have been nicer if there was no telephone pole - damn them!.  But still some nice pics I hope.  And in the opposite direction was this classic church totally lit by the last rays. Kind of inspiring.

And finally, on our last day at Kanaha, there was this bird who was having a real image problem.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

2nd day at Hookipa and ... run over!!

I've been told that some people like the short version (Val) and others prefer my usual meandering narrative. So first the short version: Julia and I sailed Hookipa today and had a pretty good time except I got hit while slogging out by a dude going for a top turn, and my sweet custom Quattro board took a pretty big hit.

[ 5/10 update - I slightly edited my story to correct minor details and be more polite. ]

Now for the long version... Julia and I ventured back to Hookipa today (Sunday also Mother's Day - did you call yours?).  We had also stopped by there on Saturday but passed on the wind swell and gusty wind combo for no particular reason.  We then had a fine day in upper Kanaha where the waves reached head high, maybe a touch bigger, and I was well powered on a 4.2  But our friend Geoff sailed Hookipa that same day and  later over drinks convinced us we needed to give Hoo another try.  Plus he had a pretty nice picture of him taken by Francky, which sealed the deal for us.  That and the margs at Milagros.

So we returned.  I should mention that we've been under a spell of strong gusty trades most of this week - I've been rigging a 4.2 lately - with no real swell to go with it.  So trade/wind swell is all we got, but that has been sufficient to kick up at least overhead waves at both Uppers and Hookipa.  Here's a shot I took the other day showing what a good trade swell can produce, and it's not a bad looking wave.  You can definitely get some nice turns on that!

So on this day, Sunday, we sat there and watched the first three or four sailors go out, and they were getting some nice rides, so we decided to give it a go.  The wind was looking a bit light on the inside and I rigged a 4.7, Julia a 4.2.  Now one thing about Hookipa that gives folks some issues is the shore break.  And on this particular day, high tide was right around 1pm, which was about when we were getting ready to launch.  As we got to the beach, I noticed that the wave wash had carved a ledge in the sand - I guess this only occurs around high tide cause I haven't seen that before - and you had to step down about a foot to get into the water where the current immediately grabbed you.  This made the whole process much trickier.

Julia headed out first and she only fell once - and quickly righted herself - then got out pretty cleanly.  I hung out to help and didn't actually need to.  My own launch didn't go so easy.  As soon as she was clear I jumped on my board and didn't try to time the waves, which was a bit of a mistake as I immediately hit a pretty good curl which took me down.  Even worse the wind was very gusty on the inside and a gust promptly ripped the sail out of my hand at about the same time.  Now my rig was downwind of me and pointed toward the beach and on the wrong side.  Not good!  By the time I got to it I was already close to the notorious rocks.  I tried to waterstart from there but this time there was no wind and another wave took me down.  Crap!  Now the rocks were **really** close and I decided to bail and head back to the beach.  Which wasn't at all easy with the strong current (high tide was going out).  I finally pulled everything out almost on the rocks and dragged my sorry ass up to the beach.  I had to sit there and catch my breath and I have to admit I was feeling a bit of panic about being so close to those dreaded rocks.

At this point another guy came in, dropped his rig, adjusted his harness, and while standing there asked me if I was OK. I must of been looking a bit flushed.  So I smiled weakly and said yeah and at that moment a serious gust picked up his rig and literally flipped board over sail and flung it into the water into almost the exact spot I had just pulled myself out of.  He had to jump into the water and do the whole fight the current dance.

That didn't make me feel much better.  Then on my second attempt I got taken down again and ended back on the beach and again had to take some deep breaths.  Finally I got it together, waited for some relative calm, jumped on board and was out. It was that easy!

So the wind was still light on the inside and I half slogged / planed out (no loops this time) until past the breaks, where the wind really picked up.  On the way in I found it difficult to time the waves as sometimes I was under powered and sometimes way over, but eventually I got a bit of rhythm and managed some rides.

After about 45 mins the wind seemed to fill in on the inside and the waves were getting a bit better.  I rode one in, got a few turns,  jibed just past the rocks, and was slogging out as a decent set of waves were headed in.  I was looking at the lip of one, still slogging, thinking I should just about get over it, when I see a guy headed down the line on the same wave.  Now I naturally assumed he would go around me as there was clearly no room on the wave.  And I was really concentrating on that wave which was starting to curl right in front of me - I didn't want to go down as the rocks were not all that far away and there was another wave coming right after this.  All of a sudden, just as I was about to reach the lip, I see this guy going for a top turn right at the exact same spot I was about to occupy in one second. WTF!!  And he was totally looking at me no less.  So of course he basically t-bones the nose of my board, we both go down and the wave breaks over our heads.

Very nice!  Now I'm in the water, and I look at my board, and there is a huge gouge taken out of the nose.  I yell at the guy "Didn't you see me!!"  and he replies "Yes, but I thought I could make it". Not!!  So there's more waves coming and we're real close to the rocks and we need to get out of there, so we agree to meet at the beach.  On my reach out and back in all I could think of was that the sweetest wave board I had ever owned - a custom shape made for and ridden by Levi Siver no less - was now wrecked and could not be replaced or repaired.

As it happened Julia was on the very next wave - she was scoring some nice turns out there - and saw the whole incident go down.  And she said the same guy had turned very close to her on a wave in the same situation.  So she followed us in to help in the fight sure to ensue.

We all get to the beach and right there rigging up was Keith Teboul. At this point I see this guy has a new Goya sail, exactly the same as mine, and an obviously new Quattro production 85 lt quad board.  And BTW, his board does not have a scratch on it.  One of his quad fins basically cut into the nose of my board.  Even his fin looked untouched.  Bastard!  And those MFC fins are damn strong.

Now he's very very sorry and apologetic, and really he should be, because what he did in that situation was extremely dangerous.  The rules of both wave sailing and surfing are quite clear on this point - the surfer or sailor going out has the right of way over the surfer or sailor riding a wave (and surfers always have right of way over windsurfers, though I'm not sure what happens if a windsurfer is slogging out and a surfer is carving down the line at the windsurfer).  On top of that I was slogging out and trying to get over a wave in a area where I had no room to maneuver.  And finally, in all situations, it is most imperative to **avoid collisions**!!  Even if you have the right of way, which this guy didn't, you still don't "I thought I could make it" and risk t-boning someone. Especially at Hookipa of all places and right in front of the rocks.  And trust me on this, there was no way that guy was going to make it.  I was already at the lip of the wave - obviously because he t-boned me.

I suppose it is possible that not everyone fully understands the basic wave right of way (ROW) rules. This guy happened to be from "not around here" (NAH), and does not primarily sail at Hookipa and perhaps doesn't surf much either.   Now obviously there must be many from NAH that are at least vaguely aware of the concept of ROW - but this is the second person from NAH who has t-boned someone I know in a similar situation. In the past month!  That is person going out getting hit by someone who might not sail Maui or waves often, and who was going down the line and "thought he could make it".  And a board was wrecked in that circumstance as well. And this person, the hitter that is, was a real nice guy on the beach and we met his wife and kids and everyone was very friendly, meaning its not a completely agro kind of thing. So I just don't get it, but I'm thinking that maybe on the flight to HI, in addition to handing out those agriculture forms, they should also hand out the surfing/windsurfing/kiting ROW rules.  And explain that failure to obey could result in lose of board.  Or deportation or something.

Now we're on the beach, but before we could get into fisticuffs,  Keith walks over and he already knows me, but its also apparent that he also knows my new friend.  I think because he just purchased a new Quatro board and sail by the looks.  So Keith checks out my damage and says, "No worries, bring it to the shop tomorrow and I can fix it up".  My friend says he will pay, no problems, Keith has his credit card, and apparently, maybe, hopefully this will all have a happy ending or at least not a totally sad one.  I won't know until tomorrow when I bring my damaged goods to his shop.

So I will update this story as it unfolds.  Meanwhile I went up to the bluff and took some pictures of my friend Geoff, who had showed up and rigged and was having a pretty good time (again). Nice jump Geoff (see right photo).

Before I leave two more things..  first I'm sure you want to see the damage so here goes.  I guess the only good news is this is in the nose which isn't structurally that important, and Keith seemed pretty confident that he could fix it. But to me, this looks bad...

Second, and this really is good news, NWS is forecasting a small but not insignificant NW swell coming around Wednesday.  The swell is 4-5 ft at 10-12 secs.  Which means head high waves at least.  Somewhere. So we'll see and I'm not sure what kind of board I'll be on when it hits, but this is no doubt the last swell we're going to see this trip.  We leave this Saturday for the Hood.

Oh yes, and one last weather map showing this potential swell producer.  Go baby go!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hookipa is serving up fun surfing with a side of wind

The trades have been detoured the past few days as a late season cold front approached the Isle of Maui. It never made it all the way here, this being May after all, but it did manage to push our trade producing high far enough away to leave us in SE winds and big Island vog. Julia and I took advantage of the lull in the windsurfing scene to get our long boards into the Hookipa surf.

It was not exactly like there was no wind at Hookipa all this time. In fact on Saturday it seemed to be gusting to at least 20 or so out in the lineup. Very irritating if you are surfing! Damn wind. Hookipa protrudes a bit out of the Maui north coast, which I believe contributes to it's ability to optimize both wind and waves, and even with the SE slant of the trades the wind line wasn't all that far away. But the inside was pretty much a dead zone, so any potential windsurfers had to deal with that. Nevertheless, just after we paddled in on Saturday we noticed a sail on the horizon, which eventually turned into a windsurfer who eventually sailed/slogged all the way back to the beach at Hookipa. I never saw him launch, but he apparently had been out there most of the time we were surfing. He had a 6.2 Hot Sail on an old skinny looking slalom or speed board. Actually I have no idea what the board really was. It was plain white and looked skinny for a slalom board, but maybe that's how they were back whenever. Or maybe it's a new secret prototype. Hmmm? Anyway, he said it was damn windy way out and we could see all the white caps while surfing so that wasn't surprising. So no complaining about the recent lack of wind because it was there if you were willing to slog out at Hookipa.

And despite that irritating wind, Julia and I caught some fun rides. There was a fading NW swell maybe 2-4 ft with occasional head high sets every so often. We started in middles for a change, and the wind actually blew us up toward the point/bluff. Normally we don't surf that side because it's a more advanced spot and usually crowded, but on this day no one was out. Too small for the short boarders but just right for us!

Now for a quick follow up on Julia's rescue back in March (which now seems so long ago).  Jeff Silva, the Ocean Safety Officer (lifeguard)) who operated the jet ski and performed the amazing rescue of Julia along with her shredded sail out of the gnarl of weird wave, was working at Hookipa on Saturday and I finally got a picture of the two of them together.

That would be Jeff on the right in case you were wondering.  So supposedly Maui county, via the mayor's office, is going to give Jeff some kind of recognition for his outstanding actions in very challenging conditions - that is weird wave breaking hugely while Julia was clinging to the back of his sled.  Hopefully something will happen before we leave in two (short it seems) weeks.  We'll see...

So that was Saturday. Sunday was showing a bit more surf and was way more crowded at Hookipa.  Also much less wind and a lot more haze/vog to go with it.  We went to our more typical "girlie bowl" just inside and west of the more popular pavilions point break and managed to catch a fair share of left over waves.  We're still a bit shy about going into the big boys lineup when it's so crowded, but at one point I spotted a girl catching some bigger waves with a Costco WaveStorm - same board we were learning on last year.  In fact we saw quite a few of those at Hoo along with the Costco short board version.  I already mentioned that those boards are not bad for beginner boards, though I'm happy to be riding the 8'6 glass board now.  Guess I really like the smell and feel of surf wax, what can I say.

Today, Monday, the trades were scheduled to pick up late. We returned to Hoo to see what was up.  The SurfLine Hookipa forecast was calling for 0-1 ft waves, but it was clear that something much much bigger was showing up.  In fact, here's the updated afternoon forecast from the NWS, which I saw only after we got back from the beach...

... Surf along north facing shores will be 7 to 9 feet, lowering to 5 to 7 feet Tuesday ...

And that was much closer to what we experienced at Hookipa.  On the other hand, Glenn's Surf Forecast for Hookipa was calling for 1-2 waves.  So is this the Hawaiian vs "real" wave height discrepancy, and if so why don't the forecasts call out what their units really mean?  Actually the NWS is very explicit about how they measure and forecast wave heights...

Surf heights are forecast heights of the face or front of waves. The surf forecast is based on the significant wave height, the average height of the one third largest waves, in the zone of maximum refraction. Some waves may be more than twice as high as the significant wave height.

Not to mention that Pat Caldwell describes every detail of the weather  events which lead to the corresponding surf conditions.  Which I really like as it helps me understand how it all connects.  Much better than seeing 1-2 with no idea what that means or how they came up with that.  Whatever!  So I'll continue to use the NWS surf and marine forecasts as my main wave and wind info, with everything else as filler.

Now there was clearly a rising swell showing in the afternoon (Monday) at Hookipa.  We initially watched from the railing before paddling out and I thought there was occasionally a 5ft wave or so. Then we made it out to middles where the crowd was thin.  Right off the bat, a bigger set then expected came in and took us out.  OK, so we were inside and not in a good position.  And I wasn't expecting anything that big.  After that we paddled a bit further out and stayed closer to the shoulder.  And with that adjustment we both were able to catch several long rides, which for us at our long board level is really all we want.  That and not getting crunched!

One thing I discovered is I can switch my feet mid-ride, going to a goofy stance, which doesn't feel that strange.  I've seen other long boarders do this and thought it was sort of cool.  Anyway, I'm guessing that with all the windsurfing we do, which depending on the reach is goofy or not, makes it easier to do that on a surf board.  So maybe that's my big surf accomplishment for this season . Woo-hoo!

Meanwhile the sets seemed to be getting bigger.  Jeff and Val showed up (team "Hot")  on their short boards, and Julia rescued another short board for a girl who forgot to tie her leash (doh!).  Middles gradually filled up as the waves got bigger  By the time we came in, it looked like 7ft with occasional 9ft waves at the peak of middles, with a good crowd to go with it.

And the wind started coming up.  At this point three guys launched from the usual spot, and though the inside was brutal slogging, once they got past the break they were nicely powered up and on the way in got some decent rides.  Which bodes very well for tomorrow's (Tuesdays) conditions, as the trades should continue to return, and this new north swell should still be hanging around.  Could be fun!

Lastly, I've got pics from our first Hookipa windsurfing session.  Not of us sailing, but pretty much every one else.  First there was a constant rainbow giving us a thumbs up that we should sail Hookipa ...

Later our friend Olaf Sutor showed up with his brand new Maui Ultra Fins Hot sail, and I promised to take some photos. Note the nice back loop he threw for us.

And now everyone else who was windsurfing more or less with us. These pics should provide a better idea of the conditions then the video I took, which makes all waves look tiny (a friend suggested we **not** use this camera for any adult vids LOL). In the first picture note the quad fin board with only one thruster. IOW - asymmetrical thrusters. Pretty innovative? Or someone forgot a fin?? Not sure...

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