MAUI, THE BOX IS TICKED
Harty mentors a first time Maui survivor.
Two issues ago I posed the question in this very column ‘To Maui or not to Maui?’ The theme was originally inspired by a flurry of emails from Chris Grainger. You may remember Chris from an article a while back about returning to windsurfing. I plotted his wavy aspirations and progress after a long absence from the sport.
Anyway Chris felt that his windy life would not be complete without a trip to Maui. Hence the ‘should I go?’ question was laid at my door (so at least he’d have someone to blame should it fall short), which I chose to answer in a suitably non-committal article. “It’s the best and worst of times … it’s what you make of it etc.”
The trick to Maui is to manage expectations, which are generally stratospheric. If you book into a 6 star $600 a night hotel in Mustique, you spend the whole time running your finger along the ledge looking for dust and flaws in a way you don’t in a scummy B&B in Bognor.
So off he went and I insisted he kept me informed with daily ‘warts and all’ updates.
Ireland vs. Hawaii
It was always going to be an angst-ridden start because the Maui project had replaced a trip with me to Kerry, his second favourite place in the world (Donegal being the first, Chris is Irish) – and his mood was helped even less by our Facebook posts of Irish sun and waves, while his first few days hadn’t quite lived up to the image.
“I think you are in Ireland at the moment? I wonder who has made the better choice!!!! It’s not at all how I expected it. Without your warnings I would be a very unhappy chap right now. No wind on the north shore. I have rubbed shoulders with world champions, but on the other hand it has rained constantly. I have been in waves once and I have spent £3,500 to get here! Should I be happy…? Or sad…?”
It can only get better …
My advice was to hang in there. He had chosen the best time of year for wind, sun and manageable waves and the weather and mood would surely improve … especially as his jet lag eased. And surely it did – day by glorious day.
Back home again we had a proper chat. He was bubbling … but still I demanded honest answers. You can only make a first impression once and on those first days you can’t help but make an instant judgement about the vibe, the people, the place.
“It had a really parochial feel – which I quite liked. The community is much smaller than I imagined. You’ve got all these heroes ripping around you who’ve you only seen in the movies, and then suddenly there they are doing their day job teaching a group of people to supplement their income.
As for the island itself, it’s a place of such stark contrasts. The capital Kahalui is just a string of retail parks, but I love the surf/hippy town of Paia. The north shore and east side around Hana are amazing, but then the west side encapsulates the very worst traits of America.”
Chris attacked the wave sailing challenge with sense, a plan and dollars. First of all he got solid advice on board volume. The boys in the Goya factory told him his smallest board should be a 102 (Chris is 92 kg) otherwise you can’t get out and sail tactically. He also took private lessons from Matt Pritchard.
“It was quite an experience, especially if you don’t mind someone sailing 4 foot from you all the time!”
There’s a potential problem with Maui that your trip teaches you to sail Maui, only to find that when you get home, you’re just as rubbish on your home waves as you always were. But Matt took him into the waves off Stable Road which are ‘sectiony’, far from perfect, and force you to lift your head and work for your fun.
“Matt went into so much detail about my sailing. But basically he reiterated what you told me, that I have to widen my cage – move more!”
But what was best was that when the trades settled in, I could return to the same spot every day and try the same move on the same section of wave. It was the proper ‘sail, eat, sleep, repeat’ routine you can follow with most sports, apart from windsurfing!”
Hook … where?
So what about the massive elephant in the room – that unspectacular little beach on the north shore that perhaps demands disproportionate attention in the world of wave sailing. Chris seemed to get the whole challenge in perspective.
“Before I left, I went onto Google street view and studied Ho’okipa on average, drizzly days so I wouldn’t be disappointed. I know that Ho’okipa is the stuff of legends, but in the great scheme of things it’s just a beach, with a reef, and a wave!”
The first session was tricky. There was low wind and high waves. He narrowly avoided the rock pile, and only caught 3 average waves before losing his shorts in the shorebreak.
“But the second time around launching is not as tricky, the break not so daunting and the waves so much more playful. What really strikes me about Maui is that Ho’okipa is a choice, not the pinnacle. And the view is nice but actually not as nice as Kerry! After the wind died, I drove to Sprecks and had an evening sail on my own, on a playful small wave. I was content not to overstretch myself.”
A windsurfing holiday, should be just that and the fun surely plays out long after the sun has set.
“I found everyone incredibly friendly, locals and windsurfers alike. There was cheery banter on the beach with people you’d see each day. Angry surfers at Ho’okipa never scowled at me, and to my amazement, I never got shouted at on a wave. In fact at Kanaha everyone shared waves and gave each other room. The only disappointment was that there was no one after surf meeting place. And if you’re travelling alone especially, it’s good to keep the vibe going and talk about it over a beer. But in truth I was so knackered I was asleep by 7.”
Happily Chris was not so bottom turn obsessed that he ignored the extraordinary island that is Maui.
“I went up the 10,000 feet Haleakala volcano to see the spectacular sunset. More significantly I waited the 2 hours until it got properly dark. OMG the stars! So many and so clear. I spent an hour just staggered by our tiny contribution to this vast collage. The next morning I took a helicopter ride to the sea cliffs of Molokai Island and today I drove the Hana Highway to East Maui to witness the ageless forests and waterfalls!”
So Chris it’s time to be binary … Was it the right decision to go to Maui and did you improve?
“Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. It was the experience of a lifetime and the variety of the island was exceptional. I windsurfed 14 days in a row, a total of 56 hours on the water and I’d return in a heartbeat.”
Is Maui the perfect location for your abilities?
“No. I think that there are other locations that will probably be better for my standard, but it has saved me. To be honest I wasn’t sure where I was going with my windsurfing and the trip has totally resuscitated my love of it and especially wave sailing. And I know your next question, and the answer is Donegal!”
Peter Hart 29th July 2018-05-29
Pic by pritchardwindsurfing.com