Why would or wouldn’t you head to windsurfing’s Mecca?
Jules rented Jenna de Rosnay’s family house on the beach at Sugar Cove, Spreckelsville for 3 weeks. On his arrival he picked up a brand new 85-litre wave board, a 4.7 and a 5.3 from Hawaiian Surf and Sport in Kahalui and that’s all he needed for the whole stay. The kit stayed rigged on the lawn 15 steps from the water’s edge and got used twice a day every day. There’s a bay straight off the house. A low, rocky outcrop to the east shelters it from the chop. So he launched straight into a clean side-shore wind and onto a flat water trick-atorium. But about 150m out, a rock throws up a single, small peaking wave. The man in the sky could not have designed a more perfect ‘learn to fly’ scenario – and on day 4 Jules waterstarted out of his first loop.
It was a family holiday too and as he and his wife sailed, their kids frolicked joyfully on the silver sands. By midday they were usually asleep – exhausted. There’s no windsurfing before 11am, so in the mornings they explored. They greeted the sunrise on top of 300m high Haleakela, swam in waterfalls in the rainforest and surfed glassy, mellow waist high waves off ‘thousand peaks’ on the south side of the island … oh yes and pulled over on the way home to watch a school of humpback whales breaching just a few hundred metres offshore. Nothing unusual about that – it was the season. In the evenings we found them (Jules and family, not the whales) mostly enjoying fresh fish and a cheeky Californian white on the balcony. “Why would you go out when you’ve got this view?” he said. Why indeed.
At the end of his stay, he gave me a proper man hug and thanked me for suggesting the trip and said Maui exceeded his expectations, which were already stratospheric, and worth every penny of the £15k.
Whitey and I met Brummie Paul one evening on our way to a party at Josh Stone’s house up in Haiku. Haiku lies up in the rainforest behind Ho’okipa and is popular with windsurfers because accommodation there is relatively cheap. He was looking flustered and bedraggled (it had been raining all day) so we offered him a lift. It transpired that he was driving back from the Walmart in Kahului, forgot where he was for a moment and cut some locals up turning left at a traffic light. He said he’d never seen people so angry and they followed him all the way to Haiku honking and threatening him with terminal violence. He managed to lose them for a moment as he turned off the highway and was so panicked that he abandoned his car and ran into the woods. We found him walking back up to his unit. We invited him along but despite the convivial atmosphere as well as a smattering of windy celebs, he still didn’t look that happy.
“Well it hasn’t been great has it? This bluddy rain. It just hasn’t stopped and rain kills the wind dunnit.” Whitey and I looked at each other in bemusement. “Paul – it rains a lot in Haiku … it’s a rainforest. But down at beach level it’s been sunny and howling every day.” If we’d turned him over and poured cold custard down his underwear, he would not have looked more crestfallen. He’d spent 5 days holed up in a small bedsit with a terminally unimpressed girlfriend. The final twist to this sorry tale was that on his first morning he’d gone straight out at Ho’okipa. It wasn’t huge but the wind was easterly, very offshore, and light on the inside. Within 30 seconds he found himself on the rocks with his one rig totally trashed and he didn’t have enough spare cash to replace it. Worse still, ignorant of the local rule, he’d gone out before 11am and while he was stuffing his crumpled kit into the trunk of his rental, he was confronted and threatened by an incandescent local surfer. This was not the trip of a lifetime he’d planned. John arrived and immediately rented the proper racked out Maui van. Driving along the road from Paia to Ho’okipa on his first day, probably the most stunning coastal route in the world, he said could not believe what was happening to him. It was like he’d been dropped into a film set sponsored by Malibu rum. After a terrific day on the water sailing amidst people he’d only ever seen on the telly, he stopped at ‘Charley’s’ and bumped into Robby Naish and original Ho’okipa legend Mike Waltze having a beer at the bar. ‘That just doesn’t happen to people like me’ he said.
‘Should I go to Maui?’ is a question I’m asked almost weekly. Mostly I feel the decision has already been made but they just want someone to blame if it goes wrong. So my answer is suitably obscure. Maui, I say, is like wave sailing. You may have dodgy moments – but they’ll be followed by experiences so amazingly fabulous that they elevate you eternally to another plane. But it’s up to you what you make of it. You’ve got to go looking for the metaphorical waves, they don’t always come to you. At one end of the windy holiday spectrum, you have the passive experience. You book into the hotel with the centre attached – eat, windsurf, sleep – ‘supermarket windsurfing’ I call it – everything is right there in the same spot. It’s not a criticism. It’s convenient and wonderful for windsurfer and partner alike who are looking to relax and gain pleasure with the minimum effort. Maui is not like that. You have to make it happen. There are no centres on the beach. You drive to town to rent your kit. But that’s an experience in itself. It’s America for God’s sake, the service capital of the world. The staff will be only too happy to discuss kit (which you can change as often as you like) and suitable venues for the day. And that’s the great thing, every day on Maui is like a separate holiday. But it’s so intimidating, they muse. The conditions are crazy, you’ll be the worst sailor on the island and you’ll be murdered by giant waves? No, no and not if you don’t choose to. Ho’okipa, the wave spot that has made Maui famous, can be brutal and unforgiving – but it can also be flat. Most of the popular beaches, Sprecks and Kanaha, are bump and jump and freeride heavens. Most of the sailors are intermediate tourists … yes … you also have the elite. Go to Ho’okipa on a swelly day … to watch … and you’ll witness the pinnacle of the sport. It’s amazing and inspiring. My wife is American. She ran a pharmacy, which allowed us to live there for extended periods. She experienced unsavoury stuff. Under the ‘hula hula’ veneer, it’s not all sweetness, light and the milk of human kindness … but then where is? And as a tourist you don’t have to confront that.
I read an article a while back reviewing the Virago cruiser motorbike, designed by Honda to steal Harley Davidson’s domination of that market. It went something like: ‘The Virago has vastly superior cornering, brakes, speed and reliability. Just one problem – it’s not a real one.’ There are places around the world that are arguably more suitable and cheaper for recreational windsurfers – just one problem. They’re not Maui. It’s our Mecca and you have to do it once… and then you’ll probably do it again. Oh … and did I mention? It’s an exceptionally good place to meet a wife.
Peter Hart – 22nd Feb 2018
Mr and Mrs H courting in Maui 2003. PHOTO Hart Photography