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FOIL POWER: BOUJMAA GUILLOUL

11/12/2020
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From our September issue we look back on a tale from foil convert Boujmaa Guilloul’s brave attempt to foil around the east shore of Maui.

WORDS – Boujmaa Guilloul // PHOTOS – Fish Bowl Diaries


Boujmaa Guilloul is known for his skills in the waves, but recently he has become a loyal foil convert and decided one day to sail round the eastern tip of Maui, from the island’s south shore to its north. Hop onboard as he tells us more about the challenging passage; for the sake of rescue services, please definitely don’t try to copy!

“I left the shore from La Perouse on the south shore of Maui at 5:30 a.m., and as soon I made it out of La Perouse bay the wind started nuking. Luckily I was on my high wind setup, a 4.2 and small front wing. It was a perfect combo and I was almost in control the whole time, just stretched out a little bit now and again. Keith Teboul has warned me several times about how dangerous the channel is and how dodgy it can be. I couldn’t really picture what it was like, as I didn’t understand how it worked and I wanted to see and feel what he meant. As soon as I got into the middle of the channel the swell got really big and I was like, how is it possible to be this big out here, but no swell on the shore. It was actually just the wind against the current creating this super tight swell. I had so much power in my sail but was only moving slowly, then I understood what Keith was talking about. I couldn’t imagine myself sailing against this much current on my normal board or how much effort it would have taken me to beat upwind without a foil.
The scenery was beyond what I could imagine, so many different colours, the green mountains and the big brown lava cliffs dropping into the blue ocean; it was really beautiful like a National Geographic documentary. Once the island started curving around I was able to hug the coast more, and that felt so much better. It was a lot easier and I felt like I was close to my destination. At 11 a.m. the wind started to get lighter and I started to enjoy the journey more, it was much less effort and more fun surfing the swell. I was the whole time dreaming about how much I wanted to connect lands and cross oceans on my foil board. When I reached Kipahulu on the southeast corner of the island, that’s when I first started seeing houses and I felt some sort of satisfaction as I thought I had achieved a huge part of the journey. Then the wind started to get super light and I had a hard time to keep my foil up and flying. When I got closer to Hana on the northeast side, the wind completely dropped. There was some breeze coming in and out, it was probably something like 4 knots, but the current was so crazy and the chop was coming from all directions and I was fighting to stay up on my board. My hands were dry and I was overheating in my wetsuit so had to jump into the water every now and then to cool down. That was the most tiring part of the journey, it took me something like 2 hours to sail away from Hana. I was just drifting and uphauling felt like I was doing it for the first time again.

I stopped for a bit to make a couple of calls and tell everyone that I was safe. I made so many people worry about me just by telling them I was going to do this alone, including the captain and crew at Paia fire station. They were concerned about my safety plan, as I didn’t have one. I always feel like I am in God’s hands on the ocean and even after I have had a nightmare situation, everything goes fine and I have always made it back to shore. So I kept on trying to reach the wind line, but after another hour it was still not enough to get my foil up and going and by 2:30 p.m. the coast was starting to look far away and I knew I wouldn’t make it to Ho’okipa at 7:00 p.m.  It was a tough call to make, but I had no other option and I turned around and decided to go back to Hana and call for someone to come and pick me up. When I got close to Hana bay I started falling a lot because I was just drifting with waves and had no wind in my sail, so I decided to swim the extra hundred metres left with my rig under my stomach and some jellyfish welcomed me in! Besides those I only saw flying fish the whole way and some drifting wood, which worried me more than any other creature under the water.

I called my friend Rudy Castorina to ask for a ride, but he was busy, so he called Carine Camboulives and Manu Bouvet, who then called one of their friends in Hana, Sigal, a beautiful soul who was born in Israel, but grew up in Venezuela with grandparents from Casablanca and Marrakech! Would you believe it? She welcomed me on the beach at 4:36 p.m. and helped me pack up my gear and welcomed me into her house and looked after me until another friend came to visit her and drove me back to the north shore. It was an amazing experience and I loved the human part of it where I got to share the daily life of someone I never met before and who was genuinely nice and so generous with their hospitality.

The whole purpose of this was to satisfy my ego and to challenge myself mind and body, but also I wanted to go through a nightmare to see how I can handle challenging conditions where I have to keep calm and not stress. This was a minor nightmare, but the thrill is what has driven my whole career and long distance crossings have that. I want to keep doing them as long as my mind and body can handle it, and as long as my adaptive strength is there. I’m already looking forward to more adventures to come!

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