If anyone still remembers this blog, perhaps from a different time, one where I would post something regularly, I apologize. Not posting a single word during my entire stay in Australia is absolutely unacceptable and it’s time to compensate. Sore here it is, the Ozzie Chronicles.
So this is it, it’s the end of my first (but certainly not last) trip to Maui. It’s a pity the last two months had so few sailing days, but at least it ended on right note, and I also don’t forget I had some amazing surf and certainly progressed that way. Anyways, it’s time to head for western Australia now, but first, a few days in New Zealand.
Before I talk about the city of Auckland, I need to write a little about the joy of flying with windsurfing equipment. It’s really a wonder our sport isn’t more popular, when you consider how easy and convenient it is to travel around the world with our gear. Yes, this is sarcasm. Even though I had the smallest quiver one can have (one board, three sails), packed in one relatively small and compact bag, it was a stinging pain in my butt the whole way. I think it could have been Hercules’ thirteenth labor. Not only was it way harder and physically demanding than I imagined (and want to admit), but the airline staff (the first one at least), looked like they were on a mission to make my life harder.
My flight for Auckland wasn’t leaving from Kahului, Maui, it was leaving from Honolulu, henceforth I had to take a quick flight with Hawaiian airlines (20 min). Every passenger on those flights is allowed two checked luggage. Normally, their baggage policy is that no bag, even oversized, can excess 70 pounds. This is not the combined weight, it’s the maximum weight of any bag. The reason then, as to why they do not allow people to take one 40 pound bag, and one 90 pound bag (like I had), which fits in their weight per passenger ratio, I imagine, is that they do not want their staff to exhaust themselves. The solution, then, should be to ask a surcharge, but Hawaiian airlines does not. They simply refuse any bag over 70 pounds, no discussion. This truly stuns me, when you think that just about every single windsurfer in the world ends up going through that airport at one point or another in his or her life. I find it impossible to believe that there is no way to check a bag over 70 pounds, but that lady behind the HA counter had no time to discuss. I tried, but she was not interested. In consequence, I had to abandon my board on Maui, and attach one of my sails on my travel bag with tape, in order to make my quiver bag under 70 pounds. Silly.
It’s crazy how I argued for about half-an-hour with the HA staff for absolutely nothing, when it took about 3 min with Air New Zealand to check me in, without even weighing my board bad or asking me for a surcharge (I paid 35 USD to have HA take my very big sail bag).
Lesson : don’t fly to Honolulu with gear.
After 15 hours of transit, I arrived in beautiful New Zealand, in the city of Auckland. Not that much to say about my first two days here, it’s pretty much just a city. Anyways here are a few pics.
‘Til next time.
Don’t worry, this post has nothing to do with planes. It’s about an incident that occurred during my last session on Maui, and about the most beautiful sunrise on the island of Maui (it’s what they say).
One day before the end of the Maui portion, we were pleasantly surprised with some very nice wind and waves at Kanaha, creating the perfect conditions for the ultimate hawaiian session. I sailed with all the energy I could summon, trying charge as hard as I could on the face of the wave, and trying to jump higher and higher each time I’d head out. After a few tacks, I was heading out at full speed, and spotted a gnarly wave breaking pretty far ahead of me. In those circumstances, you can either head upwind (towards the already broken section of the wave, the whitewater) and hope that the wind is strong enough to push you over, or you can head downwind (towards the unbroken section of the wave, the ramp for jumping), automatically gaining speed. I was too late to head upwind, I wouldn’t have made it, so I decided to bear off (head downwind), and I took a lot, a lot of speed. The problem was that a kite-surfer was riding that same wave, and that he apparently hadn’t seen me. It shouldn’t even have been relevant, as the rider who is headed out has always priority over a rider who is on the wave. He was supposed to stay out of my way, not the other way around. Anyways, because I am cautious, I calculated my approach towards the wave to pass right in front of him. I got on the ramp (which was huge) at full speed, maybe the fastest I ever took a jump, and achieved lift off. The problem is that Mr. Kite-surfer decided to jump off instead of cutting back (returning towards the wave) and we met in mid-air. At about 6-7 m (I’m being conservative) in the air, we collided. We didn’t really hit each other, we simply bumped into each other. No impact, but it was enough to surprise the both of us enough to drop the gear. We didn’t hurt each other, but we were definitely shook up. The lesson is that even when priority is on our side, we still need to be careful and take a few extra meters for safety, because it’s always better to avoid injuries, whichever way you look at it.
On the last day I was on Maui, we woke up a little bit earlier (4:00 am), in order to experience the legendary Haleakala sunset. Mt. Haleakala is one of Maui’s two volcanoes, the one of the eastern side of the island. The drive up is quite entertaining (the angles are very interesting), to the point that we had to change cars twice (!), and takes about an hour and a half. The road takes you all the way in front of the Haleakala crater at 3000m of altitude, which is, in itself, a sight to behold. Then, around 6:45, the sun starts piercing through the few clouds that are higher than the observation point, and it lights up the mesmerizing landscape. It’s quite hard to describe how beautiful it was, so take a look and judge by yourself.
After 15 hours in transit, and quite a fun time running around the airport with a windsurfing quiver under my arm, I’m in New Zealand, although I really haven’t had time to do anything yet, so that will be for next post.
Before I begin, I want to apologize to anyone who is reading my blog for the long wait since the last post. At least, this one is going to be a big one.
First of all, I discovered, last week, one of the most amazing waves on the island of Maui, Honolua bay. It’s a spot on the west side of the North shore. Because it is on the other side of the volcano, you need to drive all the way to the south, and go all the way around to Lahaina, driving for about an hour. The drive is well worth it. When it works, this glassy pointbreak peels off to the right for a few hundred meters, barreling in some sections. I have to admit, the surf was a little big (double overhead) for me, and I was intimidated. I did go in the water, but played it safe. I still manage to catch the best waves of my life, without a doubt. I also got to admire some real surfers having fun on this liquid playground, truly making the most out of the wave, going vertical on every turn and smacking the lip as hard as possible, occasionally throwing an aerial or even a 360. The young guns were particularly impressive, and they were charging surprisingly hard for their size, obviously hungry for some good surf. Pictures coming soon.
Yesterday, some very strong north-west wind were supposed to blow all over the north shore. Henceforth, we showed up early at Kanaha, since we hadn’t had a real trade winds day in over 2 months, only to find a very light breeze, hardly enough to shlog out and make it passed the white water, so we had nothing to do but wait for the wind. After a few hours of twiddling our thumbs, we decided to go check out Kihei, on the south side of the island, where is usually windier, but where you rarely have any waves, with the hope of doing a little bit of freestyle. Indeed, we found plenty of wind and managed to get ourselves a good freestyle session. While Loic was busy throwing burners and air funnels, I was working on my spin-loops (flat water forward loops) and air jibes (180 rotation in the air, sliding backwards). It wasn’t wave sailing, but it definitely felt good to be back on the water.
And now, the real story. Today, we finally got the epic day at Kanaha we so desperately awaited. Simply driving in the parking lot, my heartbeat accelerated as it was obvious a nice 20 knot trade wind was blowing consistently over nice logo- to mast-high waves. After a speedy rigging, we rushed on the water. I’m proud to say my wave riding hasn’t gone down despite the time off the water, in fact in probably even got better, because of all the surfing. I was feeling very confident in the bottom turn, pushing as hard as I could on my front foot, engaging my whole body and laying down the sail way more than I used to, and then following by kicking the lip (the breaking part of the wave) as hard as I could. I felt very good concerning my timing (i.e. trying to be hitting the top of the wave as close as possible to breaking part, without hitting white water) and my flow (trying to connect the turns as fluidly as possible), as I felt like I was coming out of my top turn with a lot of speed. On the other hand, I definitely need to get back into jumping, as I was definitely not feeling confident enough to go high and I was nowhere near a controlled landing. Anyways, the surf was definitely on my mind during today’s session, which ended on a bittersweet note. During the last few hours I was on the water, the wind had started getting up a lot, making my surf more and more precarious. On my last bottom turn, I engaged with a lot of speed, coming very vertical on the wave, and pushed very hard on the back foot, and everything fell apart. Literally. Somehow, my mast foot (the universal joint that connects the rig to the board) broke completely, leaving me in the water, holding my rig in one hand and my board in the other, with waves breaking on my head. Luckily, a few good samaritans stopped by and saved my skin, one dragged me with my board, while the other, who happened to be Francisco Goya, one of my windsurfing idols, carried my sail back to the beach. Special thanks to Mr. Goya, who even took the time to bring my sail up on the beach and put sand on it to make sure it would fly away. It’s definitely not every pro that would’ve done the same. It’s amazing to see someone as stoked as him, who’s just happy to be on the water and actually willing to help other people experience this amazing sport.
Unfortunately, the forecast doesn’t look so good until I leave for New Zealand, on January 29th, except for a kona wind on saturday and maybe one or two trade days during the week.
Until next time,
Today was quite a special day : the first planning day since probably more than a month! Wind did return to Maui’s north shore, but it was no ordinary trade wind, it was a Kona wind. The usual trade winds blow from the north-east, creating what windsurfers call starboard tack sailing conditions, meaning that the sailor will be on starboard tack (goofy footed, if you will, so right foot forward) leaving the beach, and will ride the waves on port tack (regular footed, left foot forward), but the Kona winds, which blow in the opposite direction, from the south-west, creating port tack sailing conditions, so leaving the beach on port tack and riding on starboard tack. It felt awkward at first, but after the first few waves, riding the waves goofy footed felt really good.
Unfortunately, the one day that the wind did show up, the waves were somehow very, very unsatisfying. Instead of the usual sizable yet forgiving waves that are normally found at Kanaha, we would try to ride some weird, small bumps in the water. Basically, the waves were so small that it was hard to tell when you were on them. Anyhow, I got a first taste of port tack conditions, which is really good, considering that Western Australia, my next destination is exclusively port tack.
Due to the complete absence of wind here on Maui for the last month, I’ve been spending most of my time surfing, and I’ve come to realize that the board I bought when I first got here, a Hawai’i 6’8” squash tail, was not really the kind of board I should be using. The board is designed to be stable on big waves, but is not an easy board to catch waves or a very loose one, which are the two things I should look for in a board at my level.
Henceforth, I shopped around and found a great deal on a Kazuma Shibi 6’0” , which is exactly the board I needed. It’s a performance fish, which means it has more width in the nose and in the middle of the board, allowing much easier take offs, but it has also a fairly narrow swallow tail, making it very reactive and easy to turn. It is also a quad fin, which makes the board faster. In a nutshell, simply switching to this board has made me enjoy surfing a lot more and already helped my make some progress. In fact, I’m enjoying surfing so much these days that I might take a day trip to Honolua Bay, perhaps the most famous surf spot on Maui.