Pavones is exactly what you think of when you imagine a Costa Rican surf town. The drive in is bumpy, dusty and long but once you’re there, it’s worth every pothole. The town has a cantina, a few restaurants, a soccer field and a world-class point break wave, one of the longest lefts in the world. The people are friendly, the vibe is mellow and dogs and horses roam the beach.
We stayed at my sisters’ new Yoga retreat, Pavones Yoga, which is still under construction but has the most magnificent views. From her balcony you can see across the Golfo Dulce to the Peninsula de Osa and watch surfers riding the long lefts into the bay.
According to locals, it had been the best January and February they could remember for surf but unfortunately for us, we were only catching the tail end of a swell. We still caught plenty of waves and had our fun but we never got to see it at it’s best. Guess that only means one thing, we’ll just have to go back.
We had a long drive back to San Jose but were upgrading from the Montero to a new Toyota Tacoma. And while it had comforts we had long forgotten, A/C, a horn, music and a suspension system that actually worked, it had no personality. It was sad to leave the Montero behind but we were grateful for how it handled.
All good things must come to an end. Unbelievably, another trip has come and gone. There are always ups and downs and things never go as planned but I walk away with great memories and look forward to the next adventure.
We had planned on staying an extra day in Arenal but decided to head to the coast early, in search of waves. The plan was to stay in or around Tamarindo, find some waves to surf and cool places to paddle. The drive was another hot, long one. The scenery changes so much from the lush, green vegetation of the mountain highlands to the hot, dry and dusty conditions of the northern coastal zone. By the time we made it to Tamarindo we were tired, dirty and jostled, after hours of driving along the bumpy, dusty roads.
After driving through many small, quiet towns, Tamarindo is a shock to the senses. The town is now brimming with hotels, surf shops, hostels, souvenir stores and numerous high-rise buildings. It changes every time I visit, and sadly, it’s always for the worse. I remember spending time there when I was in high school and it was a beautiful, laid back surf town. The road in wasn’t paved which kept the majority people away, there were only a couple of hotels and restaurants and the long beaches were mostly empty. All that is left now are the fond memories… the Tamarindo I knew before is long gone.
The vibe now is similar to Mexico during Spring break, the lineups are crowded with surf schools, groups of college students roam the dirty streets and internet cafes are a dime a dozen. We hadn’t made plans for a place to stay, hoping to camp but the campground I knew before was replaced with a 10-story residential building, so our choices were limited. With all of our gear and boards, we didn’t feel comfortable leaving the Montero on the side of the road so we opted for a hotel with secure parking. Our mood was sullen, we were tired, dirty and depressed by the state of the town, all we wanted was to get into the water and catch some waves. It was dark by the time we settled into our place, so we grabbed dinner and made plans to get out of town first thing in the morning.
The next morning we met with Danny, owner of Costa Rica Paddle Surf, grabbed some boards for Morgan and Shannon and made a beeline for Playa Avellanas, never looking back. It felt good to get out of Tamarindo, although it still hurts me to see how far it has fallen. Not all progress is good.
February 9th, 2011.
Morgan and Ryan arrived Monday evening into San Jose. Ryan flew from Hawaii and Morgan flew in from Nicaragua, where she was filming Holly Beck’s latest surf camp. Shannon arrived early Tuesday morning after a red eye flight that took her from San Diego to Denver and finally into San Jose. She found her way to the couch and passed out while the rest of us worked on getting our things packed. We (well, Ryan really) loaded up the Montero, making sure the new racks would support the weight of all the boards. We made one last sweep of the house to make sure we had everything and woke Shannon from her deep sleep and set off.
We were a sight to see: an 85’ Mitsubishi Montero with some obvious signs of many years of off –road adventures, carrying 5 standup paddleboards, 1 shortboard, 3 paddle bags on the roof, and inside, the 4 of us, our bags and Orlando, our pet monkey along for the ride. We drove North from San Jose, heading for Lake Arenal, an artificial lake known for strong, dependable winds during the dry season. It is a well-known windsurfing and kite-boarding destination because of those winds so we figured it would make for an epic downwind paddle. The lake, which at nearly 30 square miles is Costa Rica’s largest, sits at the base of Volcán Arenal, the country’s most active volcano. On clear nights you can watch the lava spew out of the volcano and roll down the mountainside.
We arrived in the town of Nuevo Arenal in the late afternoon, scoped out some locations for where we would start and finish the paddle and made our way to Mystica Lodge, where we were staying. The next morning we drove down to the launch spot and to my dismay, were welcomed by a massive sign warning us of crocodiles. Not exactly what I had been looking for, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d look like a tasty meal to them. We set up our boards, did our little pre-paddle dance, and paddled away. We didn’t exactly know where we were headed but we had a pretty good idea…we just had to aim to the right of the windmills and look for a little red flag.
The paddle itself was beautiful; we passed islands and inlets and despite the wind not being as strong as we had hoped, managed to catch a few bumps. I could see the potential on a windy day; it would be an all time downwind run. After some deliberation as to where our finish spot was, we managed to spot the little red flag and made it to shore. Ryan met us with the car, we loaded up the boards and packed up for the next part of our journey: Tamarindo on the Northern coast.
We have finally begun the long process of sifting through the still photos that we came away with from our trip. Here are a few that caught our eye right off the bat with explanations of each…
Thanks to Shannon Switzer and Gregg Hoesterey for all of the beautiful photos!
It’s been almost a month since our last channel crossing from Kauai to Niihau, which by the way, I do not recommend to anyone unless you feel like experiencing hell…but I will tell you all about that in my next blog! I am back in Kona and after taking a week off from paddling, I got back into it. I have a busy summer ahead with races and traveling so I didn’t have much time to rest and relax. I was back in the gym the day I returned, which felt GREAT at the time but left me aching for the next few days. After taking time of from paddling, it felt good to get back into it. It’s different training for sprint races after having done so much endurance paddling in the past few months but I’m enjoying not having to worry about going on 20+ mile paddles.
Next week is the Battle of the Paddle Hawaii. I’m excited to see everyone in the community and check out the race course. It’s going to be another great event and if you live nearby you should really come check it out! After that, I’m planning on competing in a couple of local races this summer, including the Molokai to Oahu race and then traveling to Europe for a couple of races there.
Looking back on what we did in April, it still hasn’t fully sunk in. It was an absolutely amazing experience and I am so excited to have been a part of it. We worked hard for so many months to make it happen and the best part was seeing it through and successfully completing what we set out to do. It would not have been possible without the help of sponsors, friends, family and so many others who supported us throughout the adventure. I will never be able to express how grateful I am to every person who played a part in making our trip a success but I want to say THANK YOU. THANK YOU SO MUCH.
Putting together a trip like this is not an overnight process and it took months of e-mails, phone calls, skype meetings, brainstorming etc to make it happen, but most of all it was largely due to the people who believed in us and our crazy idea and said yes. I have come away from this realizing that it does not matter how many times you hear the word “no”, you keep trying and if you believe in what you’re doing, someone will say yes.
Thank you to everyone who believed in us and said YES
Thank you to these great companies:
Pelican, Kaenon, Sweet Waterwear, Tiem, Watermans, 2xu, Vertra, Surf Stronger, ACR Electronics
Pure Paddles, QuickBlade, Del Mar, Infinit, OnIt, H20 Audio, Rite in the Rain
Our Wonderful Captains:
Mike, Nue & Earl – Big Island to Maui
Layne – Maui to Lanai, Maui to Molokai
Mickey & Kawika – Molokai sea cliffs
Jeff & Matt – Molokai to Oahu
Scott, Matt and all of the crew from Maggie Joe Charters – Oahu to Kauai
Steve G. – Na Pali Coast
Peter, Scott and Linda from Bubbles Below – Kauai to Niihau and Lehua Rock
Thank you to the Koppes and Garfinkle families for generously loaning us your boats!
Thank You To:
Pat Caldwell, Wayne Schaut, Jack Gillen, Reid Inouye, Jerry Bess, Barrett Tester, Odie Sumi, Pete Stirling, Chris Wyman, Katie Beers, Mary Edmonds, The Trout Family, Danny Haserot, John Immel, Jared Vargas, Nichole Madosik, Jeff Dietrichson, Stacy Spilman and Sanja Du Plessis.
To my family for showing me the beauty of following your dreams – Fortuna Favet Fortibus.
To Our Support Crew:
Ryan – worlds best boyfriend (biased? no way), board caddy, EMS, cook
Gregg – photographer, board caddy, joker, fisherman
Anders – board caddy, Swedish meatball maker, chauffeur
And a Final Thanks To:
Morgan – For dreaming up this crazy adventure
Jen – For the creative writing, proof reading, support
Chris – For filming and editing throughout and working hard before, during and after and most of all, for putting up with 4 girls.
Shannon – For the beautiful photographs
And of course thank you to all of our fans who followed us, whose comments motivated us throughout the journey and those who donated to our cause, Algalita Marine Reseach Foundation.
Thank you for being a part of our adventure!
The past few weeks have been spent settling back into “normal life,” and I have decided that I took for granted all of the time that we were able to spend in and around the ocean while we were traveling. To help make sure that I don’t continue to take the ocean for granted, I have been trying to spend as much time as I can in it while I am not assimilating back into work and responsibility. This week’s ocean adventure took me, Sanja (our self-proclaimed fan club president) and our friend Leane, who is always up for anything ocean related to Makapu’u beach on the east side of Oahu. We were hoping for some bodysurfing waves, and we got some…small and choppy, but waves nonetheless.
After about an hour, I returned to the beach to roll around in the sand for a bit while Sanja and Leane continued to entertain themselves in the lineup. Sanja took over camera duty and the usual scenario resulted: self-portraits by Sanja. I actually think that she has outdone herself with this one.
After I was satisfied with my corndogging for the day, I took a walk down the beach which was COVERED in nurdles. Nurdles, or mermaid tears, are perhaps the most annoying form of marine debris possible. They are small, white spheres of pre-production plastic that end up as trash on the beach even before they have the chance to become proper plastic.
As I walked along, I thought about the first time I ever saw a nurdle. I was probably about 12 or 13 and was searching for shells on Newport Beach in California with a friend of mine. We kept coming across these small white spheres in amongst the sand and the shells. We debated what they actually were and came up with small balls of surf wax that the surfers pick off of their boards and throw in the water. To me, this is what they were until a few years ago when I really started to learn more about the marine debris problem.
So, for those of you who have no idea what a nurdle actually is (besides fun to say…), here are a few nurdle facts for you:
-Nurdles are very small pieces of plastic which are designed to be melted down and then molded or otherwise shaped to make plastic materials
-Small pellets represent the most economical way to ship this pre-production plastic to where it needs to go in order to become the plastic that we all use everyday
-Over 250 billion pounds of nurdles are shipped around the world to plastic processing factories every year
-Nurdles come in rail tank cars, and at 20-25,000 per pound, there are about a billion of them in each tanker
-The most common source for nurdles in the ocean is industrial spills from trucks and container ships; because nurdles are so small, they are hard to contain, and they slip away from containers and into waterways or into the ocean directly
-Nurdles now represent about 10% of the litter counted on beaches worldwide
In addition to nurdles, there are other kinds of “Mermaid Tears”:
-The other form of mermaid tear is a small piece of plastic similar in size to a nurdle, caused by the wearing down of finished plastic items
-Studies on the plastic debris in the ocean seem to suggest that mermaid tears only break down up to a certain point, and after that, they will float in the ocean for thousands or perhaps millions of years, potentially causing serious problems. As they get smaller and smaller, mermaid tears are harmful to more and more organisms in the sea
Mermaid tears are a problem for a number of reasons:
The first and most obvious is that they are ingested by marine animals, who cannot digest plastic. As a result, animals can sicken or die with large numbers of mermaid tears in their digestive tracts, and bigger organisms may then consume them when they eat the smaller organisms. As a result, plastic becomes widely distributed in the marine food chain.
Mermaid tears can also contain chemical pollutants. In addition to the chemicals naturally present in plastic, these small plastic pellets can also pick up other chemicals and contaminants, ranging from toxins to endocrine disruptors.
When we first started planning this adventure I was unfamiliar with the problems plastics are causing on our oceans. I had heard about the fight to save the whales, the battle against fishermen in Japan killing thousands of dolphins and the horrific shark-fining that occurs around the world but I was clueless about plastic contamination in the ocean. I’ve seen bags in the water and garbage on the beaches but I never knew the gravity of the situation until Morgan introduced me to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. And while at first I really wanted to raise awareness for the whales, dolphins and sharks, I realized that no matter how hard we fight to save what lives in our oceans, if we don’t stop polluting the water, our efforts won’t matter. There are problems all over the world that seem out of our control and we ask ourselves, “what difference will I make?”. If one person changes their ways, that alone will have an impact. Every year at least 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles die because of plastic pollution. That number will only increase unless we change our ways.
5 Ways to Make a Difference
1. Say NO to Plastic Bags
Carry re-usable bags in your car and bag. Check out Chico Bags They make environmentally friendly compact bags and totes.
2. Reduce Your Plastic Bottle Use
Carry a reusable bottle like Klean Kanteen and refill it at home or on the go.
3. Choose Glass
Avoid buying plastic products as much as possible. It may seem like everything is made of plastic these days but if you look around you’ll see that there are still options out there. Instead of buying plastic tupperware look for glass storage containers.
4. Tell Your Friends & Family
Share these tips with people you know and let them know why it is important to change our habits. The more people who are aware of the problem, the more likely it will be that we will see a change. Check out the film Message In The Waves and share it with people you know.
If you have some extra cash laying around donate it to Algalita Marine Research Foundation, the money goes toward education, research and restoration of the marine environment. If you’re strapped for cash, look into local campaigns that are raising awareness against plastics and volunteer. If you’re a Hawaii resident check out the Plastic Free Hawaii campaign.
It’s hard to believe that April has come and gone. We spent the past 8 months planning and dreaming about standup paddling across the Hawaiian Islands, and now that it is over, it is time to set sights on what is next.
I learned throughout this experience that racing is not necessarily my favorite thing. I like to be a part of the community and I like going to the events, but what I really like is being out on the ocean. I love the fact that each time on the water is different, and how each paddle is a learning experience. Above everything else though, I appreciate the challenges that the ocean has to offer.
As part of my ongoing effort to learn the ocean and to find new ways to challenge myself, I am going to switch gears for a bit and learn to prone paddle. I tried to get into paddleboarding a few years ago with my friend Jess. We quickly learned that it isn’t as easy as it looks, and that if all else fails, a Jolly Rancher will get you through any hard times (something I tested and confirmed in the Kauai channel). When Jess went home to Australia and I switched to standup paddling, our two prone paddleboards sat neglected on the racks.
Now that our one adventure is finished, it’s time to start the next one. I have had my new BARK paddleboard now for about an hour, and it has already been an experience. Getting the board from the shipping place to Wet Feet where I unpacked it was not the easiest thing I have ever done. The shipping guys helped me strap the board to my truck (which I had doubts about, but I went with it), and on the way to work today I was pointed and laughed at by an engine full of firefighters, a group of surfers, and looked at in horror by anyone who had the misfortune of having to drive behind me.
Anyway, I am looking forward to this next thing. If any of you prone paddling people have any tips for me, please don’t hesitate to let me know, I have a feeling I will need all the help I can get =).
ps. Jess, get back here. I need a training buddy.
We made it! At 8am this past Friday, Jenny and I started paddling the 32 miles between Kaluakoi on Molokai and ended up in Hawaii Kai on Oahu about 7 hours later. We were lucky to have a manageable 15-20 knot east/northeast wind pushing us toward our destination, but also had to deal with conflicting swells: a primary swell from the Northwest and a secondary swell coming from the South. The result was a fun Molokai Channel crossing with some good bumps and plenty of wildlife.
Many people think that these crossings are just about paddling. These channels have the reputation of being grueling, difficult, and unpleasant, but in reality they are so much more than that. Standup paddling is the vehicle that gets us from one place to another, but what is more important is the journey with the events that happen along the way. Here are my top five favorite parts of this Kaiwi Channel Crossing…
#5. Seeing my friends at the end of the Channel.
There is nothing better than making it through something difficult and knowing that there are people at the end who are supporting you. I am fortunate to have the best friends ever, and I can’t thank them enough for showing up at the finish line. It is difficult to travel for so long because you really start to miss the people that are a part of your everyday life, so it was really great to see my friends again.
#4. Knowing my way across the Channel.
This was my third time across this particular channel. The last two times, I felt like I didn’t know where to go, and what to do, and I had to heavily rely on the support crew to get me across. This time, it was still really good to have the support that I had, but for the first time, I was able to look at Oahu, recognize the landmarks, and make an educated decision about which direction I wanted to go and which line I wanted to take. Having said that, it was also nice to have Jen, Chris and my Dad on the boat making sure that I didn’t make any bad choices.
#3. Hanging out with the False Killer Whales
It was like Wild Kingdom out there in the Channel this time. There were sea birds everywhere, Mahi Mahi swimming under our boards, one questionable brownish-beige creature near port lock, and lots of False Killer Whales. At the time we thought that they were pilot whales, but after looking at the photos and the footage, we think that they might be false killer whales instead. A few hours into the crossing, I heard someone on the boat yell “Whale! Look Down!” and when I did, there were a couple of large dark animal about a foot under my board. The whales were curious and playful and swam along side us for awhile. They would switch from swimming under our boards, to surfing the boat wake, and back again, which was one of the coolest things ever. They eventually left us to our paddling, but then an hour or so later, two more showed up and the whole experience started all over again.
#2. Watching Chris and Jen handle the Hawaiian shorebreak on the way out to the boat.
If you have never seen the start of the Molokai race, you may not know that it isn’t a beach start. Because you have boats escorting you, you have to find a way to get all of your things from the beach to the boat without getting it completely wet. The day we left had 5 to 7 foot Hawaiian surf, which meant that we had to make it out through some substantial shorebreak on our way out. My dad swam our two dry bags out first, and when there was a lull in the sets, Jen and I swam out. Jen and I were lucky to time the sets pretty well and had a pretty uneventful swim out, but when I returned back to the beach to swim out with Chris, the swell seemed to have picked up with a vengeance. Chris and I stood on the beach watching wave after wave come in, each one bigger than the last. I knew that Chris was a bit out of his comfort zone here, but when I said it was time to go, he charged out through the surf and didn’t look back. It was one of my favorite parts of this trip so far.
#1. Seeing the smile on my Dad’s face when he held up his Mahi Mahi.
I am so stoked to have my Dad with me on this trip. He loves the ocean more than anyone I know, and it has been so great to have him along. If there is anything that my Dad loves to do, it is to go fishing. Because we weren’t in a race situation across this channel, the people on the boat were able to fish a little bit. Luckily (for them) our escort Captains are fishermen and had rods and reels on the boat all ready to go. We were paddling along when the boat zoomed away toward a huge flock of birds, and I knew at that moment what they were up to. When they returned, everyone on the boat had huge grins on their faces and my Dad triumphantly held up his trophy with a huge smile. I knew that he was happy and having fun, and it validated what this trip is all about.
‘The Pineapple Isle’
Paddled across the Au’au channel today – we were nervous about the wind but it was SO fun! There was a slight side wind in the beginning but there were still some bumps that were easy to catch. Slater Trout joined us for the paddle. Fun to have someone else along. We had a great line all morning and were able to surf downwind for most of the crossing. I was so happy to be able to surf and not just paddle. I couldn’t stop smiling – I was having a really fun time. After 2.5 hours we paddled in to a beach – it was covered in plastic trash. We picked up what we could and paddled back out to the boat.
We’re camping at Hulopoe Beach Park on the South side of Lanai and it is absolutely beautiful! Keawe trees surround us and a white sand beach/turquoise water are just steps away. There is a surf break out front that works on a South swell – hoping we get lucky and get some waves!
The wind was blowing last night. The trees were creaking as their branches swayed – it was an eerie sound. This morning the dolphins showed up in the bay. I have never seen dolphins so close to shore before – it was amazing. I swam a little ways out and was surprised when a pod swam right over to where I was. No matter how often I see dolphins, it never gets old. They are beautiful.
Drove over to the North side to check out Shipwreck beach. I was really looking forward to paddling near the wreck but the walk/paddle out looked difficult, not to mention how ugly the conditions were. We explored the beach instead and were blown away how much plastic trash there was on it. Rubber sandals, fishing line, toothbrushes, combs, glue sticks, WATER BOTTLES (so many!). It’s sad to see all that trash in such an isolated, beautiful place.
More exploring today. We managed to get lost on our way out of town, difficult to comprehend since there are only 2 roads. We did however, find the local dump and there were HUNDREDS of plastic bags strewn all over the nearby fields. It’s going to be a very powerful image for people to see. Yesterday as we picked up trash I realized that all we could do is pick it up and take it to the nearest garbage – and then what? It gets blown away again or sits there forever. The problem isn’t picking it up – the problem is that so many plastics exist. We need to find a way to decrease the production. We can start by changing our habits… no more plastic bags or bottles.
Drove up to Lanai city. It reminds me of the Pacific Northwest – it was rainy and chilly and there were pine trees everywhere. It even smelled a bit like Canada. It’s a beautiful town. I loved it. It was neat to find something so different on the island – it didn’t feel at all like Hawaii. Stopped by some great local shops and chatted with the owners/managers. Great people. Talking to them made me realize that this is what our trip is all about – interacting with people and sharing our story and cause and listening to them. It was a great afternoon.
As the sun was close to setting Morgan and I saw a freak set roll through the bay. We jumped at the chance to surf – ran to the campsite, grabbed our boards and paddled out. We only caught one wave, it was shallow and freezing cold but it was gorgeous. The colors in the sky were amazing – shades of red and purple.
S’mores by the fire after dinner. Last night on Lanai – really enjoyed this island.
Left Lanai today. Sad to go but excited about the rest of the trip. Moving is always interesting – 6 people, 5 boards, 20 pieces of luggage and pelican cases. All things considered, things went pretty smoothly today – well, except that Chris and Jen got left by the ferry.
Layne was supposed to pick us up on his boat to take us back to Maui but the conditions were not looking good and we decided to take the ferry instead. It’s a good thing we chose the ferry over the 30′ raydon because it was wild in the channel. Riding the ferry was like being on an hour long amusement park ride. The boat was rocking all over – I cannot imagine how bad it would have been on Layne’s boat. We would have been soaked, sick and most likely stuck on the boat for hours.
Maui to Molokai is up next, forecast is looking good!
Looks good for Molokai to Oahu too!
Cannot believe how quickly this trip is going by.
Well, we made it!
It feels good (really good) to be here and have that channel behind us. We woke up at 3:30AM and drove up to Waikoloa to meet the crew, loaded up the trucks and drove up with Jack Gillen to meet the boat at the harbor. It took longer than expected to load the boats (we have SO much gear) and so we were behind schedule to leave but it all worked out.
Jack prayed for us before we left. It was nice to have him there. He always has such good energy. The funny thing about the crossing was how calm I felt. I didn’t feel nervous or afraid like I thought I might. It was like deep down I knew that everything would be ok. And it was. It was the perfect day to cross.
Within minutes of letting go of our offerings we saw a whale breaching in the distance. It continued to break and then went into a tail slapping routine. I didn’t think we would actually get close to it but within 10 minutes we were a couple hundred yards away and my line was taking me directly to the whale. As I approached it continued to tail slap and then suddenly disappeared. I scanned the water expecting to see it nearby when Morgan shouted that it was under her board. Sure enough I saw it pop up right next to her and then swim right up to our escort boat, tail slap once more and disappear. Looking back it was pretty cool that he popped up and gave us a show as we started out.
The channel itself was mellow in comparison to what it can be like. We really lucked out – that is all I kept thinking. I remember stopping myself from having that thought too often in case I jinxed us. A few times I had to ask the captain if we really were in the channel or still in the shadow of the Big Island because of how surprised I was by the conditions. Not that I minded – it was much better for us to have crossed the way it was than anything else.
Overall, I didn’t find that channel to be difficult for me. I say that with the utmost respect of that and any channel – I know we were fortunate to be blessed with calm conditions. Mentally, I was prepared for the crossing and expected the worst…I think that helped. Physically, I felt great for the majority of the paddle. My arms started to ache at hr 6 and 7 but nothing that I couldn’t handle. My pinkie nail hurt toward the end and my hands ached but after stretching and mixing up my stroke, it felt better.
It took 9hrs, a few more hours than I would have liked but we made it and that is what matters. The hardest part was about 13-15 miles out from Maui. For awhile, it didn’t seem like Maui got any closer. It took 2-3 hrs of staring at the same house and mountainside before I finally saw a change. I kept telling myself “only 2 more hours” and when those 2 were up, I’d tell myself again, “only 2 more hours”. I never lost focus, I tried to maintain a positive mindset throughout. There was one moment when in the pit of my stomach I feared that were drifting south and simply bypassing Maui without actually getting closer to land but that feeling didn’t last long. It is important to stay positive. The mind is a powerful thing.
When we first started paddling one of our captains, Mike Nakachi, said to me “look back and check out Mauna Kea, the valleys, the waterfalls… take it all in. Enjoy the moment – this is why you’re doing this!”
Too often we forget the moment. I stopped, looked back and it was beautiful.
On April 7th, 2010, Morgan and I became the first women to stand-up paddle across the Alenuihaha channel.
Thanks to Mike, Nue & Earl our captains for the trip!!
Rest day today. Tomorrow we paddle to Molokin crater for our 2nd channel crossing. Unfortunately, we will not be able to paddle the entire channel to Kahoolawe because we were not given access to the island but we’re making the most of it.
Early morning snorkeling and free diving near Maken landing. Saw reef sharks, turtles and found some neat “swim-throughs” and underwater arches. Drove up to Haleakala for sunset but it was overcast and drizzly so we didn’t get to see much but it was still really beautiful.. and COLD! I’m glad we went.
Maui – Molokini
This morning we paddled from Makena landing on Maui to and around Molokini crater. It was a beautiful morning and it didn’t take long to paddle over. We were amazed by how beautiful the crater is…the red cliffs, carved out from wind and waves. It reminded me of the Grand Canyon – or what I imagine the Grand Canyon looks like.
Once inside the crater we went snorkeling. The visibility was amazing. There were fish everywhere. We stayed for an hour and then headed back to shore.
Another fun day. I can’t believe how quickly time is going by. I’m excited about camping on Lanai and seeing Shipwreck beach. Up next, Maui – Lanai (10+miles) then back to Maui.
Well, we didn’t get out for much of an adventure but we did drive up the coast toward Lahaina to check the conditions and our course for Lanai. It was a spectacular day. We could see the valleys on Molokai and Lanai. Everything was so clear because of the strong winds – which is why we drove up in the first place – we wanted to see how the winds were going to affect our paddle. I heard that the North winds could make our paddle more difficult because it would be side on. I was nervous that we would have to change our plans or delay our paddle so we decided to drive up the coast and check things out for ourselves. The winds were strong but we decided that if we left farther North we would be fine. It could even be fun! Happy that we didn’t have to drastically change our plans we headed back to Kihei to pack our things.
Looking forward to Lanai – excited to check out a new island and explore.
Can’t believe this is all really happening – so much planning but we did it!
When we first contemplated the idea of stand-up paddling across the Hawaiian island chain, it sounded so simple: All we would need would be a boat, a willing and able captain, and some boards and paddles. What we’ve learned is that planning a trip like this requires a great deal of logistics, preparation, gear, and patience. These are a few of our “must-haves” for this trip…
Read it all at Outside Online.
We finally got to do some real adventuring on Lanai. Until we arrived on Lanai, we have been roaming around on islands that one or all of us is familiar with. Lanai was not this way. None of us really knew what would be fun to do, or where would be good to go, so we loaded up in the Jeep and went exploring…
It didn’t take us very long to take a wrong turn, which is actually kind of pathetic given the fact that Lanai has like one main road. As we began to realize that we were not on the right road, we also began to notice that something about the scenery was not quite right. There were beautiful, dramatic cliffs, with rocks just off the coast, with red dirt, green trees and bright blue water. In amongst all of the scenery were thousands of plastic bags. They were all stuck in the trees, blowing in the wind. It was like looking at a field full of the most depressing Christmas trees that you can possibly imagine.
It was a sobering sight for us because we have been so fortunate to be able to see all of the beautiful things that we have seen so far, and this area was just as beautiful underneath all of the plastic. I guess all I have to say about it is that the plastics problem exists. It isn’t just something that is made up, or is being blown out of proportion. We have more photos to post later, but for now, if you are at the store and are debating about whether or not you need a plastic bag, it may be convenient in the short term, but most of those bags don’t end up where you think they will.
The team is here! It is hard to believe that after 7 months of planning, e-mails, phone calls and skype meetings, it is finally time to go!
It is almost hard to believe. It didn’t really sink in until I got to the teams hotel rooms and saw everyone and ALL the gear. We have SO much gear. Cameras, video cameras, pelican cases, computers, cables, clothes, flashlights, stickers… so many things!
It’s a bit stressful now that we are all together and we have only a week left to get everything ready to go. We had to come up with a backup plan in case the weather doesn’t cooperate for the Alenuihaha channel. I really don’t want to have to use our backup plan but the weather is beyond our control. We have to learn to go with the flow – I guess this is what makes it an adventure…
One week and we will be on our way.
The winds are gale force. Our forecast isn’t looking promising. We need a break in the trade winds Tuesday or Wednesday or we have to go to our backup plan.
We haven’t given up hope. Things can change. I really believe the winds will back off enough for us to go. We have to believe.
The key to surviving this trip is accepting that nothing will go as planned…
We were hoping to check out South Point today but with the strong winds we decided it would be better to go to Kealakekua Bay and the City of Refuge. It was an AWESOME water day. We explored underwater caves and arches. The visibility was phenomenal. We got great shots and video but I doubt it will do justice to how beautiful it was. At City of Refuge, Morgan and I paddled around the bay. Had a pod of dolphins play with us for a bit. I regret not having my camera with me – I need to keep it attached to me at ALL times!
The morning and afternoon were great. We had lunch at the Coffee Shack – so good and hung out with the Kona Boys crew.
VERY STRESSED AFTER THAT!
All of a sudden it is hitting me that I have so much to do and so little time. Pat (Caldwell) thinks our chances are best for Tuesday morning. So all of a sudden I have a million things to do and nothing seems to work out. Couldn’t find a jet ski for Keokea on Saturday, didn’t hear back from the cultural advisor about a blessing on Monday. The banner still isn’t printed and no luck with the shirts. In a few hours my day went from great to overwhelming beyond belief.
I am hoping tomorrow will bring better news.
I trust that everything will work out – always does.
Talked to the boat captains about our departure date. Feeling a bit discourage by their reactions. They seem worried about Tuesday because it is sandwiched in between two very rough days. They are concerned that the window is too small. I trust them and know they know what is best for us.
I just hope we can get a good day to cross.
I was supposed to meet the team and go to Mauna Kea but I had a physical therapy session for my shoulder and didn’t have time. I was bummed I couldn’t make it up there. Maybe we’ll get another chance!
Keokea downwind run tomorrow – conditions should be good!
We drove up North today to meet Jerry Bess at Coastguards and then up to Keokea. The wind was smoking! We could see some big wind waves – not a good day to cross. It was rainy and gusty as we drove further north. Got to Keokea and it looked MESSY! With the help of Morgan’s dad we were able to safely time the sets and make it outside.
It was a good run! Not the most fun I have had in regards to surfing but it was challenging. The groundswell was hitting us side on which made it difficult to stay on our boards but we did well. I’d say it was average 6ft with sets over 10ft.
Saw a shark (similar to the one I saw at the race 2wks ago). It was small (luckily). Also saw the largest turtle… I was sure it was something else. I don’t know how a turtle that size has survived along that coast.
It’s always a long day to paddle up there but it is so worth it. The sights, the conditions – every time I finish I feel great. It was a good training run.. especially for Morgan on her new board. I could tell she thought we were crazy when we first paddled out. It was not the most inviting conditions.
Looks like we could leave Tuesday! Crazy. Can’t believe we’re days away from our first crossing. Excited and nervous but ready to go!
Met the crew and we 4wd down to the beach. It was a fun afternoon – lots of photos/video. Hoping we get some good shots. The water in the lagoon was beautiful – turquoise, aqua – it reminded me of Lake Tahoe. So many turtles – they were everywhere. Checked out the Queen’s bath on our way out… didn’t hang out because there were other people in it.
Tomorrow we find out if we leave Tuesday or Wednesday!
Excited to know… a few more days.
Wednesday April 7th forecast for Alenuihaha channel : wind 20 kts, wind waves 6-7ft
“We boogie” – Capt. Mike Nakachi
So, it looks like we will be departing on Wednesday. I’m really happy about that because we still have SO much to do. It was a productive day – still have some things to do tomorrow but hoping it will be quick!
I need to remember to hydrate and rest… Wednesday is a BIG day!
Worked out with Mary this morning. Last workout for a few weeks. It felt good to be in the gym.
ONE MORE DAY!
I am feeling surprisingly relaxed. I’m not as nervous as I had expected. Maybe it is because I know that everything will be alright.
Our dream is about to become a reality….
It’s late – so I will keep this short. I NEED my sleep.
Busy day. stressful. So many logistics – no time to be nervous about tomorrow. Can’t believe it’s really time to go.
It’s going to be amazing.
I know we can make it across. Let us be safe and enjoy the experience.
It’s going to be a beautiful day.
Dinner with the team and Paul and Cassandra from Brazen Hazen. Nice to spend time with them and forget about the stress for a little while.
CANNOT BELIEVE TOMORROW IS THE DAY!
This is it!!
Jenny and Morgan’s first major channel crossing was the famed Alenuihaha channel that runs from the Big Island to Maui. It is a stretch of water that boaters and mariners avoid because of it’s unpredictability. We waited on the big island as gale force winds ripped through the channel. But finally, on this day – a clearing took place , allowing the girls to slip through.
…And I know this because I spent 2 hours today staring at it during a downwind run on the north coast of the Big Island this afternoon. Jenny drove us up to Keokea today in the wind and rain, where we met up with Jerry Bess. Jerry is one of the Naish team riders and probably the nicest man you will ever meet. After a short prayer on the beach, the three of us headed out to do the run.
I will admit that during the prayer, I was like “is this really necessary?” but after about 20 paddle strokes, I was glad that we had. It is one thing when there are 8 foot wind waves at your back while you are paddling, and it is quite another when you are staring them in the face. We had to paddle upwind for a bit in order to get into position to clear a cliff that was a mile or so from the start, and as Jenny and Jerry went breezing past me out into the water I was like “what have I gotten myself into?” It is no wonder Jenny did so well in the Molokai race, if she deals with these conditions on a regular basis, Molokai must seem easy.
We finally got to turn downwind, which suddenly made the paddle seem a lot less brutal and a lot more fun. The ocean was still rougher than I have seen before (besides Molokai) and there were several points where Jenny would disappear behind a wall of water. The Keokea run made even the roughest Hawaii Kai run (the one that I am used to on Oahu) seem like a flat water paddle. There were wind swells coming from behind us, but every so often, a big breaking wave would come at us directly from the side.
Despite the rough conditions, I had a really good time, and am glad that we had the chance to go. It was my first glimpse of the ‘Alenuihaha Channel, and it definitely confirmed what everyone has been saying about that channel even though we only saw a relatively calm part of it. We are getting ready to paddle to Maui on either Tuesday or Wednesday, and I am starting to get really nervous. It is an excited kind of nervous, but there are butterflies here for sure.
Check out the latest from The Stand Up Paddle Show on 30A Radio. Jenny Kalmbach from Destination 3 Degrees talks to Leslie Kolovich about the upcoming adventure!
I can hardly believe that in 3 weeks we will be setting out across the Alenuihaha channel and on our way to Maui! WOW! I have been training as much as I can – spending a lot of time in the gym, focusing on strength and balance training and of course, paddling. This week I went on a 4hr endurance paddle and a couple of shorter tempo paddles. The tempo paddles are a mix of steady paddling with ten minute high intensity sprints. It’s a great workout! The 4hr paddle is basic endurance – just keep paddling, nice and easy. Next week we’re aiming for 5hrs.
The most difficult thing I find about the paddling is choosing where to go. I prefer being able to paddle from Point A to Point B….this way I don’t cut my workouts short. The problem is finding the points that work for car/ocean access, wind direction, surf, etc. As you may remember in one of my previous posts, we were forced to exit at a less than perfect location. Luckily, my friends and I have gotten creative and managed to plan out some upcoming training routes that should work. This week we’re hoping to do get in an 11-mile downwind run and a 20+mile endurance paddle. Check back for updates!
As for the gym stuff, that is the easy part for me. I love working out! It probably helps that I have an amazing trainer who has come up with creative ways to help me train specifically for my races and this adventure. She incorporates stability balls, the indo board and TRX suspension training. Working out with her has done wonders for my core strength and balance! After 60-90 minutes of strength training I usually jump on the treadmill or indoor bike and bust out an hour of interval training. Then I go home, drink my chocolate milk and call it a day. Yes, the chocolate milk is the highlight of working out!!
Tomorrow, the goal is to get in a beach workout/run/paddle at work and then hit the gym for cardio and strength training! It’s going to be a busy day but time is running out… gotta go go go!!
This morning I woke up with a pain in my ass. Literally. As today has progressed, the pain has slowly made it’s way both down through my thighs and into my calves as well as crept itself outward from my chest to my arms. Soreness is actually radiating out from the middle of my body, and I have one person to thank for it….Nikki Gregg.
If you have ever met Nikki Gregg, you know that she is a really positive person, fun to be around, and always has a smile on her face. Under that sunny exterior lies an evil fitness genius. She administered to me her version of the cross fit filthy 50, and with a smile on her face refused to let me quit when I was on the verge of purging the Jamba Juice smoothie that I stupidly drank just before the workout.
As bad as it sounds, I really did enjoy working out with Nikki. She coached me through it, and made me smile even when I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish. Having worked out with her, I now know why she has been called the “First Lady of Standup Paddle Fitness.” The soreness I feel today is a good kind of sore, the kind that only comes from doing a really effective workout. So, thank you Nikki, both for helping me become a better athlete, and for causing me to need to use the handicapped stall while in the public bathroom (those bars on the walls seem sent straight from heaven when your legs are sore).
Things don’t always go as you plan… but as long as you just keep paddling, you’ll be fine….
This past Monday we were under a Severe Weather Alert for high winds. They were forecasting 25 to 30mph with stronger gusts…so of course, we packed up our boards and headed up North for a downwind run. When we got to the beach, it took two people to carry the boards and as we made our way to the water we could feel the sand blowing up off the beach and pelting us… always a nice welcome.
We planned on paddling south 10 miles and getting out at a rather sketchy location (think sharp rocks, sea urchins, surge..see photo!) which I had never exited at before. So off we went – backs to the howling trade winds and swell, surfing the bumps, headed south along the Kona coast. It wasn’t the ideal run for standup paddling because we had to constantly adjust our course and couldn’t just surf in the direction the wind-swell was breaking but it was still fun and we were making good time.
A few miles down the coast we had to paddle way outside to avoid the occasional monster set that appeared on the horizon, which put us at risk of ending up too far outside and finding ourselves with a one way ticket to Tahiti. What happened next occurred in very slow motion, or at least it seemed that way at the time. And to those of you who think that it would have been “cool” or “fun” or any of those happy adjectives, let me tell you, it wasn’t exactly any of those. I happened to be looking at the shoreline when all of a sudden, only a couple hundred feet away, this giant whale head broke through the surface (like a torpedo – for those of you who need a visual reference) and shot straight into the air, body fully out of the water, back slightly arched to one side and landed with a splash. I’m assuming the splash was big, but by that point I wasn’t looking anymore.. I was headed like a bat out of hell in the opposite direction.
Now, let me explain. In any other situation I might not have been so concerned about a whale breaching so close to me.. but keep in mind, the conditions were crazy, the wind was loud, water was moving all over the place, waves were breaking and I couldn’t help but think that maybe the whales couldn’t tell we were up there. And I really didn’t want any whales to land on me.
After my whale encounter we continued on. As we neared our pickup spot the wind started to back off and it was getting harder to catch the bumps. I could see the rocky point that we need to paddle around and knowing that we were so close helped motivate me to move faster. I was happy to finally start paddling around the point until I realized we were starting to paddle into a headwind. At this point, I just wanted to get out of the water. Things only got worse when we realized that we wouldn’t be able to get out where we had originally planned because of the high surf. It would have been risking either ourselves or our equipment and I wasn’t about to damage my brand new board! We continued to paddle down the coast until and hour later we got to a spot where we were able to climb out onto the rocks by timing the surge and with the help of a very good friend (thank you Odie!).
For those of you who may be wondering why we didn’t just get out sooner, we didn’t have that option. The Big Island is known more for its jagged, lava coastline than sandy beaches and when you’re dealing with swell, wind swell, sea urchins, sharp rocks and 17 ft boards – there isn’t always an easy way out. Trust me, I was looking.
Despite it not being what I had expected, we did make it, it was fun and it was great training!
Next time though, I am going on a different run!
People keep asking me what worries me the most about this trip. I don’t really know what to tell them, because really, I am not worried about anything. I am excited to see where this trip will take us, and I am looking forward to pushing the limits of myself and the sport, but worried is an emotion that hasn’t really come into play…yet.
Sometimes though, situations come along that transform my excitement and anticipation into nervousness, and our meeting with Wayne was one of those times. Wayne helped my navigate the Molokai channel during the race last year, and has himself sailed all of the Hawaiian channels. He spoke to us in depth about the Alenuihaha Channel, the stretch of water that separates the Big Island and Maui, explaining the dangers that the winds and the currents present. Here is a small part of the conversation that pretty much provides a snapshot of the entire conversation.
-posted by Morgan
It may take a village to raise a child, but the past three weeks have shown me that it definitely takes a community to get me to work out. Don’t get me wrong, I really like training (once I am off the couch), but I would be lying to you if I said that I didn’t enjoy a good Real Housewives of Orange County marathon from time to time. I thought that I would take this opportunity to introduce a few of the people that I have around me who have been willing to help me make this thing happen…
Anders Jonsson. Poor Guy. Not only is he stuck married to me and having to listen to every complaint that comes along, he also gets dragged along on the 4 hour paddles, but he does it with a smile!
Nicole Madosik. Nicole is the motivator, and the one who is up for anything. During our gnarly interval workout this morning, we had just finished one round when she started in with the “let’s go, let’s go’s,” to which I had to remind her not to be a hero, we still have 2 minutes of rest. Crazy lady. She loves paddling though, and will be doing Molokai solo this year, race or not.
Jared Vargas. Don’t let the mustache fool you, he doesn’t have to ride the special bus to school. And he is a pretty good athlete if you like people who paddle 40 miles at a time upwind. Lucky for him (and us) we do, and we are stoked to have him as part of the training family.
Katie Seall. Katie was my first friend in Hawaii, and my first roommate. I often think that no one on the planet gets me quite the way that she does which is probably why we have been friends for so long. Katie is also a talented yoga person (yogi? bear?) and dryland buddy.
Jennifer Buffin. Jen is the assistant swim coach at UH Manoa. She is also up for a good adventure from time to time. I almost got her killed in Kona while hiking for 16 hours to toast marshmallows over molten lava, but she handled, and went back for more the next day. I like her persistence.
Sonya Weiser. Sonya is a stud. Period. She is currently training for the half ironman, and not only is she a good workout buddy, but she is also a good Starbucks companion, and fully understands the benefits to being caffeinated before you do a kettle bell workout at 6am.
Jeff Chang and Herbie Titcomb. These two have been helping me from the beginning. Jeff has basically been the guy who has made the channel crossings possible for me, and Herbie has been a motivator along the way as well. Herbie refuses to admit that Barks are better than Naishes, but I know in his heart he knows that I am right.
If it is actually possible to be “cool by association,” then I am the coolest person on the planet today.
It is not very often that I get nerdy over another person. I don’t really get all excited around celebrities, musicians are cool, but they don’t really turn me into a frother (with Jimmy Buffett I came close, but I managed to hold myself together), however, for some reason, every time I have the opportunity to hang out with Gerry Lopez, I turn into a huge geek. It is like I can’t control myself. Maybe it’s because he is Mr. Pipeline, or maybe it is because he is just such a nice guy, I turn into the world’s biggest nerd when he is around.
This morning, I received a call about doing a Hawaii Kai run with Gerry Lopez and the Rainbow Sandals crew. After the initial shock of being invited on such a trip wore off, I threw my stuff in the car and headed out to Hawaii Kai to meet them. I ended up being a little late (which should come as no surprise to those of you who know me well), so I had to paddle to where everyone was from a different location. I pulled into where I was going to paddle from and met up with Duane De Soto. Now, at this point, the cool factor of my day was sitting pretty at about a 20 on a scale of 1 to 10, but having Duane De Soto go too pushed it up to about a 30. The two of us paddled into the Hawaii Kai Marina to meet with the rest of the guys.
In the marina we met up with Pat Huber from Rainbow Sandals (for those of you keeping score, we are now around 45), Jeff Chang (67…), Herbie Titcomb (100…), and Herbie’s cousin George. Once everyone was in one place, we headed out to do the Hawaii Kai run. Not just because of the company, this particular run was one of the best ones that I have ever done. The wind was strong, there were lots of fun bumps, and it was just one of those days which really remind me that I love to standup paddle. Downwind runs can be so much fun, and if you haven’t tried one, maybe you should. Perhaps a good opportunity will be the distance race during the June Rainbow Sandals Battle of the Paddle in Hawaii. Just a suggestion.
One of the problems with SUP, is that you’re not always going to have the ability to train. For example, a week in Michigan during the winter… as you can imagine, paddleboards are few and far between right now. And, let’s be honest, even if there were some around – I doubt that I would have braved the cold… so, sometimes, you just have to get creative