Canoe Surfing at Waikiki

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Canoe Surfing at Waikiki

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Oahu
Jul 23, 2013

As if the parade of surfers on Kalakaua Avenue weren't enough of a hint, the waves marching toward the sands of Waikiki Beach were breaking on shore when the City Girls* and I met to go canoe surfing last week. And, then, first mate Buddy, with Faith Surf School, suggested we leave our sunglasses and hats on the beach where they were safe. All this as Captain Buddy added a couple bailers to our canoe.

When it comes to the ocean surrounding these specks of islands in the middle of the Pacific, some days are more exciting than others.

"Are we going to get wet?" one of the City Girls asked as we stood in front of Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, and I thought the better question might be, "Are we going to huli?"

In the Hawaiian language, the word "huli" means to turn over. Most people encounter the word at fundraisers, as in "Huli Huli Chicken." You might be more familiar with it as rotisserie chicken.

But I was first introduced to the word "huli" when I moved to Hawaii 13+ years ago and started paddling outrigger canoes. The first time I huli'ed was in six- to eight-foot seas while competing in a race from Wailua to Kalapaki off the eastern coastline of Kauai. In the melee to gather paddles before they floated away, right the canoe, and bail all the water out of it, my tooth hit the canoe's gunnel and made a clean break, streaking to the sea floor  before I realized I had made such a caclium offering.

But, here, at Waikiki, dozens of children bobbed in colorful inflatables. Couples and families and grandparents stretched out their towels on the sand and lounged under under sun umbrellas. And the waves, while up, weren't as big as that sacrificial day.

We could do this.

"This" was paddle an outrigger canoe beyond the waves that were breaking a few hundred yards off-shore where the people who knew what they were doing watched the horizon for ripples on the water, waiting for them to grow, grow, grow until ripples erupted into rideable waves that  lifted your surfboard or stand up paddle board or canoe, as in our case, and propelled you shoreward. The trick was in timing the take-off. If you started paddling too soon, you might not catch the wave at its biggest and most thrilling. If you waited too long, the wave would pass you by before you went anywhere.

Out here, beyond the break, with a sandy ocean floor below, the water was different. I read a novel once by Carolyn See in which she spent quite a bit of time, as I recall, describing a particular color of blue--cerulean, I believe she called it. A couple weeks ago, I read Christopher Moore's latest book, in which he associates a specific shade of blue with the mother of Jesus--sacred blue.

For me, the only description I could come up with for the color of the water several hundreds yards off-shore of Waikiki Beach was, simply, swimming pool blue. It was as turquoise as you could get. And that color blue touches the artist within me--an artist with whom I have yet to meet. (I cannot draw stick figures.) Maybe this is her way of getting my attention.

There are numerous factors that go into the color of the ocean. Depth of the water is one. Water clarity is another. Make up of the ocean floor another. The sky and whether it's clear, cloudy or what. But, of course, it all comes down to sunlight. And, then, the angle of the sun is a factor, as well. On this day, the sky was clear, the time was late morning, the water was shallow, and the ocean floor sandy. Put all those ingredients in a bottle and shake them up--ta da--turquoise blue water. Or something like that.

In the midst of all this pondering, Captain Barney called, "Giddyup." And when Captain Barney spoke, we listened, because Captain Barney carried a big stick--as in, steering blade, which he used to guide us back to shore, threading through the throngs of bobbing heads in the water and beginners on surf boards.

In all truthfulness, I wasn't paddling. All I carried in my hands was a camera, and if I did anything to help my teammates, it was lean left when the big wave lifted the back end of the canoe and tipped our nose toward the bottom of the ocean. Because if we were going to huli, it would be as we surfed down the face of the wave. But Captain Barney had a paddle that could steer Hokulea, a giant Polynesian voyaging canoe, and Barney tracked us down the wave in perfect formation. We rode that wave and rode that wave and rode that wave. "We're still on it," he said.

"Again. Again," someone said. And we did. Until Captain Barney said, "Enough."

We had, indeed, gotten wet, but we never did huli. I even returned to shore with all my teeth in tact.

*City Girls: A few of my colleagues in a department at Outrigger Hotels and Resorts that deals with all things Internet. They dress well, wear nice shoes, and pay attention to personal grooming. They may be citified, but they are adventurous. At the last minute, one of the few men in our department--Kyle--decided to join us.

* To celebrate five years and 500 blog posts, I've put together a FREE photo e-book that you can download. It includes information like where I set up to take the shot and my camera settings, so that you can recreate these images, if you'd like. I hope you enjoy.

* If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider subscribing to my blog. That way, whenever I write a new post, an email will magically pop into your inbox, letting you know.


dona santaella | Aug 17, 2013 02:26 AM

Hi we r staying at the outrigger on the beach in Hawaii.My daughter is 14 can she do it?. Can we book in october 2nd please.For 2 people how much is it?How long does it take.?.Lookforward to hearing from u cheers Dona Santaella.

Kim | Aug 21, 2013 09:15 PM

Hi Dona, absolutely, your 14-year-old daughter would love canoe surfing. The waters off Waikiki are magical. To have all your questions answered, however, you need to contact Faith Surfing School. Just click on the link embedded in the blog post above to go to their website. And have fun;-)

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