Hawaii Travel Tips for Paddlers

Traveling to Hawaii this Winter?  Here's some tips for a better trip...
Every year, I've had friends come back from Hawaii with everything from reef cuts in their feet, a twisted knee to unpleasant experiences with locals. Follow these tips and your trip will more likely feel like paradise. I was on Oahu a few weeks ago with a few fresh reminders to pass on to you..

Wear Reef Shoes or Booties - A local once told me 'no one here wears shoes in the water.'  Guess what? I'm not from there and in the NW winter, I've been wearing shoes and socks for several months so my feet are no where close to the leathered bottoms of locals' feet. In October, I brought over my NRS Freestyle booties which unlike cheap reef shoes, provided ankle support and protection from walking on razor sharp reefs and protection from the smoking hot pavement and sand. The wider tow box worked as additional propulsion and floatation for swimming. If you get shoes, make sure they fit your feet and don't slide around inside. Local surfers have told me that cheap reef shoes can lead to broken ankles.

Security - Always Lock your Car and Keep it Clear of Stuff - Our local friends suggested we always locked the car make sure nothing can be seen in our car while out on excursions. In Makaha, we saw a rental car with a freshly broken window at the Kaena Point trailhead. That was our sign to move on. We later hiked from the other side at Kaena Point State Park which had state park rangers present in the lot.

Rental SUP Gear - Friends suggested I rent from a specific surf rental shack on Waikiki.  I did but the gear was awful. I won't give out the name of the company unless you're going and inquire directly as they did give me a great discount due to my friend's connection. But I had a heavy aluminum paddle with pool noodle zip tied to the shaft to prevent it from sinking. The board was one I sold 4 years ago, a super heavy old school Surftech which I dragged to the water. If you want good gear, check out Blue Planet Surf in Honolulu or inquire on Standupzone.com for the other islands.  We did rent two light plastic boards from Rob at Blue Planet for a day tour. They tied the boards on the rental car as well.

Tip: If you really like your paddle, bring your own. This is a simple carry on the plane. And 2 and 3pc paddles are available from various manufacturers.  Pad it with bubble wrap and/or foam. There are paddle bags, but I recommend adding more padding just in case. Write your name on your paddle with a sharpie. They can easily be ripped off. Shipping SUPs to Hawaii is pretty expensive, unless it's a short board.

Surfing - Inquire from local shops before surfing. Surfing on Hawaii can be crowded, territorial and dangerous if you don't know your stuff. If you don't see a SUP in the line-up, don't go out. Strong offshore winds can blow you offshore easily if you're not paying attention. Maui has regular rescues of inexperienced tourists being blown offshore. In 2014, a Seattle man was blown 11 miles off Waikiki. If you downwind on Hawaii, note you'll be entering and/or leaving the water through a surf break most often. Unless you can handle shore break, go with a local who can help you out.  Take a lesson if you're not experienced. We teach surfing all year here and others such as Blue Planet Surf on Oahu can provide lessons as well.

Downwinding - Ditto for the above info. Downwinding in Hawaii is another beast vs here. You're in ocean swell, currents and wind. Add big shore break and surf for launches and take-outs. Definitely get with a local. Again Blue Planet on Oahu is a great resource as are Suzie Cooney, Dave Kalama and Jeremy Riggs on Maui. Jeremy has told me he's turned down some tourists who don't have the open water skills to downwind Maui.

Get Off the Beaten Path - I'm not a fan of crowds or the heavy tourism scene. During our Oahu surf Blue Planet took us to the Kahana River (see pic) on the Windward Coast (NE) part of Oahu. This very picturesque bay an hour from Honolulu provided us with a pristine river paddling experience in a jungle like environment. We paddled 2 miles up the slow moving river then back out into the bay. There's several other rivers like this on the island (and other islands), as well as seemingly untouched bays and inlets.  Stay clear of fish ponds and other sites of historical and archaeological status.

Tips for Falling off your Board - Fall as flat as you can! Think like a pancake or the Hi-C Plunge. Falling in shallow water on reefs isn't much fun. Never dive. Booties will prevent feet cuts when kicking in the water above the reef when getting back on our board. Read my blog post on falling off a board. 

Lifejackets in Hawaii - Lifejackets are not required in Hawaii for non surf paddling. But if you feel you need yours, go for it. Co2 cartridges generally can't be brought on planes but check with the airline prior to confirm. If you can't swim 1-2 miles back to shore, a PFD is a good option (and always a leash).

If you're an Elk member, definitely check out the Honolulu Elks! It's on Diamond Head with epic views, great poke and a pool as well as surf break access to Tongs and Old Man's. And a great way to meet local folks.
North Shore Oahu 

Waikiki Public Board Storage

Windward Coast Oahu

Any questions give me a holler: salmonbaypaddle@gmail.com / 206.465.7167
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