Published on February 25th, 2013 | by Charu Suri1
Aquatic Acrobatics: SUP on The Big Island, Hawai’i
On a clear, almost cloudless morning (typical of most days on The Big Island), I sprinted to the Kona Boys Stand Up Paddle boarding Beach Shack conveniently located near the hotel I was staying at: smack on the beachfront of the Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel.
I was not a SUP novice, having experienced my first paddle boarding lesson in Michigan on a ripple-less (and colder) lake. Navigating the choppier waters of the Pacific would be another feat altogether.
A slim instructor, who was evidently very experienced at taking clueless paddle board novices like myself came and shook my hand. Heiko was unperturbed as instructors come, and after finding the appropriate board and paddle, he velcroed my ankle to the one end of the kayak and gave me a few words of advice.
“Always stand in the center of the board, and hold the paddle in the center to steer yourself back and forth,” he advised. As it turns out, the steering would be the easy part; the balancing, however, would not. I had to channel my inner Martha Graham on the big board.
The Kona Boys’ “Beach Shack”
Several SUP’ers on the ocean
The Pacific has a bit of a misnomer in these parts of the world. I was expecting calm waters, but the wind was quite plentiful that day, and the water was full of crests and peaks in the tiny Kamakahonu Bay. A half asleep baby Erika and hubby Matt watched and cheered from the beach. I dipped both my feet into the cold, almost stinging water and braced myself for excitement and an informative lesson. Heiko urged me to stay calm and bend my feet slightly, focusing on stability at all times. I ended up sitting down for most part of my ride, and chatting with two expert paddle boarders, Heiko and George.
George Kaimana, as it turns out, was a paddel boarder extraordinaire, and someone I met completely by chance that morning. In fact, we were introduced in the middle of the ocean. George runs a paddle boarding workshop free of charge, with the aim to promote healing through SUP. The beauty of the sport is that its therapeutic benefits: apart from giving you a great workout for your upper and lower body, SUP can truly bring out your inner zen.
“Have you done Stand Up Yoga Paddleboarding?” asks Heiko, as we paddleboard past the heiau and into the middle of the ocean. The wind had begun to pick up speed and I was a bit alarmed that this session would be way beyond my depth.
I admitted that I had not. The idea of doing a downward facing dog in the ocean with the wind rocking me to and fro like a wooden horse did not sound appealing. But I did agree that there was something extremely calming about doing yoga on the Pacific.
George and Heiko were chatty, and told me how Kailua Bay often gives excellent opportunities to spot spinner dolphins, and even whales. George , admitted that he has ridden a whale once and helped birth a dolphin in the water, which made me respect his love for all living creatures. This care and concern for others (both nature and human beings) was an aspect of my visit to the Big Island that I encountered time and time again. The locals really and truly practice that spirit of Aloha.
As we paddle boarded towards and past the heiau and into the open ocean, I could see the lanky white spire of the Mokuaikaua church in the distance; coconut trees swayed like Hula dancers and the ocean was a crisp shade of Navy. It was pretty much as close to paradise as I have experienced.
I could get used to this, I thought, even though I did not see any spinner dolphins, which would have been the icing on the cake.
If youngsters can SUP, you can too!
The heiau in the morning is a beautiful replica. Legend has it that the heiau was where King Kamehameha mentored his son. This was taken at sunrise.
Heiko never left my sight and was always within a few inches of my paddle board. I ended up sitting for the most part of my SUP tutorial, because it was such an excellent way of experiencing the Pacific for the first time. We had drifted far from the shore and were paddle boarding for almost 45 minutes when we realized that it was time to turn and head back to the Kona Boys’ Beach Shack.
As I propelled myself towards the shore, paying close attention to Heiko’s instruction, I let myself stand for a few minutes and paddle boarded into the now smooth, clear bay. I felt a bit of a pro after a mere 45 minutes (partly because it wasn’t my first time, and partly because Heiko was so good and calming as a tutor) and I could have done another two hours of it.
It was the perfect way to start the morning, and I only wished it didn’t have to end.
The Kona Boys offers a great value “Day at the Beach” Package at Kamakahonu Cove, complete with kayak, snorkel, paddle board and discover lesson all in one. Prices start at $195 per person for this package. A basic SUP lesson costs $150 for 1.5 hours; all SUP rentals start at $25 per hour per person and are available on a daily or weekly basis as well. For more information, visit KonaBoys.com.