A blog about outdoor adventure and Vanlife

Reports from Kauai- SUP surfing on the Garden Island

Our trip to Kauai was primarily for SUP surfing and trail running/hiking.  Since we normally surf in cold water (50F), the warm water was a dream.

On the first morning we paddled out under a giant rainbow that spanned the length of Hanalei Bay, a good sign indeed.

Our first paddle out on Kauai under a rainbow

I’m a lousy surf photographer, but did snap a few pics here and there.  If the surf is good, I’m too busy surfing to take pics.  Seems like I only get pics when the surf is really small or large.

Surfing Hanalei Bay

H paddling on a glassy day

Hanalei Bay is just beautiful.  Just being out paddling in the warm water was a joy.  There were dozens of turtles, and on small days, we were surfing around the sea turtles that swam in the surf zone.

Checking out the surf before paddling out

There are several surf breaks in Hanalei Bay ranging from reef point breaks to shore breaks.  We ended up surfing most days on the traditional break

H dropping in

on Hanalei Bay (offshore of the pier and the St. Regis Princeville).  There is a great local crowd here, and most of the SUPers know each other.  Like all surf breaks, if you are the new people in an established break, you are under scrutiny.  We paddled out the first day to check it out and watch a few sets.  A wave popped up in front of Helene and she turned and dropped perfectly into an overhead wave, drawing a hoot from the locals and establishing her place in the lineup.

By our second day in the water, everyone was really nice and friendly.  There is a vetting process in any surf break.  The locals need to know that you know what you are doing, how the lineup works, are safe around other surfers with your SUP, and can kick out if necessary.  Be nice, respect the locals, and give up more waves than you take.

Watching the action on one of the bigger days

The tradewinds and swell came and went.  At times there was a blasting offshore wind that made it difficult to get onto a wave.  At other times, it was calm and beautiful.  One day had large surf beyond our comfort zone and strong winds (it was a shallow reef break, too).  We spent more time watching than surfing, nabbing the occasional inside wave.  Watching from the shoulder was a blast, too.

Fighting the offshore tradewinds for an early entry

Surfing Kalapaki Bay (Nawiliwili)

We spent a couple of hours surfing in Kalapaki Bay (Nawiliwili).  I’d heard that it was a good SUP break.  When we got there, there were strong onshore winds and mushy waves.  The water was full of trash and floating debris, including dozens of sticks.  Surfing in a shipping port awash with debris isn’t exactly the Hawaii experience I was looking for (sorry no pics).  It was fun for an hour or two, but I’m really glad we didn’t stay in Kalapaki.  Conditions could be totally different on another day.

Renting an SUP for Surfing

We had a few issues with finding quality surf SUPs to rent.  Most SUP rental fleets are geared for the novice tourist to wobble around on (think chundered 11’6 and 12′ SoftTops).  We have a quiver of 7 SUPs in our personal fleet and were looking specifically for good surf SUPs in the sub-10′ range.

I made several phone calls from the mainland to try to arrange rentals in advance.  Every call met with pretty much the same response:  “Yeah, we have lots of SUPs for rent, come on down.”  I was specifically asking about shorter surf SUPs, and was willing to pay a premium for 2 quality boards for a week rental.  When we got there, most rental fleets were giant unwieldy logs with many dings.

We ended up walking around Hanalei to all the rental shops looking for the best selection.  We ended up renting from Hawaiian Surfing Adventures (aka Hanalei Beach Boys)  in downtown Hanalei.  They had the best selection, and let us trade boards as we wanted.  Really nice people as well.

When we were there (March 2012), they had the following boards that I would consider decent surf SUPs:

  • 2 Laird 10’0″ x 27″ Tuflites
  • 1 Laird 10’6″
  • 1 Laird 11′
  • 1 NSP 10’0″ x 29″
  • NSP 10’6″
  • Terry Chung 9’10”
  • Plus the usual selection of Softtops, SurfTechs

I believe that the board rental was $180 each for a week.  I did not look into renting SUPs in Lihue or the East Shore.  Perhaps there are shops with a better selection there.

I started with a 10’0″ Bonga Perkins that was just beat.  It was covered with ding repairs and heavy.  I didn’t know at the time that it was waterlogged in the nose.  I found myself pearling the board just standing on it, and missed numerous easy waves because I couldn’t keep the nose from diving.  I had a frustrating first day surfing (I nicknamed the board “the shitsucker” after an hour), and swapped it immediately for a 10’0″ x 29″ NSP (a workable, but not high performance board).

Nothing says "kook" like waxing your deckpad!

Helene rented the Laird 10’0″ x 27″ and kept it for the week.  The narrow board was a challenge in the chop, but she quickly got used to it.  Oh, we ended up waxing the deckpads (total kook move, I know), because the rental board pads were pretty worn and slippery.  It definitely helped.

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Categorised in: Kauai, Stand up Paddleboard (SUP)

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