paddle like the wind… with HST

Beneath cloudy morning skies and just a few feet away from Ukumehame’s mellow waters, Alan Cadiz of Hawaiian Sailboard Techniques explains the thrill of coasting the ocean at around 40 miles per hour on a stand up paddle board (SUP for short).

“The feeling, if you’ve ever caught a wave, of getting that push and having a wave pick you up and start sliding downhill,” he said. “It’s a feeling that is hard to describe and it’s an addiction.”
Wind junkies like Alan have flocked to Maui’s north shore for its prime windsurfing and kite surfing fix. Now, there’s also a growing and interconnected community that has taken the stand up paddle sport to its next evolution. About a half mile to a mile out and parallel to shore, the run from Maliko Gulch down to Kanaha Beach Park and even further down to Kahului Harbor has become a popular downwind run for advanced paddlers.

“Maliko to Kahului is sort of the black diamond run of SUP,” he said of the seven-mile stretch. A kitesurfing race was happening where my lesson would have usually been held at Kanaha and since I’m not exactly the extreme enthusiast, we are meeting on the green bunny slopes of Ukumehame Beach Park. I’m mostly working on balance, proper posture and stroke technique. How to avoid tipping over baby waves is a worthy goal too. And Alan is a superb instructor. He’s keen on safety and generous with feedback. He kept the pace relaxed, fun and tailored to my skills. Of course, for the more advanced stand up paddler, strong winds can be ideal because they bring bigger swells.

Alan’s affinity with wind and water began at 14 years old while living in Kailua, Oahu and competitively sailing hobie cats with a local fleet, which happened to be some of the world’s best. His neighbor, a champion hobie sailor introduced him to windsurfing. It came second nature and Alan went on to conquer the sport professionally. By 1986, he had decided to teach, mostly private sessions on advanced techniques, jibing in particular. It is a method of turning around, a transition from sailing out to sailing in.

“It’s technical, it’s difficult,” said Alan. “People can spend weeks, months, sometimes even years polishing it. No one was really teaching that advanced maneuver then. I really wanted people to leave the lesson feeling like they got their money’s worth.” The school, which was the first of its kind on Maui, built a clientele and solid reputation. Patti Cadiz, Alan’s wife, oversees its operation.
When kite surfing broke into the scene around 2001, it took about five years’ worth of gear development and safety features for him to develop a class. Around this same time, Alan and some friends were surfing in Ho‘okipa when they spotted waterman Laird Hamilton on a stand up paddle board.

“Everyone was wondering, what is Laird up to now?” shares Alan, crediting the recent explosion of the sport to this local icon. “He had been experimenting on foil boards. He pretty much brought tow surfing along. So his innovations got me thinking.”

Alan was inspired to use an old teaching surfboard and customize a paddle from Sports Authority with an extension and some grip. He gave it to himself for Christmas. He headed to Pa‘ia’s Baby Beach, and gave it a go on some waist-high waves. “It was choppy and I was determined to catch a wave,” he said. I can’t tell you if I caught a wave or not but what I do remember was that my back hurt so much that the canoe paddle sat in the garage for six months.”

Then came a family beach day at Launiupoko. The water was flat and the waves were small. He finally caught numerous waves and got the hang of it. Then he gave the board a try down the north shore and started to pick up speed and glide through the waves. Needless to say, he had too much fun, and so did others. In a short time, the sport had caught on and, eventually, new equipment became more available.

When the HST stand up paddle class was developed three years ago, the initial logic was that it was something fun to try when there’s no wind. Now, it’s become more than that. Even the spectrum of boards, which began with bigger, wider planks for beginners, has also evolved to narrower, lighter designs for high performance and racing paddlers.

Students can start on calm flat waters, then graduate to a mini-downwind run from upper to lower Kanaha Beach. HST also offers private coaching for race strategy. Alan races competitively himself. Every year, he joins the annual event from Maliko Gulch to Kahului Harbor. On the last race, he placed ninth out of 210 paddlers.

And while we are taking it easy on this session, Alan’s passion got me excited for the next one. I see a mini downwind run in my future, if only to say, “Kanaha, take me away!”

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