Glide of the Week: Hawaii Kai Run, Oahu

Put-In: Hawaii Kai Marina

Takeout: Fort DeRussy Beach Park

Distance: 10 miles

Wind Direction: E, SE, S

Time: 1.5-2 hours

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About the Run: The Hawaii Kai run on the South Shore of Oahu is one of the main training grounds for downwind standup. With its long history of outrigger paddling and standup paddling, there is hardly a better known—and more challenging—stretch of bumps in the world. We’ve run a longer version of this run here but thought this area warranted a little more attention.

And who better to tell us about it than the Hawaii residents? First, check out the video below for a visual break down from Blue Planet Surf owner Robert Stehlik of the run and its idiosyncrasies, from the infamous cross chop of off Black Point, to the split wind lines caused by Koko Head and Koko Crater and the three different swells you’ll be chasing as you zig-zag your way west.

Downwind Tips: Hawaii Kai Run from Zen Waterman on Vimeo.

Now, read what it’s like to be take a serious beating on the Hawaii Kai, written by SUP mag reader Jennifer Fratzke:

It was a clear, windy Thursday afternoon, a few hours before the sunset. The wind blew about 25 mph. I was on my way to a real bumpy ride, but not the kind I expected.

It was to be my first downwinder from Hawaii Kai to Kaimana since I tore my right MCL surfing seven weeks prior. I was stoked and had a buddy to go with me. I felt great that afternoon and nothing was going to stop me—or at least I thought. I decided I wouldn’t take my phone with me. I didn’t feel anything could go wrong.

Heading out of Hawaii Kai, I focused on catching bumps and not on power or time, so I figured my run would be two hours or so, compared to the usual hour-and-a-half it had taken me on the couple dozen times before.

Everything was going great. I managed to paddle three miles close behind my buddy until he effortlessly caught speed on some bumps a mile before Black Point. He disappeared like a tiny little ant in the distance, until he was completely out of sight. I soon found myself all alone and nervous as the sun began its descent, when things took a turn for the worse.

Off of Black Point there is side chop and backwash that can sneak up on you. I took one cross bump from the right side and fell that way. Instead of gracefully falling, I panicked and caught my left foot on the deck pad, trying to avoid falling.

I heard it. “POP,” and into the water I fell. My left foot was still on the board. As I pulled it off my first thought was, “Shake it off! You must have just cracked your knee, everything is OK.”

My mind was racing. I immediately crawled back on my board and proceeded to stand. I fell again with the same ripping sensation, yet my mind still wasn’t ready to accept it. I stood again and this time the pain was real.

I went to my knees and tried to gather my thoughts. My mind was racing as the wind was slowly blew me out to sea. The sun was setting quickly and I realized the one time I had left my emergency phone behind, I needed it. I tried to lie down and prone paddle with my paddle under my belly but I was getting thrashed and knocked into the rolling water. The pain became almost unbearable. Tears came pouring down my eyes and into the ocean. I was afraid; for once in my days of standup I was truly afraid. I struggled for about and hour, trying to stand up every 10-15 minutes to get in some painful power strokes to bring me closer to shore. I fell every time and irritated the injury even more.

I remembered an old Hawaiian Chant a boat captain in Makaha had taught me to keep safe while out to sea. I began reciting it with every stroke. All I could think about was mana and being lost at sea. “But not me,” I said, “I am a water woman, not a woman lost at sea!” As the sun set behind the west Ko’olaus, I finally made it to Kaimana Beach, where my buddy had a look of terror on his face, like he was just about to paddle upwind looking for me.

The whole ordeal took about four hours and ended with a torn MCL in my left leg. I have been able to power it out flatwater training, but still cannot understand the art of riding bumps. I really want to train for downwinders. It’s a passion and a goal: one day I want to get to the competitive level and dominate open-ocean bumps.

For more general advice from Stehlik, watch the video below as he narrates a Hawaii Kai run as he paddles it.

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  • kimo

    This run really isn’t that great! only a small portion of the run is actually downwind. I know others would agree.

  • Jennifer Nycole Fratzke

    This run is absolutely fun! I value individual opinion, however do not let that stop you from experiencing it. Aloha!

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