The morning was dark and cool as the sun hadn’t risen yet. I drove in my rented pick up to the beach extra early to meet up with a group who would be heading south to pick up a 12 man canoe and paddle it back to the club. The morning news told of 7 people in cars who had to be rescued from my road the night before. There had been a monsoon and a flash flood. I had simply been lucky with my choice of rental vehicles and had been able to slowly ford the 2 feet of water in the road.
I am no longer fit enough for a 6 mile paddle to be easy, but I didn’t mind. Being slight and having a steady pace, I often end up in seat one. Each seat in an outrigger canoe has its assigned duties. The person in seat one must be narrow hipped and paddle as regular as a metronome. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Dem big fellas no fit up dere. You set the pace for the rest of the boat. When your paddle hits the water, so does everyone else’s. Seat two acts as an anchor by sitting out on the iaku whenever the boat is not moving. This keeps us from tipping over. Seat three must count every stroke of the paddle and call out “Hut! Ho!” to signify changing paddles to the other side. Seat four is the second anchor for the other arm of the iaku. Seat five is the motor and typically the strongest paddler. Seat six is the ho’okele or steersman, the most important person in the boat, the one who takes us where we are going, the one to give out instruction, critique, praise. When the ho’okele speaks, everyone must listen.
For me, paddling is like trail running. Being out in nature feeds my soul. I find the steady rhythm meditative and almost hypnotizing. I also appreciate that like trail running, it seems to attract a crowd of awfully nice and down to earth people. I love the noise of the water slapping the sides of the boat, seeing the cobalt and sapphire water tipped with white caps from the already rising wind. I look out to the West Maui mountains, and find them enshrouded in a grey robe of rain while we, ourselves are still in the sun. A band of rainbow stretches from the sky to the sea. It’s ridiculous, like paddling through a child’s drawing, it’s so perfect. The zen lulls me. Twist, reach, plant the paddle, pull. Twist, reach, plant, pull. Twist, reach, plant, pull over and over again until my mind is blank and despite the burn of fatigue at the base of my neck and along my spine, I don’t think of anything, not even rest because it seems this is what I have always been doing and what I will be doing forever so just twist, reach, plant, pull. The caller in seat three snaps my mind back to attention with a sharp “Hut! Ho!” and without missing a beat everyone flips a paddle to the other side of the boat. Twist, reach, plant, pull. There’s something satisfying about glancing over my shoulder and seeing all 12 paddles rise and fall in unison, everyone working together. On the horizon there is a silent explosion of white water as a humpback breaches. The first rays of sun shine out from behind Haleakala and an old woman in our boat breaks out into chant. Twist, reach, plant, pull.
Some things are just nicer in Maui. Like going to the dentist, for example. I have been trying, unsuccessfully to convince my insurance that they ought to pay for me to have all my dental work done on island. I prefer the view from this chair. There are palm trees blowing in the tropical breeze and they put sunglasses on you. And my dentist is such a sincere, nice man. The insurance company seems oddly immune to my reasoning. So, I pay out of pocket for things from time to time. This trip, I had my teeth whitened. I figured it would help disguise my mainland winter lack of a tan if my teeth were really white. When I was done, I sat up to take a selfie. A large string of drool blooped down onto my shirt front. My dental hygienist first apologized for me drooling on myself and then photobombed my selfie. Then we both laughed hysterically. In the photo you can see the remnants of drool on my chin. The Santa Cruz folk reading this might think they hygenist is saying, “Call me” but since we are in Maui and I speak both Mauian and Santa Cruzian I happen to know she is throwing a shaka.
Auwe! How I wanted to stay on island and paddle with whales, swim with turtles, have white teeth and spend more time with my nice friends. But there was a nice lady waiting to move in to my little condo for the next six months and my nice friends in Santa Cruz and my pretty good job were expecting me back. A hui ho Maui (until next time)!