We wake at 6:30am. Maui is 4 hours off mountain time. 6:30am is just as long as Sherrie and I can sleep.
Hugh is up when Sherrie and I get out of bed. We have coffee and chitchat as Sherrie takes a run through the pineapple fields to Jaws in the morning sunlight of the north shore.
Hugh and I are going to sail till we puke. Adrianne is an intermediate windsurfer, so she's going to work on waterstarting and not drifting downwind to kite-beach. Sherrie is going to do some sightseeing to let me 'get it out of my system' for a couple of days. The trade winds are building even at 8am when we head to breakfast.
We get breakfast in Paia at Anthonys. Mmmmm.....Mahi benedict.
Hugh has the inside line on the gear he wants and highly recommends it to me. I have previously been underwhelmed with most of the rental gear in Maui. The wave sails are gutless and don't handle the gusty trade winds well. The boards are setup for true down-the-line waveriding, and in the small to nonexistent summer surf, aren't quite a good match for the lots-o-chop bump and jump conditions. Hugh is close to my weight, and shares my 'that's your A-game?' feelings about rentals gone by.
I have sailed exactly 1 day in 2 years, and haven't been keeping up with gear, so I'm down for Hugh's suggestions.
We get to Hawaiian Island rental, and I'm instantly impressed with the staff. Leo helps me put together a kit and I walk away with an 85 liter JP freestyle wave board. Sails consist of a Neil Pride Search 4.7 square meter and 5.4 square meter sails. Given the track record of wind in the area, these sizes should be perfect.
I make my obligatory turn-too-early into Kanaha Beach Park and end up in the picnic area. No matter how many times I get to the island, I always seem to be able to do this at least once. U-turn later and I'm rigging up on grass in Kanaha Beach Parks wind-rockin sailor friendly zone. It's about 85 degrees now, sunny and windy as all get out. Life is good.
I rig up with the fiddling appropriate to not having done this in a while then it's time. The sail is beautiful. It's a semi-opaque red-metallic scrim and seems to hold it's shape well...at least while rigged on the beach. We'll see when we get some wind in it. Adrianne and Hugh rig up and Hugh does the gentlemanly thing by carrying Adrianne's gear. What a nice guy.
As I walk toward the whitecapping perfect blue water I look around and take stock. The Maui Race series is having a race, so I walk my gear downwind of where I usually launch.
The wind is strong on the inside near the beach. Maybe low 20's from the look of the water. I should have plenty of power with the 5.4m sail I've rigged. The test is always while wet, so I wait for a gust and hop on.
Even though I'm rusty, everything feels 'right', as if this gear was an old sweatshirt I was slipping on. The volume is in the right place on the board, it's easy to get going through the gusty inside.
I have a bit too much sail area for the wind, but the sail is working perfectly, dumping power out the leach when gusts hit. I relax and enjoy the speed on the way out to the dark blue water.
I make a wobbly first gybe, but stay dry.
As the board bounces through the chop on the outside, I look down and notice my near locked, extra straight legs....
If I ever have a son, I'm only half-joking about calling him 'Bend your knees!' There's not really a sport that is worse when you bend your legs.
Remembering this, I approach my second turn at full speed. Wow! I maintain speed through the turn and fly back toward the frothy blue-white horizon.
Yeah, this is why I pay to get here. As the wind starts to build, I concentrate on relaxing and letting the harness do the work. There is an instinctive reaction when conditions get difficult to tense and use your arms to control the wildly powered gear. This doesn't help control, and burns out your body. I'm planning on sailing EVERY day it's windy, so I need both muscle and skin to last the next 9 days.
I see Hugh, who's been sailing in the SF bay area often and bear off the wind to close our distance. I'm just hoping my rust can come close to hanging with my talented-and-tuned bay area bud. Hugh sees me coming and we take to playing chase like two schoolkids at recess.
Hugh is on a 4.7m sail and is a far more efficient sailor even when we're both on our A game. I'm still in the skill player cheap seats, but I'm JUICED with power. Bwahahahaha!!!! As we sail I notice the top end drag differences as we head through the gusts and lulls. In the big lulls I catch up to Hugh, as my sheer horsepower of a larger sail pulls as you'd expect it. In the heavy gusts, Hugh pulls away from me like a trucker leaving a whorehouse as I've now hit the lift limit of my sail, and the rest of the power is unusable and just creates drag.
The boards are great, the sails are great, but the fins require some love and coaxing to hold the pace. Normally on race gear, you take the power of your sail channel it through your harness to your legs, and push with your feet. Flatting the board makes this more efficient as you're not dragging either the upwind or downwind rail. Ok that's race gear with race fins. The extra turny oriented fins can not take the full power of these sails by themselves. When loaded, they just spin out or rail uncontrollably.
You have to cheat to go fast, and it's a fine line between using the rail to help speed, and using too much and creating excessive drag. Don't cheat enough and you spin out sideways, catch a rail and explode into your gear at full speed.
It's on! Win or lose Hugh and I are having the time of our lives chasing each other.
About an hour and a half later, we stop for some water and take in some of the worlds best pros racing in the local Maui Speed race series. God windsurfer and all around good-guy Matt Prichard has a board for sail(pun intended) with a sign on it:
"Want more speed? Get this board!"
When a world champion recommends his personal gear, I'd believe him. I'm betting that one-off prototype cutting edged construction would undoubtably be about the fastest thing on the water....until it snapped.
The prototypes do a great job of being tough, given they are usually about 1/2 the weight of their production equivalents. That said, they are still half the weight, and usually meant for riding a single season.
After drinking some water and helping Adrianne de-rig to put up a smaller sail, it's back on. My hands a are a bit sore, but I'm feeling great. Another hour of chase ensues. We come in to get Adrianne set up with her new gear and run into Sherrie.
Sherrie decides to take some pictures of Hugh and I. The wind has picked up anther 5 knots and I'm in survival sailing mode as we speed toward the camera on the beach.
Hugh and I are trying our best ham-moves, but I can barely make a dry turn as I've got about a meter too much sail an no arms left. I'm pretty much done as I pull into the beach near Sherrie.
Hugh yells over the howling wind and spray while pushing his board to me.
"Take this, you'll like it!"
He pushes his 4.7m sail and JP board my way, and I'm exhausted, but game.
I take the rig, and I'm only heavily overpowered, but not getting completely killed as I was by my 5.4m sail.
I manage a few turns and a few wipeouts for the camera. Then it happened. I'm trying another body-drag. The gist of the move is go full speed, step off the board and plane across the water at full speed on your shins and thighs then re-mount the board, smile, cash the check, get the girl....nothing but net.
I start to drag, and things go predictable wrong. I'm slung forward at a good pace and the twist-n-rinse starts. Good times.
Somewhere in the process, things go bad. I slam into something with my head while I'm inverted and tumbling. Mind you I've had broken ribs and numerous concussions while sailing, and this is NOT on par with those bone shaking horrific impacts. This was a BAD impact. I feel a sharp cool biting pain on my head. As I surface I put my hand to my head and feel blood pulsing heavily over my fingers. The water washing over my rig is turning red rapidly, and the horror of what happened is sinking in.
I wave to Sherrie and indicate I'm hurt, then realize my rig has landed in the exact wrong position to get in. I sort out my rig, hoping there are no sharks in the rapidly turning red area. It takes about a minute and a half to get everything going in the right direction.
I waterstart and sail the 50 yards to the shore, and apparently I look as bad as I think I do.
Sherrie has saucers for eyes and has dropped her camera, wading toward me as I carry my rig out.
"Get the camera! I'll get the gear"
"Do you need to go to the hospital?"
"Yeah, this is going to take some stitches."
Sherrie flies off as I pull the rig onto the beach.
I'm near our cooler, so I grab a handful of ice and put it on the top of my head. The ice melting is combining with the blood pouring out of my head to create my own personal bright-red shower.
Shit, shit shit. This might conclude the windsurfing portion of the
Sherrie comes up and gives me a towel. I put some ice in it and apply more compression to the area. Sherrie is near panic, and asks:
"How does it look?"
I pull off the towel and tilt me head toward her.
"OH MY GOD!!!"
"Honey, I just need some stitches, it will be fine."
"OH MY GOD!!! YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT!!!"
"I know it looks bad, but a few stitches and I'll be fine."
Saucer-eyed and distraught, Sherrie shouts over the wind.
"I'm going to tell Hugh and Adrianne!"
She starts sprinting barefoot down the foot-unfriendly beach, and I
start walking to the car. Blood is still dripping everywhere despite the towel and compression. I'm pretty much a sight. Everyone rigging down in the warm yellow late-day sun stops to gape at the guy with a blood-soaked face and a dripping towel on his head.
A few sailors offer help as Sherrie sprints up.
A really nice guy offers directions to the hospital, and I'm trying to figure out if I can drive while Sherrie holds pressure on my head. She is really, really distraught, which is out of character for her. Even under duress, she's a pretty calm cookie. Seeing her in this condition, I'm worried about an accident while we're heading to the hospital. I'm doing my unsuccessful best to talk her off the edge of the cliff.
To be fair, I can't think I would any better if she were hurt, but I'm the one who's hurt, so I get to remain calm.
"Honey, it will be fine, let's just take our time and get to the hospital, it's right down the street"
"But.... your head...."
"Head cuts always bleed a lot, I'll be fine. It looks bad, but a few stitches and I'll be right as rain." ....so I hope.
I'm still in my rashguard and have blocks of sand for feet. I feel bad about heading indoors, but don't exactly have a shower handy.
We find the hospital in Kahului, and make our way to the emergency room.
I pass a large hawaiian in a hospital gown pushing a roll-about IV bag connected to him. He offers kindly.
"You poor thing."
WTF? I must REALLY look bad if a guy in a hospital pushing and IV has pity for me.
The staff is friendly and efficient. Surprisingly, Sherrie actually has our insurance card with her. My card and wallet are back in my car on the beach.
I visit triage and she gives me a gauze wrap and cleans me up a bit as my face is a mask of dried and drying blood.
My eyebrows and eyelashes are thick with caked blood as I try to remain calm as we wait to be seen. Sherrie is still rattled, I'm cracking bad jokes to pass the time.
A police officer escorts a handcuffed guy to the waiting room as well. The handcuffed guy looks like every white-trash perp on cops, complete with blood spattered shorts and white T-shirt.
I concentrate on breathing and look at the floor.
I'm called in at the 10-15 minute mark and get a really nice ER
He asks me the same head-injury questions as the triage nurse.
"Did you go unconscious?"
"Do you have a headache?"
"Nope, not that much of an impact, just a cutting blow on wet skin"
"Anything else hurt?"
"My pride....got anything for that?"
He laughs and goes to get a blanket.
The doctor, Randy Niklason comes in and takes a look. He makes a variety of faces, none of which are good, then sighs and resigns himself to the task ahead.
"Wow, well, you came to the right place, we see a lot of cuts here, we do a great job with these"
Hey, that's good to know. Also the fact Randy looks like he's about 45 years old makes me feel better than seeing someone 25 who hasn't slept in 3 days.
The nurse gets me a blanket as I'm cold. My wet rashguard drying in
With some help from Sherrie, I manage to get my rashguard off over my new islam-style stretch cap holding gauze to my head.
We're left alone for a time as the doctor takes care of someone in the next bed. Apparently this girl stepped on a sea urchin and managed to get coral in her foot to boot. Her muffled screams and crying don't make me feel much better.
During this time the white trash handcuffed man comes howling into the room, escorted by the police and screaming "Why do you have to hurt me?" at the officer. More police join the first one, and by the time we're leaving there are at least 3 cops near this f-bomb slinging guy.
I don't get a good feel for my hope of 'just a few stitches' as the doctor calls out what he'll need.
"I need a FOO suture, a #Q suture kit, a few filament #9b sutures, a curved #10 scalpel and an XXYY scalpel."
Uhhh....so I'm so messed up they are going to have to cut parts out of my head to fix it?
No freaking bueno!!!
The Doctor gets his gear, comes in and takes his time. I pass the 30 or so minutes getting stitched up by shooting the breeze with him. What an interesting guy. Windsurfing got him to the island, but now he mountain bikes. Before that, he spent 5 years as a doctor in Saudi Arabia and toured the world.
I ask him if there's any way I can get back on the water and he really spends some time deliberating...then comes back with.
"Not really, if the cut was higher in your hairline, then I'd be less concerned, but it's going to be visible and the stitches really shouldn't be immersed"
Bummer, but as i thought.
The doctor is really taking his time, and it's obvious he's not in a rush. I'm liking this fact, as I had nightmares of loop-loop-n-go by a 25 year old fresh-out with shaky hands.
Another doctor swings by and gives his approval of the work. Ok, I'm feeling better.
As he's wrapping up, I query.
"How many stitches?"
"Hmmmm....I'm not sure, I put a bunch under the skin and less on the surface, but I can count the surface ones......eighteen"
Wow, that's impressive and depressing all at the same time.
We're alone for a few minutes, and I feel something on the back of my head. I touch the area, and my fingers come away with bright blood. Super, hope I can keep from hosing the rental car.
The nurse swings by and we exchange jokes and pass the time as we wait for my papers and he dresses my head and cleans me up.
I look at the nurse seriously and tell him.
"This is what happens when you mouth off to a girl from Detroit...I should have ducked!"
He laughs out loud and we pass the time pleasantly.
I don't have another shirt with me, so I walk bare chested in tivas and board shorts from the ER as Sherrie handles the paperwork.
Just a few minutes later and $100 lighter, we're heading back to join Hugh and Adrianne for dinner in the upcountry.
Guess I'll find out what else there is to do on this island other than
be in the water.