photo courtesy of OluKai Premium Footwear

Maliko gulch, Maui and the history that surrounds it, is one to be respected. Not only will the steep cliffs and the sounds of the wind whirling inside take your breath, but you’ll also experience a rush of adrenaline as you paddle out of it, into the open ocean of huge swells where you can catch glides up to 300+ yards long.  (If you want to read more about Maliko, see my article:“The Magic of Maliko” I wrote for Makai Ocean Lifestyle magazine here. )

As the popularity of SUP grows, especially down wind paddling here on Maui, I’m compelled to write this small blog entry, not to only share in the beauty and the intrigue that draws thousands of eager stand up paddlers and OC1 adventurers to this place, but also to give a heads up to the hidden challenges that can be very dangerous and can make for a disastrous run. If you think you are ready to attempt your first Maliko “down winder”, I say, that if you don’t know, don’t go. I’m not at all discouraging people, I’m just sharing how Maliko appears on the inside of the bay, is not what goes on just 50 yards on the outside.

photo courtesy of OluKai Premium Footwear

Being an experienced paddler, every time I paddle out of the gulch down the coast 9 miles, it is never the same and that’s exciting! I’ve gone down with a wall of water breaking across the gulch over head high, near the ramp, and other days it’s as calm as a lake. So what I’m saying is what may appear calm on the inside is typically very different as you exit into the open ocean waterways. Unless you go with an experienced paddler, and I mean experienced with someone who’s done many Maliko runs in all kinds of conditions; you best have lots of water time in big swells and heavy winds, and you better have upper body strength, combined with a good cardio base and have the knowledge on what to do IF you get in trouble.

I’m seeing more and more folks showing up for their first, unescorted Maliko run and it concerns me that some of them are not experienced enough. Sure they’ll probably be fine, but from some of the emails and stories I’ve been reading and hearing about as of late, it’s not a casual paddle on the lake. Besides the huge, jagged rocks on the shoreline that the swell may push you into, there’s wind shifts and tide changes, and if the winds are off shore and East, you can bet that it means trouble or at the least a very un ideal experience.

As a SUP instructor, competitor, and as a fitness specialist specializing in SUP conditioning, people ask me to take them down Maliko.  I often pause and tell them nicely that it’s a good goal to have, but first let’s get your board skills down , your body endurance and strength up to handle those conditions.

I really want people to have a good experience and get the thrill of the long glides and rides; I’m just saying use common sense. Get yourself in tip top shape, paddle some timed, endurance distance on flat water to get your body used to paddling at that intensity, strengthen your leg, work on your balance and learn water safety.

Me coaching Barb before her run

Practice paddling in all types of weather conditions; rain, big chop, side chop, light to heavy wind, gusty wind and even practice paddling directly into the wind. Learn more about rail pressure, foot work (changing foot position on board to surf stance) and maybe even rent a downwind board and practice on flat water.  I might also suggest that you do some “mini” downwinders at a shorter distance to get your legs used to the chop and learn about how you can improve your paddling and maybe your fitness at the same time. Study the wind patterns and know the difference between on shore and off shore winds, trade winds, wind swell direction, know if it’s low or high tide where you enter and where you exit.

Downwind paddling is a blast and very addicting. Better to share with a safety buddy and to go with someone who knows the path. He/she should be very very experienced and know how to pick the right line, read the currents, tide and weather conditions. It’s not a great idea to go alone, and if you do carry your cell phone in a water proof casing and tell someone where you are coming out at your anticipated time. If you don’t feel right, feel tired or whatever, listen to your gut. Prequalify yourself and make sure that you have water confidence, experience and strength along with of course better than decent SUP skills.

Here are some resources to make your downwind paddling experiences safe and fun:

Suzie Trains Maui: SUP Fitness Tips: Leg conditioning, upper body endurance exercises

Maui Naish Pro Center: Great gear, down wind boards and paddles.

Moore Watertime Maui:  Maui’s Down Wind Shuttle Service – They Drive  you Play!

National Weather Service: Scroll down to find Maui:MAUI COUNTY WINDWARD WATERS

Maui Hawaii Webcam: Check the wind direction; see live video streaming of N. Shore and check tide charts

Surf News Network: Tides, buoys, swell and more

If you’d like to train with me and build your stand up paddling endurance, fine tune your paddling stroke, foot work; give me a call I can help you. Having a body that is strong and prepared for anything will give  you miles and miles of  more fun on the water! Be safe and see you on the water!

Suzie Cooney

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