The waves got bigger and the wind got lighter on Maui's north shore yesterday. I was dubious that we'd get enough wind at all, but watching the wind cams I could see people sailing so I headed to Kanaha to check it out.
Driving to Kanaha I could see the outer reefs breaking, a sure sign that conditions are over mast high. Standing on the beach it looked like classic light wind, big wave winter conditions. When the waves are big the water inside the reef takes on this almost milky appearance - from the strong current, all the aeration from the waves - I don't know what causes it, but my experience is that it generally means you need a bigger sail than you might normally think to get planing.
No debating which sail to rig, just rig the biggest you got. In my case that meant 5.7 and my 95 liter custom/prototype Tabou.
First few reaches inside the reef weren't going to get me upwind through the channel above Weird Wave, but then the wind kicked in a notch and allowed me to squeak out just above Weird Wave, almost getting smacked down by that beast in the process.
Once outside it's a whole different world. Looking up wind to Uppers and Camp One is like looking up a long watery alley of waves rolling in and you can get a real sense for how big it is.
Moving mountains of swell roll in as you try to work your way upwind. With so much water moving it's hard to get upwind in these conditions unless you're really powered up.
I finally made it up to Uppers way on the outside and picked a big swell to start following in. Not only were these things huge, but they're fast. Not enough power and speed to stay in front of one and I frequently ended up dropping off of a plane just were it's starting to get critical. It can be a little unnerving to be slogging along while a 20 foot wall of water starts walling up right behind you. Pump! Pump! Pump! It gets steeper. Scramble to get your feet in the straps as you pick up speed. Screw up and you're going to go over the falls and seriously get worked. Finally get speed and charge down the line as the wave pitches over behind you. Heart in your throat, adrenaline flooding your system.
Got a couple of those nice rides on some big smooth monsters, getting three or four turns in. Could have gotten much longer rides if I had been able to get upwind further. After an hour of this the wind was getting lighter and I figured I'd gotten my adrenaline fix for the day. A little frustrating to have such nice waves setting up and not having enough juice to take advantage of it to the full extent, but incredible to be getting such great wave sailing in already so early in the season here.