Tony attended a Kai Bartlett OC1 clinic in Kauai

Kauai – 54

It’s strange how life works out. When I used to sit in our small council flat in North London as a kid watching Steve McGarrett and Danno catching crooks on Hawaii-50, I never imagined that I would one day be there, doing the same thing as those exotic chaps in the canoe in the opening titles. But, at the age of 54, there I was, on the water of the small island of Kauai in an outrigger canoe.

My Facebook friends have already suffered an endless deluge of Kauai paddling videos, which I suppose was a bit of a change from the usual FB pursuit of written posts trying to make everyone believe that your life, wife, kids, house and holidays are far better than everyone else’s. For those unfortunate enough to miss out on my filmic gloating here is a verbal version.

Kauai itself is beautiful. Small, relatively underdeveloped but with a good tourist infrastructure and a very laid back atmosphere. There was also a sense of freedom that appealed to me : riding in the back of utes on the highway and drinking beer beneath the ‘No Alcohol’ signs on the beach seemed to be perfectly acceptable.

5 day course with Kai Bartlett clinics

I had signed up to do a 5 day course with Kai Bartlett clinics. We didn’t see Kai himself but had a fantastic instructor called Keone Miyaki and Kai’s dad, Tom, was around for quite a few sessions.

There were 10 people on the course. Two from California who were experienced singles paddlers, three older Canadians who had barely paddled in OC1 at all, two other Americans with very limited experience and a couple of local guys who were also quite new to the joys of solo paddling.

We ended up doing a certain amount of paddling separately with myself being thrown in with the two experienced paddlers but we also paddled a lot with the newer guys. As you would expect from those involved in waka, there was a great sense of camaraderie and lots of help and advice.

We were given use of great canoes, Kai’s own Scorpius, Anatres and Ares brands. I spent a lot of time in the Ares and it was fantastic.

Each day started with a meet up, unload and rigging session and then the trailer was driven to the take out point. We got to do a lot of different runs from different places. The first few days we experienced some torrential rain and not a lot of wind but in hindsight that wasn’t a bad thing. The down-winding we did do was fairly gentle and a good environment to figure out how to apply what we were being told in the theory sessions on the beach.

Learning to read the water

In the final couple of days we got some excellent wind and had two stellar runs. I finally felt as if I understood what I was trying to do, even if I didn’t always manage it. The theory explanations on how waves work and how to try to make them work for you made sense. All the things that Jason, Shane and Haydn had been telling me also made a hell of a lot more sense. I will be interesting to see how my improved understanding translates into steering the OC6, as well as not being left so far behind on our group down wind runs.

Probably the highlights of the trip came after the course had finished. Knowing that I was around for the weekend I was invited to go and paddle with all the locals and by then the wind was really blowing. We had two fantastic runs from Poipu beach to Saltpools with about 20 singles on the water. I caught some great single waves and connected quite a few bumps. I also saw lots of giant turtles on the way, which was fantastic.

It definitely will not be my last trip to Kauai. Next winter they are running a 5 day guided downwind trip up on the North of the island. Tom Bartlett and a few of the others are also planning a trip to NZ and Nelson will be on their destination list. As ever, it was the people I met who made the trip what it was and I am looking forward to heading back with Judith before too long !

If anyone wants the full video experience of me grinning like an idiot they are at

I also have a big list of notes from the clinic and if anyone fancies a trip out there let me know.

Its never too early or too late to start paddling waka ama

We always welcome new members to the Maitahi Outrigger Canoe Club.
We have social and racing waka ama crews catering for a wide variety of ages and abilities.