Nothing to see here, folks. I tried to act nonchalant as I surveyed my bloody palms and knees, like it was no big deal that I just rolled across rocks and washed up on Kaanapali Beach on Maui. My right foot burned in pain, but I couldn’t stomach looking at the damage. My nephew – only 15 at the time – trotted to my side a few minutes later with my beach bag slung over his shoulder. Wordlessly, he walked me back to my hotel room, my embarrassment burning hotter than my cuts and urchin-stung foot.
My very first attempt at standup paddle boarding (SUP) didn’t go as smoothly as I envisioned on my trip to Maui with my brother and his family. I pictured myself paddling out from Kaanapali Beach, wobbling a bit to stand up, but then cutting through the water like a champ. In reality, I struggled to even carry my board to the water and toppled each time I tried to stand up. The wind and serious chop that day added to the complications, and I was pushed way off-course. To summarize: I was a hot mess out there.
After my tenth or so tumble back into the water, the instructor told me I needed to get my buns back to the shore before I drifted too much further out to sea, and frankly, it freaked me out. I paddled (on my knees) furiously but missed the section of beach where I was supposed to drop off my board. Instead, the wind pushed me further down to a rocky part of the beach where I not-so-gracefully washed up on shore.
Looking back, this moment is a little reminiscent of life itself. Chaos and pain in the middle of all the beauty.
This was my second trip to Maui with my brother and his family. My niece and nephew were in their teens now, and I was stoked to share some new adventures with them.
One of things I love most about Maui is that the pressure of a schedule seems to blow away in the warm wind. I’m less aware of the minutes ticking by, the emails that need to be answered, the social media waiting to be checked. It’s like a massage for my mind, and all the knots of worry, stress, and obligation are eradicated.
Our days were a mash-up of excursions, lazy afternoons on the beach, drinks at sunset, and live-music meals. Midway through our trip, my nephew and my sister-in-law, and I decided to drive the Hana Highway. I remember hearing doom and gloom stories from other travelers about making the trek years ago: the highway was too risky for any car other than an SUV, the drive was a guaranteed recipe for car sickness, and it just wasn’t worth the long journey. It’s a shame I listened to the naysayers and waited so long to make the trip.
We headed up the mountain just after sunrise, twisting and turning in our very standard rental car. At times, the road was super narrow, but my sister-in-law calmly and effortless navigated the way. We made a few pitstops on the highway to snap pictures and buy my nephew some sugar cane (side note: he totally ate it wrong) and eventually made our way to Haleakala National Park. I’m not certain if it was because it was the hottest part of the summer or if it was sheer luck, but the park was almost empty that day.
The Pipiwai Trail is a four-mile round trip hike that winds through some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen in my life and culminates at the base of Waimoku Falls. I remember the heat was so fierce that day, but we took our time and swigged a ton of water.
I heard the sound first before I could figure out what is was – kind of a clack-clack-clack sound in the wind. Rounding a corner, I stopped in my tracks, my feet rooted like the banyan trees we passed just minutes before. A canopy of green shoots flanked a small stone pathway through a bamboo forest. As the wind blew, the shoots brushed against one another making the clacking noise. It’s a sound that is burned into my memory, and if I close my eyes, I can still see the forest so vividly. At that moment, we felt like we were the sole inhabitants on the island. We drank in the sound of the wind, the sweet scent of the forest, and the warmth of the filtered sun.
Because of a fallen tree further up the trail, we never did make it to the base of Waimoku Falls, but we did get to splash in the gorgeous pools of Ohe’o, better known as the Seven Sacred Pools. To this day, the Pipiwai hike is my favorite memory of being in the islands.
Fast forwarding to today, I can’t help but feel like I did on that beach. Things have changed with my family. Kids grow up and move into the routines of adulthood. We’ve seen the sunset of some relationships and the sunrise of others. Chaos and pain in the middle of the beauty of life. I’m always so grateful for my time with my family and our time on Maui was no exception.
Until next time, Maui! I’m coming back for redo on the paddle board!