Every 16 strokes, it’s my job to shout ‘hup ho’ with conviction and authority. Loosely translated from Hawaiian, the chant means ‘switch’ as in switch the side of the six-man outrigger canoe you are paddling to keep this ancient form of ocean travel propelling through the Pacific in a straight line. It’s a heady bit of responsibility for a virgin outrigger canoeist. But, as I soon find out, yelling these instructions from seat No. 4 is an easy, albeit important job. You see, my 22-year-old son, Alex, and I are assigned seats No. 3 and 4 because they are in the middle of the boat, the place where the weak and inexperienced paddlers go.
Tour guide Tim Lara of Hawaiian Paddle Sports is in the real power position in seat No. 6 because he steers.
Lara also happens to be a four-time outrigger state champion. Seat No. 5 is occupied by award-winning chef Mike Lofaro, also an outrigger state champ, who is that new breed of chef that’s lean and athletic. Seat No. 1 is another Hawaiian Paddle Sports guide, Peter Rimkus, who serves as lookout. And, in seat No. 2 is Kaniela Ing, who grew up paddling and has become that new breed of politician, who, at age 25, is the representative in the Hawaii state legislature for the riding of South Maui.
In other words, this outrigger is stacked with talent, with the exception of my son and I. But, what we lack in outrigger paddling experience, we make up for in enthusiasm. My son and I are on an adventure boys trip on Maui and staying at the luxurious Grand Wailea Resort on the south shore of the island.
When the Grand Wailea’s director of public relations, Yvonne Biegel, finds out we’re in search of thrills, she hooks us up with chef Mike, who’s in charge at the resort’s marquee restaurant, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Don’t let the 12-syllable whopper of a name intimidate you, translated from Hawaiian it means trigger fish, which is Hawaii’s state fish. Mike in turn hooks us up with his buddy, Tim Lara of Hawaiian Paddle Sports. So that’s how we find ourselves the next morning pushing off in the outrigger.
While out paddling we attract the attention of a playful pod of two dozen spinner dolphins who follow us and put on a jump show. We also stop to snorkel right off the outrigger and stop at a secret beach.
That night, Alex and I have reservations at Humuhumu (of course it has to have a short form) and we see chef Mike again, this time as he delivers his signature dish of ahi tuna topped with foie gras.
Since this was an adrenalin vacation for my son and I we also rappelled through waterfalls, hurled down inactive Haleakala Volcano on bikes and took out stand up paddle boards just after dawn. Check out www.HawaiianPaddleSports.com, GrandWailea.com, and VisitMaui.com
Steve MacNaull is an accomplished travel writer and regular contributor to www.quicktripto.com