8th October 2019
At this time of year, my favourite island is blessed with big ocean swells and non-stop windy days.
Yes, it was hard to leave Guernsey in October.
As summer turned to autumn we had enjoyed weeks of great conditions, the equinox, lots of energy in the air and in the water.  The tails of Atlantic hurricanes sending us wind and waves.  I was in the water every day, windsurfing, foiling, surfing, loving it.


Photo: Pierre Bisson

But Dawn has commitments elsewhere, so with a heavy heart, I put my toys away and hung up my wetsuits.
(Won’t be needing them for a while).
The Guernsey weather forecast was still popping up on my screens as we boarded the plane, looks like another great week at home.
But after a blur of airports and timezones I looked out of the plane window at 10am today and saw the North Shore of Maui laid out below, Ho’okipa down to Kahului, the blue Pacific contrasting with triangles of white water, outer reefs breaking, that’s a good size swell even from up here.  Maybe I should have skipped the breakfast Mai-Tai.
We touch down, drive to Haiku to pick up my windsurf gear (thanks KP) and then straight to Ho’okipa.
From the plane to the waves in record time.
I’m missing another great week in Guernsey, but this will have to do..


It was a wonderful summer in Guernsey.  The morning cycle to the beach to check conditions for the day, the changing hedgerows on my hill top running routes, spring wildflowers, summer honeysuckle, October blackberries.  I grabbed as much summertime as I could, foiling, windsurfing, racing longboards, and my new thing: open water swimming.


Now I’m contemplating the Hawaiian seascape from my outdoor shower. I can see across the Kuau surf as far as Molokai.  Downwind paddlers and wing foilers passing by outside the reefs.  Turtles cruising the rocks.  The sea temperature is about perfect here now, no wetsuits required.


We’re living right on the ocean, with an ever-changing view from the garden..


Lots of water time here too, so many options!
We had every combination of wind and waves from head-high and glassy to flat and 30kts.
Most days start with a swim or surf before breakfast, then windsurfing or foiling as the wind comes up.  Ho’okipa wave-sailing sessions and maxed-out foiling coast runs down to Kanaha and back.  Every day I am thankful that my body still lets me do all this stuff.

Photo: Casey Hauser16
Photo: Casey Hauser

Here’s those turtles hauled out at the bottom of the garden.  Easy to confuse them with the rocks..


The Aloha Classic


Dawn worked every day in the weeks leading up to the event.  The grand finale of the wave-sailing year, the world’s best windsurfers are all here.

Photo: Si Crowther

This year’s a big one, a full PWA/IWT event with overall world titles to be decided, prize money, live-stream, headline sponsors Mercedes-Benz, the world is watching.


Photo: Si Crowther

The Pacific Ocean once again played it’s part and delivered spectacular surf to Ho’okipa Beach Park.

Photo: Si Crowther

It actually got so big I had to sneak off and go tow-surfing one day.  More about that later.
The windsurfing gladiators had to compete in huge swell and some tricky winds, sailing four-man heats to decide the best wave-riding skills and style.

Photo: Si Crowther
Photo: Si Crowther

The champions were crowned in the Pro Men, Women and Youth categories. (No Amateurs or Masters divisions for me this year.)


The prize-giving ceremony featured an exhibition of vintage windsurf gear to celebrate the 50th year of the original Windsurfer board.
Early wave gear, plus some amazing custom speed boards from the 1980 Maalea speed trials.


After the dinner, awards and speeches, the evening quickly turned in to a raging windsurf party with everyone from the teenage Japanese sailors, Maui locals, pro sailors from everywhere, PWA judges, organisers and everyone else letting their hair down to celebrate the end of another Aloha Classic and another year of wave competition.


Big Swell
The swell forecasts are pretty accurate, ocean buoys sense the swell on it’s way.  It’s coming, nothing can stop it.  There is a real sense of anticipation on the North shore of Maui as the swell approaches.
This is the first winter swell of the season.  Surfers and windsurfers are focussed, discussing how big it will be, will Ho’okipa be rideable? Whether Pe’ahi (Jaws) will be breaking?  Preparing gear, refuelling skis.  At sunset there’s still no sign of the new swell, but I wake in the night to the roar of surf on the reef in front of the house.  At first light the whole seascape is unrecognisable, reefs and channels where I have been surfing and playing on foils, are now the impact zone for giant walls barrelling on to the reef.
The air is heavy with a thick mist, spray hanging above the white water.  Yesterday I paddled out there on my longboard!  Today no chance, surfers watch the ocean’s power from the beach, the huge waves rear up, you can imagine riding one, but how could you ever paddle out?  Today most surfers will only be mind-surfing those waves, it’s just too dangerous to be out there.
Unless you have a jet-ski.


Or a friend with a ski!
In big waves a ski changes everything.
You can get out there, get waves and (most important!) get rescued from the impact zone.
The ski is the ticket to another realm of big waves that most people will just never ride.
The skills required to even paddle out from the beach, plus the danger of being caught in the wrong place by a big set, mean that most will not attempt it.
I would be terrified paddling around out there, not being able to move fast enough to get out of trouble, a sitting duck..


But if you’re lucky enough to be on the ski, you can enjoy the incredible scenes as the sets roll in, perfect blue walls with glassy faces.
Pick the wave you want and get on to it early, using the speed of the ski to position yourself, drop the rope and ride.
It really is cheating.
Once again, I am so grateful to Scotty for pulling me into (and out of) some of the most intense rides of my life.
The next week there was another swell, bigger.  More nervous anticipation, another fitful night, waking to the thunder of the surf.  The house is shaking!
Back on the ski, Outer Sprecklesville, it’s bigger, and still building.  The sets are pulsing in, we are in a quick rotation, wave after wave, I am taking rights and riding big beautiful walls to the inside where the wave closes out and Scotty picks me up before we zoom straight out for the next one.
Then I make a mistake,  I’m too deep and can’t make the next section, in fact I can’t get past the main peak, It rears up all around me and I have nowhere to go.
The lip is crashing down from a long way up, this looks bad. I jump off the board and submit to the consequences of this game.  First I am thrown violently down, stay calm, I move into a foetal pose and cover my head with my hands, then I am thrown violently over again, then pushed down. It gets dark.  Then the water is white and still turbulent but my float vest brings me up.  I surface in a huge field of brilliant white, fizzing water, Scotty appears on the ski but he’s shaking his head, we don’t have time for the pick-up, the next wave is here.
This is worse.  I am right in front of the peak, bobbing around at the foot of a towering wave which is about to unload itself on top of me.  I wish I was somewhere else. Take a breath.
So that happened, I was fine, in one way it was a confidence booster, that was surely the worst pounding that I could get?
It’s a mind game.
Yes I survived it, but yes, that wave could also have crushed me.
Next we try up the coast and get a few smaller waves at Kuau, right outside our house.


Dawn was there taking these shots on our lawn.
I find that most tow sessions for me follow a pattern of mental states. I generally start with nervous anxiety, (How big is it? Can I handle it?) Then I get a few rides and start to relax and enjoy it.  Next I get spaced out on adrenaline and just want more and more waves.  Then at some point I have a moment of clarity, possibly I’m starting to get tired, or maybe when I realise the only other people out here are world-class watermen and professional athletes, all decades younger than me. (What the hell am I doing here?).  That moment came early today, the swell was much bigger this afternoon and still on the rise, I had that ‘pushing my luck’ sensation and called it a day.
Got away with it.


Time to move on again, we pack up our Maui life and say farewell to all our friends there.
Thanks for everything we had an amazing time.
Dawn needs a holiday!


It’s time to go back to Escapade.


Thanks to the following photographers:
Pierre Bisson
Fishbowl Diaries
Jimmie Hepp
Casey Hauser
John Carter
Si Crowther
Dawn Pooley