Rediscovering Oahu's Unmatched Travel Experience - P. 9


Hard Paddle

About fifteen minutes later we were past the rocky reefs without scraping our bottom. My arms were tiring and the sunblock on my forehead had mixed with sweat and had trickled into my eyes, making them feel like they were being eaten alive by fire ants. Carelessly slathering too much sunblock on my forehead was easily the biggest mistake I made that day.

We had been paddling like maniacs for about 45 minutes and found ourselves maybe halfway to the Mokes. On our right was Lanikai Beach, a popular beach with the locals. To avoid bringing the kayak to a dead standstill amidst the swells the spouse and I took brief breaks from paddling in shifts.

I noticed that our teen had increased her lead. Perhaps impatient to reach the island, she had begun angling to her left. I shouted at her to stay parallel to the beach until we passed the sandbags. To avoid directly challenging the treacherous cross-currents on the landward side of Mokulea Island — the left island of the two Mokes as seen from land — the video had specified that we stay parallel to the beach until we reached an embankment of dark sandbags. At that point we were to cut left at an acute angle for the safest approach to the island’s short stretch of landable beach.

Our teen stayed on course for a couple hundred more yards, then began cutting left about a hundred yards before reaching the sandbags. I didn’t bother trying to keep her on the prescribed course. By now I was starting to doubt the necessity of paddling that extra distance, especially after having fought the current for about 75 minutes and seeing several kayaks successfully beaching on the island after taking radical shortcuts right through the safety video’s Scylla and Charybdis — the rock reefs and the cross-currents.

Our approach to the island speeded up now that we were no longer going directly against the current. Within fifteen minutes we were within a hundred yards of the island. The small target beach was littered with seven or eight bright red and yellow kayaks and a catamaran. According to our earlier arrangement our teen was holding up about two hundred yards from the beach so we could land ahead of her and capture her historic landing on video. Because she had cut early from the prescribed course, her kayak was poised to cross directly through the area of cross-currents the safety video had warned about. We passed to her right for what was presumably a safer approach. But as I tried to pick a spot to steer toward, I could see the waves breaking from two directions — one diagonally from the right side of the beach and one from the left side of the beach — so that the two sets of breakers were perpendicular to each other.

Now I knew that the safety video had been all wrong, at least for the conditions prevailing that day. By paddling the extra twenty minutes or so in a circuitous route, all we had done was tire ourselves out only to face the most treacherous cross-currents I could imagine. Not only were the waves breaking at right angles to one another and at diagonals to the beach, both directions were coming at short intervals, making it impossible to time a smooth landing.

I took a deep breath, angled the kayak as perpendicularly to the beach as I could and urged the spouse to paddle hard. As we closed to within fifty yards of shore we were hit diagonally from the right by a wave. It didn’t tip us over but did rotate us just enough so that we were practically broadsided by the next wave coming from our left. Fortunately, we were within a few yards of shore. After tilting my body to the left to steady the kayak, I leapt off onto waist-deep water and grabbed hold of of its sides to try to keep it from lurching violently while the spouse struggled to get off. She scrambled off just as another wave hit from the right, practically yanking the kayak from my grasp. By then we were in knee-deep water and I was able to pull it ashore and drag it up onto dry sand. I noticed by the watermarks along the sand that the tide appeared to be rising. I pulled the kayak up a few more yards for good measure.

Tricky Landing on Mokuloa

It was a relief to be on dry land after what felt like a lifetime of hard paddling. I hurried to open the big red dry bag and dig out the video camera to record our teen’s approach. She had been struggling to hover offshore and was eager to make for shore. The good news was that in the section of beach she was approaching the waves were coming mostly from one direction. The bad news was that the direction was virtually parallel to the beach. I handed the camcorder to the the spouse and waded into the water to help pull her in. Our teen made a quick smooth approach and scrambled off before a breaker broadsided the kayak.

Reveling in the glory of having reached our miniature desert isle — with its twin facing us across a strait of maybe three hundred yards — we used some of the twenty minutes that we had alotted on a photo op. Then I hastened up the trail in hopes of finding a secluded spot in which to empty my full bladder. For some reason I have never been able to use the ocean as a urinal.

Unfortunately, the hillsides adjoining the trail were roped off with lines and signs warning against leaving the trail and trespassing into the nature preserve. After a few hundred yards in pursuit of solitude I came across several people walking on the trail ahead and decided relief would have to be stolen now or never. I violated the nature preserve and found a couple of scrubby bushes that provided cover for at least the lower half of my body. With my back turned to the trail in an attitude of rapt interest in the scenery, I found relief.

By the time we felt compelled to launch back toward the main island, many of the dozen or so people on Mokuloa Island had either launched or were preparing to launch. We waited a few more minutes for their kayaks to clear out of our intended path. Our teen launched herself with a steadying hand and shove from a man who appeared to be a local. We also received a helping hand from him after being hit by a wave while trying to scramble aboard from unsteady footing on sand that dropped off steeply just a few yards offshore.

We needn’t have worried about getting back in time to make the four-thirty rental return closing. The same current and breeze that had forced us to paddle like galley slaves on the outward leg made our return a breeze. We were paddling at a more leisurely pace but moving across the water at twice the speed. It had taken us about an hour and thirty-five minutes to get to Mukuloa Island. The return only took us 40 minutes. Before we knew it we were passing Flat Island on our right and approaching to our left the marker buoys on the north end of Kailua Beach.


1 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12