Yeah, relatively speaking, our summers are pretty damn endless.
So why a summer guide? Well, why not? The kids are out of school, the weather’s better than ever and you’re itching to show off that bod you’ve been working on (or not).
This year, we decided to highlight three less-publicized activities—two on land, one under the sea—that may not top everyone’s must-do list but are nonetheless well worth checking out, for beginners and those who know the Valley Isle like the back of their sun-kissed hands.
As ever, this issue is augmented with extensive event, workshop and camp listings, offering a little something for everyone, particularly the keiki. We may get warm weather on every page of the calendar, but there’s only one summer—so go enjoy it. ➜
Underwater spear fishing takes time—and skill—to master, but it’s a skill worth revering
by Anu Yagi
Reverent invigoration. It effuses from the countenance of everyone who emerges from the ocean—even those who’ve just been pummeled by the blender of shore break. But above us boiled-lobster-colored beachgoers is an extraordinary league of underwater hunters—skin divers—who have mastered the mysterious, mercurial underwater realm.
Diving without the aide of oxygen tanks, success in their challenging sport is inextricably tied to how long they can hold their breath—sometimes spending upwards of two minutes underwater, stalking their prey. They do it for sport and sustenance and above all, passion.
Searching for inspiration? Look no further than Kimi Werner. She’s a buxom wahine skin diver who looks like she’d be as at home on the runway as she has proven to be underwater (she is, in fact, a model). She’s become the cover girl for her sport—a heralded underwater femme fatale who in 2008 won the Underwater Society of America’s U.S. National Skin Diving Championships in Newport Rhode Island.
And I want to be just like her.
In a story for Skin Diver Magazine, she recounts her battle with the “huge striper” that earned her win: “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very big fish [but] I knew that I had no time to go back to the surface to breathe up. Knowing that this would be my only chance, I extended my 90cm gun out as far as I could and with a couple of strong kicks, I launched on the huge fish. As soon as I thought I was in range, I pulled the trigger and saw my shaft go all the way through the bass. I wanted that fish in hands right then and there, so I just forced him in and tried to grab his tail so that I could slide my other hand into his gills…Grabbing his tail was hard and I was being flopped around like a rag doll…I need air so I kicked up to the surface and both our heads broke the water at the same time. The fish freaked out and bashed his head back and forth, making huge splashes. I let go of his gills with one hand so that I could reach for my knife; he then slammed his head right into my face and I felt my cheek start to sting with pain. I finally brained him and repeated the process about three times, just to make sure he wouldn’t be surprising me [by] coming back to life.”
But in my pursuit of emulating Werner, I encountered one glaring glitch: See, I own an oddball old book, The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Skin Diving by Shaney Frey, with a 1965 copyright (Doubleday & Company) that’s betrayed by recommendations to keep dimes handy for emergency payphone calls and to “never molest any underwater animal” (I suppose terrestrial beasts are out of luck). Except for my awkward attempts at snorkeling (sometimes even sans neon-colored noodle, if that earns me any street cred), diving into Frey’s text is the closest I’ve been to skin diving.
So this summer, armed with this rotting (and rather worthless) little book, my SPF 5,000 and the pointiest stick I could find, I thought I might try my hand at spear fishing.
But avid diver and friend of the paper Rudi King warned that skin diving spear-fisherman can be protective of their trade secrets, their special spots, and apprehensive about inferior divers. “If someone shoots and misses,” King explained, “it trains the fish.”
This information halted me in my tracks. So instead I started with the first recommended step: practicing in a pool, standing in waist deep water and learning how to breathe with a snorkel. My ineptitude brimming with completeness, this is the only step I’ve mastered. And the more I look into things the more I think that’s where I belong: out of harm (and fishermen’s) way.
But at least in my unfortunately uneventful exploration of skin diving, I’ve peeked into a sport that deserves reverence that the ocean in turns affords us. And until the morning I wake up having traded lives with Werner, I’ll just pretend my neon noodle is a spear gun.
While I trust you don’t need to be reminded to not molest underwater creatures this summer (or, obviously, ever), here are a few excerpts from The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Skin Diving’s chapter on “Equipment and How to Choose It.” It’s information I found helpful for beginners to outfit their adventure:
The Mask. Masks made with very soft rubber will collapse underwater [while] hard rubber or plastic masks are uncomfortable.
The Snorkel. You can measure he width of the mouthpiece by placing your thumb and forefinger on either end of it and, holding your fingers that far apart, measure them against your mouth. If your fingertips touch the corners of your mouth the snorkel mouthpiece is too small… If your fingertips touch your face just about three-eights of an inch, or a little less, on either side of your mouth, it will be close to a perfect fit.
The Fins increase your leg-power threefold, causing you to move faster and farther with slow, relaxed movement. They should fit as well as a good pair of shoes.
The Safety Vest is by far the most important piece of skin diving equipment… It should have a (carbon dioxide) cartridge and a mouth inflation valve [that] can be easily “popped” to inflate the vest [and] float you safely on the surface.
The Diver’s Flag and Surface Float will protect you from boat traffic [and is] a good resting place whenever you or your buddy become tired.
The Skin Diver’s Knife should have a stainless steel blade, with saw teeth on one edge and one smooth edge.
The Weight Belt is necessary to offset the buoyancy of the wet suit, [but] is not needed if you are not wearing protective clothing.
The First-aid Kit will complete your equipment list. (A)s with many other outdoor sports, you may cut a finger or scratch yourself. ■
West Maui ATV tour isn’t a high-speed adventure—but it’s still a fun ride
by Sabrina Skiles
Want to traverse trails and roads inaccessible to the general public? Want to experience the unspoiled West Maui Mountains with breathtaking views of Lahaina Town and Lanai? And want to do it all while straddling an ATV? Kahoma
Ranch offers all of the above.
For those apprehensive about the word “ATV,” fear not. Kahoma Ranch emphasizes “guided tour” over “thrill-seeking adventure,” though the trip still packs plenty of fun.
We were instructed to meet at Lahaina Gateway Center, then loaded into a van and driven to the ranch above Lahaina. After a brief meet-and-greet, our guide, Frankie, and his cohort, Glen, led a safety briefing and vehicle orientation. The vehicles, off-road Polaris Rangers, are two-seaters; depending on how many you have in your party, you may get to ride along with a guide.
As you go along, drinking in unbelievable views and spotting wildlife and livestock, you’ll be glad this isn’t a high-speed affair. The opportunity to take photos is limited, and because of the dust and mud you won’t want to bring too much fancy equipment; a simple point-and-shoot is best.
About halfway up, at 2,000 feet elevation, you’ll have the chance to stop and take in the views at “The Garden.” Frankie took over this part of the tour, explaining and discussing the plants, flowers and fruits. After a short hike, you’re greeted with a spectacular view of the Kahoma Valley, which leads to the Wall of Tears— one of the wettest spots on Earth with as many as 17 waterfalls flowing at once.
After that it’s back to the dune buggy and a two minute ride up to the end. And what better way to refresh yourself after a long, dusty ride than three water slides pouring directly into a man-made spring. This is where the keiki take over, but parents (other than those with back problems or other health issues) will want to take part as well. In addition to the water slides, there’s a kayak you can paddle out.
Glen and Frankie also offered fresh pineapple, granola and ice-cold bottled water to gear us up for the ride down. While my husband got to take the wheel on the way up, I made sure he knew it was my turn on the way down (women are better drivers, after all).
Before checking in you’ll be asked if you want the short ride or the long ride (with the water slides). Definitely opt for the longer ride—a lot more bang for your buck.
Bottom line: this is a great experience for couple and families, and really for anyone looking to see another, less traveled side of the island. Go get dirty! ■
Swinging Good Time
Accessible yet tucked-away trail offers the perfect blend of ease and adventure
By Jacob Shafer
To call a hike that’s been featured in an Adam Sandler movie a hidden gem might be a stretch, but the Waihe‘e Valley, or “swinging bridges” trail still flies mostly under the radar. That’s a good thing, because while the crowds rush to Hana or Iao Valley, you can usually enjoy this adventurous-but-easy jaunt in relative solitude.
The trail runs through private property, so the first thing you have to do is sign in and pay a fee at the entrance booth ($3 per person for kama‘aina). (The booth also sells drinks and snacks, so you can stock up if you forgot yours.)
To get there, follow Market Street past Wailuku Town until it becomes Highway 330, then hang a left on Waihe‘e Valley Road. The trail closes promptly at 5pm, and while the whole hike can be done in under two hours if you hustle, it’s best to get started early.
I said swinging bridges is easy, and though that’s true (my intrepid four-year-old tackled it gamely) it’s not a slipper-clad stroll—you’ll want to wear sturdy shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting wet. And if you have an intense fear of heights, you might want to think twice.
After winding along an irrigation ditch (the subject of an ongoing water-rights controversy) for a little more than a mile, the trail arrives at the first of two narrow bridges. The spans have been recently revamped (probably to accommodate the aforementioned Sandler flick, Just Go With It) but are still wobbly, single-file, wire-and-plank contraptions. Depending on the season, the river bed they traverse may be dry, but both are high enough to induce a little vertigo.
Once the bridges have been bested, you’ll have to ford a pair of wet, slippery crossings that provide a fine opportunity to stop and cool off if you’re so inclined. But your real swimming experience lies ahead—after cutting through some thick jungle undergrowth, the trail ends at a delightful, shaded swimming hole, small yet deep and refreshing. (There aren’t many places to change save under a towel or behind a tree, so the modest are well-advised to don suits ahead of time.)
After a dip and a nibble, simply retrace your steps, re-wobbling across the bridges and admiring the ample flora—including banyan and kukui nut trees, fruit-laden lilikoi vines, creaking bamboo and ornate ginger plants. Again, be sure you make it back out before 5pm, as being on-property after-hours is strictly forbidden.
Hidden gem or not, this is one of those quintessential Maui experiences that’s equally rewarding for first-time visitors, long-time residents and, apparently, Hollywood mega-stars. ■
By Jen Russo
Summertime conjures up memories of hot lazy days of my youth in Lahaina, forced into summer pals programs where I tried enjoy basketball games at the West Maui Civic Center and their weird sack lunches. Now summertime means I have work days filled with a talkative five year old—but luckily there’s a variety of activities and camps available to keep her busy and my sanity intact.
Valley Isle Gymnastics is centrally located in Kahului and offers camps for boys and girls beginning May 30 and running through the end of summer. This sporty camp offers formal gymnastics training on stretching, vault, bars, beam, floor and trampoline. Rusty Gage and Jeff Joslin opened the center in 2004, seeing the need for gymnastics for all Maui children and not merely those interested in competitive training.
“[This] camp is for anyone who wants to see what it’s like to be in the gymnastics environment,” says Gage. “Our instructors are mindful to meet each athlete where they are, and quickly asses immediate and long-term goals and adjust instruction accordingly.” You can reserve by the day or week, with morning, afternoon or all-day sessions, by calling 871-6116.
Camp Kaluanui at the Hui No‘eau is offering daily or weekly art camp sessions for kids age 5-12. The Hui No‘eau is the leading visual arts education center on Maui, founded in 1934. Kids will enjoy clay, painting, printmaking, theatre and yoga Monday to Friday 9am-4pm. Kaluanui has themed weeks to mix it up, like “Buggin’ Out,” “Ocean Commotion” and “The Road to Hana.”
“Four daily workshops are held in professionally equipped working artist studios, many of which have been converted from the original Baldwin family home offering an authentic sense of history and character to the already creative environment,” explains Kelly McHugh, youth programs manager at the Hui. “Classes are taught by teaching artists, creative individuals that talk the talk and walk the walk, exhibiting and creating their own artwork as well as arming others with the tools to create.” For more information or to register for camp call 572-6560 ext. 21.
Sometimes the best things in summer are free. Pacific Whale Foundation is offering no-cost boat cruises for kama‘aina families on Sunday, June 5 to celebrate World Oceans Day. Reservations are required for these narrated trips that will depart from Maalaea and Lahaina harbors. Take your keiki to see and learn about Maui’s ocean environment and see turtles, dolphins and other ocean life. PWF also offers a summer ocean camp out of their Discovery Center in Maalaea, 8am-4pm starting May 31.