Category Archives: Hawaii

Kayaking

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Already resting at the start in Makapuu.

A few weeks ago I went ocean kayaking for the first time. I was in a two person kayak, in the front position. My only experience with kayaking prior to this was many years ago on flat water. This was full on into the waves with wind blowing at me at 10-15 mph.

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That’s me in pink at Sharks Cove on Moku Nui island, Oahu.

I went with a Meetup group that my roommate belongs to. There were seven of us in various types of kayaks. The leader of the group was quite well practiced in it but the rest of us had a wide range of ability. I had to learn on the go, watching what other people were doing.

Although we would stop occasionally to let everyone in the group catch up, it felt like a non-stop battle against the waves for four hours. While other people in the group were trading kayaks, I was trading paddles. I finally settled on one that felt a bit more comfortable about half way through the trip.

We went from Little Makapuu on the windward side of Oahu to the Na Mokalua (meaning ‘two islands’ in Hawaiian) and Lanikai. The scenery was beautiful. The Koolau mountains to the left and the Mokes straight ahead. For hours the islands did not seem to get any closer, but we eventually landed on Moku Nui.

We stopped at Shark’s Cove on the back side of the island. Bob, the group leader said that conditions are rarely good enough to enter Shark’s Cove but that conditions seemed good and that we could give it a try. I would never attempt it on my own, but the whole group of us entered the cove through a narrow opening between the rock faces. Once inside, there was just enough room for us to all fit and enjoy the rise and fall of the water as the waves crashed in. Some people ventured out of their boats to climb the rocks and jump into the pool. It’s an amazing spot that I will never forget.

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beach on Moku Nui

After that we paddled to the other side of the island to take a rest on the sandy beach.  As you can see from the photo, we weren’t the only ones enjoying the sunny Saturday.

After resting, it was even harder to make the short distance to Lanikai but I made it. Eight miles was a bit much for my first trip but it was a great experience.

Hawai’i Adaptive Paddling Association

I stumbled upon an outrigger canoe group for people with disabilities on Oahu this weekend. I just signed up at their booth and after a quick lesson in paddling, got in a canoe and was off.

The group is Hawai’i Adaptive Paddling Association and they take people out on six person canoes. They leave Kailua Beach and paddle out to Flat Island and try to catch waves on the way back to the beach. http://www.hawaiiadaptivepaddling.com

Paddling is hard work! I always thought it looked difficult when watching from shore but now that I’ve done it, I know it’s hard. It takes coordination to keep in time with the other paddlers and switch sides at the calls. I found that I was much more coordinated when paddling on my left side. I felt pretty clumsy on the right side but I got a little better by the end of the day.

On my second trip out, we hit a wave as we were leaving the sand and took in a bit of water. Two of the crew spent several minutes bailing the canoe out with plastic scoops. The swell had picked up and I was a bit more off balance on that run but it was definitely good exercise.

I didn’t see any turtles out there this time but I will be looking again next month.

 

1st canoe

 

Prone paddle boarding – learning and adapting with a disability

I started prone paddle boarding about four months ago. As a disabled person, being out on the water is a time of freedom from my handicap. I’ve only been out on the board seven times so far but I think i’m hooked. It’s challenging enough to keep me interested without the frustration of limitations.

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My first time on a prone paddle board.

My disability, multiple sclerosis, affects my body primarily through my legs and thinking ability. I can walk short distances with a walker but my legs are weak. Temperature changes and over-exertion effect me sometimes hours or days after the occurrence. Therefore I tend to be cautious about long workouts. Since I’m not fighting to make my legs work, paddle boarding allows me to increase the duration of my workouts.

The biggest logistical problem is finding help to get me in the water. Walking on sand may seem nice to some people but for be it’s quicksand and my feet feel like they weigh 50 lbs. They make water wheelchairs and those can be useful if you have a big truck and help to get you in and out  of it but for me the easiest way if I only have one helper is to walk in holding on to the arms of a friend that is walking backwards in front of me.

Getting out is another story. I tend to just scoot backwards on my butt until it’s shallow enough for someone to pull me up to standing. Then if my walker is parked close by I can slowly inch my way through the sand. The walker doesn’t roll in the sand so I have to pick it up and move it forward before I take a step. This technique can cause accumulation of sand in your clothes and shoes so I’ve started wearing bicycle type shorts and closed water shoes. That keeps the sand collection to a minimum.

Each time I’ve gone out on a board, I’ve learned something new. I’ve discovered the imbalances in my muscles so now I am focusing on how to correct that and improve all aspects of my life. My fear and ignorance of the ocean is decreasing. I’m learning new ways to get in the water and on the board.

I’ve also been motivated to get stronger so I can paddle better. I’ve been working on my swimming skills, balance and arm strength. Sure, I could have done those things without paddle boarding but I needed the boost of wanting to participate in the sport.

Right now I’m borrowing a board that was modified for someone else and while it’s great to practice on, eventually I will get a customized board of my own. I had to use the wrong board a few times to figure out what I need. My hope is that with the right board, I’ll be able to go farther and longer than I can right now.

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My borrowed custom Bark board.

As you can see from the photo, handles have been added to the sides which allows me to load onto the board from the back and pull myself forward. This board also has a chest pad and chin block. I’ve played around with these and haven’t really found them to be that helpful for my particular disability.

Every person’s disability is different and it’s great to learn from other’s discoveries and mistakes but ultimately for things to work as smoothly as possible, you just have to get out and experiment for yourself.

Surf ski vs. Wave ski

I’ve been trying to figure out what my Hawaii sport is going to be. I tried the prone paddle boarding but I’m not sure that’s for me since lying on my stomach sometimes causes my back and legs to spasam. It’s true that I’ve only tried that three times and while the first time with coaches was fun, once I got in the water by myself it was a lot harder. There’s a learning curve that I haven’t concurred.

Doing sports, especially water sports alone isn’t an option for me since I need help getting into the water. I don’t have the strength to walk in the sand on my own. Once I’m on the board I’m fine. If I fall in, the board I’ve been using is specially modified with handles so I can pull myself back on. The problem is finding people willing to help get me on the board and go paddling with me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few members of a local group go out with me a few times. I’m still trying to get the hang of it, but I’m improving.

So now I’m looking into wave skiing. A wave ski is  sort of a sit down surf board. There is a seatbelt around your waist and your feet are held down with straps.

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I haven’t actually done it yet but there is one for sale on Craigslist. I say that because I don’t think there’s any place on Oahu that rents them. I contacted AccesSurf and they are considering doing monthly clinics so maybe I’ll get on one soon.

A surfski is similar to a wave ski but it’s more like a kayak with more of a molded bowl seat and foot activated rudders. I tried one once in a creek, but I think waves would intimidate me. They are really tippy and I’m not sure I’d be able to get back on out in deep water.

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For now, I’ll wait for an opportunity to give a wave ski a test and maybe get back on a surf ski once more before ruling that out completely.

Having fun with AccesSurf.

I’ve been having fun this summer exploring handicap possible water activities. There’s a lot to explore here in Hawaii and with a little or sometimes much help, I’ve found new sports to try.

It started back in March with AccesSurf. This is a great organization that brings a wide range of people with various physical challenges out into the ocean to swim, surf, paddle board and kayak. They have two gatherings a month, one for all challenged athletes and one for Wounded Warriors. http://www.accessurf.org

My first day with the group, they escorted my out into the water on a big-wheeled chair and guided me in swimming. It was my first time in the ocean in probably fifteen years. The volunteers were great, very responsive to any special needs. I didn’t actually do much of anything. They suspended me in the water and let me float. Truthfully, it was pretty uncomfortable since the life vest forced my neck into an awkward position.

After the swim came the part I was really looking forward to, SURFING! Okay, I won’t be standing up on a board anytime soon, but riding tandem on my belly out into the waves was exhilarating.  We caught three 3-4 foot waves before I had to let someone else have their turn. So much fun! I’ve wanted to surf since I was a little girl. Dream come true.

I now try to make it out every month. Last month they changed it up and had kayaking, canoeing and prone paddle boarding.

What is prone paddle boarding? It’s also known as traditional paddle boarding, which is what the Hawaiians originally did before stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). The board is more like a surf board but you lie on it and paddle with your arms. It’s a sport that I can do solo once I’m in the water, so for that reason, I really like it.

AccessSurf prone paddleboarding

AccessSurf prone paddleboarding

The guy that taught me, Mark Matheson, is a paraplegic who competes in long distance races with his team. His boards are customized with handles and an extra large wedge of foam to lean on and prop the neck up. We both went out and it felt so good to be doing something all on my own in the water.

Since then, Mark has offered to let me use his extra board to see if this is really the sport for me. He introduced me to a friend that he paddle with and the friend asked how my swimming skills were. Whoops. Not great.

So, last weekend I tried ocean swimming for the first time in probably twenty years. It took a lot of assistance to get me into and out of the water, but in the water wasn’t so bad. I wouldn’t want to be in the water without either a floatation device or life vest but I didn’t feel completely out of control. I did take my life vest off and let go of the boogie board for a minute or two. Swimming definitely uses body parts I haven’t been using for a while. It’s something I’ll have to do though if I do take up prone paddle boarding.

My life has been quite busy with beach activities, farmer’s markets and local events this summer. The thing is, this is Hawaii. I can to do these things year round.

Surfing rocks!

sand Kailua

You my not know it but I have a disability that prevents me from doing most activities that require leg strength. I get around with a walker or mobility scooter which separates me from people. My forays into nature are quite mild these days – reading in the park, gardening on my lanai. I rarely have the opportunity to absorb myself deep into the natural environment.

Last weekend however I had the chance to participate in AccessSurf’s program. I was escorted into the ocean by two friendly volunteers who helped me float among the waves. I think it’s been at least twenty years since I’ve been deeper than me knees into a body of water other than a pool. It felt wonderful to just feel the wawes rushing around me.

But the best part was the surfing. Yes, it was a modified version of surfing aided by a whole team of instructors and volunteers but it was a blast. I laid down on a very long surfboard modified with handles on the sand and the team lifted me and carried be into the water.

My instructor Chris hopped on the board behind me and paddled out into the waves. It was a decent surf day at White Plains Beach with waves of 4-5 feet. Because of the size and weight of two people on a big board, I had to take the brunt of the waves as we splashed through to get out far enough. Luckily another surfer had loaned me his surfing sunglasses so my contacts stayed put. The water was so clean. I’m used to New Jersey water. This was totally different.

Just the ride out was fun but once we turned around and caught a wave, I was in love. It was so fun. Powering through the foaming aqua water was exhilarating. Floating on top of a massive expanse of liquid with some control but just letting the wave take you was so empowering.

AccessSurf provides this program once a month for disabled people of all kinds and also a separate program for Wounded Warriors. Through donations and volunteers participants are provided with equipment, instruction and even a picnic.

Here’s a video of my day at the beach. I hope to return soon.

Books about Hawai’i

As I settle into Hawaiian life, I find myself wanting to learn more about the history and culture of the islands. When I was preparing for the move I turned to several guidebooks to research where to live and what to expect but didn’t have the time to explore the rich history of Hawai’i. So here are a few books that are primers for living the aloha way.

Moving to Hawaii: A Step-By-Stp Guide by Michele Meyer was my go to guide for all questions moving related. Michele has a well-orgaized website and clearly written book that addresses many aspects of daily life in Hawaii such as cost of living, finding a home, enrolling in school, and questions you should ask yourself before you make the move. The link below takes you to the author’s website where you can start answering these questions yourself.

Moving To Hawaii

Now, moving on to the more classic, traditional Hawaiian books.

James Michener’s Hawaii is a book that I’ve been aware of my whole life since it sat on my family’s bookshelf but I never gave it any consideration until I moved here. It’s length is intimidating and I admit that I’m just getting started with reading it.

This book of historical fiction takes you through the geology, evolution and cultural development of the islands. This book was first published in 1959 and there is some cultural insensitivity within the story that may not be for everyone. Just because it’s dated doesn’t mean it’s not a good read. I’ll let you know once I’ve finished it.

Until then, here’s some quick quotes of reviews posted on Amazon.

“Wonderful . . . [a] mammoth epic of the islands.”The Baltimore Sun

“One novel you must not miss! A tremendous work from every point of view—thrilling, exciting, lusty, vivid, stupendous.”Chicago Tribune

“From Michener’s devotion to the islands, he has written a monumental chronicle of Hawaii, an extraordinary and fascinating novel.”Saturday Review

“Memorable . . . a superb biography of a people.”Houston Chronicle

Here’s Jame’s Michener’s Hawaii.

 Kailua

The other book I’m currently reading is Eddiie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing by Stuart Holmes Coleman. This is a much easier book to read than Hawaii. It transforms a tragic, true story of a surfer who lost his life to the ocean into a tale of a Hawaiian waterman’s strength, courage and goodwill that has inspired surfers for decades. I’m much more likely to finish this story.

Eddie Would Go

I’ve been looking for books on the flora and fauna of the islands but have yet to find any that I really like. I’ll keep searching.

 

 

 

Hawaii fruit and vegetable explorations.

Since I moved to Oahu from the mainland over three months ago, I’ve decided to embrace the new variety of produce that is available. I decided to try a new fruit or vegetable each week. There are some things that look interesting, but if I can’t learn its name, I don’t buy it because I can’t look up what to do with it.

I learned my lesson with that the hard way. For instance, papaya seeds, while having a nice peppery taste can cause some intestinal distress. Oops. I learned from a traditional Hawaiian healing book at the library that it was believed the the seeds prevented cancer so maybe it all works out.

Here’s a list of things I’ve tried so far. I may have forgotten a few.

Sea asparagus – salty but makes a good pesto.

Papaya – many varieties, good in smoothies. Best when really soft.

Apple bananas – nice, small size, a little less sweet but not that different from normal bananas.

Starfruit – nice garnish in cocktails. Juicy and light.

Pomegranate – sweet and colorful but a lot of work. Fruit caviar! Will stain your clothes.

Permission – several varieties, delicate when ripe, handle with care.

Egg fruit – dry, hard boiled egg yolk texture. Interesting and probably good mixed with something (I saw cheesecake recipes).

Some produce is only available for a few weeks so I missed out on trying dragon fruit and breadfruit as well as these red little sea urchin looking things whose names I never learned.

In my kitchen, almost any fruit or vegetable is likely to end up in the blender or juicer, so if I’m not crazy about one, toss it in with a banana and it’s all good.

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Changing up my food.

Since I recently moved to Hawaii from the mainland, I’ve decided to embrace the new variety of produce that is available. I decided to try a new fruit or vegetable each week. There are some things that look interesting, but if I can’t learn its name, I don’t buy it.

There’s a reason for that. My first few experiments could have been potentially disastrous.

Living Cheaply in Hawai’i

I just moved to Oahu from Washington state. I did a little research beforehand on what to expect as far as the price differences but it really is just trial and error, figuring out how to get the best deal. I’ve lived here in Kailua for only a month but I’ve figured out a few things.

1. The bus is a good deal here Most rides are $2.50, $1 for disabled and seniors. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this after I’ve tested it out for awhile but so far it seems like an efficient way to get around.

2. Groceries can be expensive so stay flexible about that you eat. Stock up on nonperishables when they are on sale. If you have the time, go to more than one store to shop the sales and definitely join the reward programs. Try different brands. Something produced locally is going to be cheaper than a national brand shipped from the mainland. For produce try the farmers’ markets. They can be touristy but there is often a more unique selection.

I’m not a fan of Costco and Sam’s Club but it might be an option. I found Target groceries to be significantly cheaper on some items, but not all. It depends on how far you are willing to travel and how much time you can spend.

3. Gas costs more per gallon but it is consistent. All pumps seem to be within a cent or two difference so just go to the closest.

4. There’s no way around it, housing is expensive. Coming from the Seattle area, I didn’t find it completely outrageous. You just have to focus on the area you want to live in and be ready to jump on any bargain you may find. Compromise. You are living in Hawaii. Find something you feel comfortable in but maybe not the same square footage you had elsewhere. Rent first. You want to know the area before you commit to buying.

5. No need to spend much on entertainment. My local library is limited but functional. The beach is free. Some  MeetUps are free.

So, I have a lot to learn about Hawai’i including the language. OK, I’m not talented at leaning languages but it’s helpful to know a few Hawaiian words at least because people do use it mixed in with English conversation. I don’t know how long I’ll stay here so I might as well learn as much of the culture as I can while I have the opportunity. Living on a budget just brings you closer to local life and that’s just part of the adventure of moving somewhere new.

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View from my balcony