Posted by: newenglandsup | March 13, 2009

Maui – downwinders rule

What a magical place! I’m not really sure where to begin. I had meant to update the blog during my vacation but just didn’t have time. Even my time and posts on the standupzone were down and that’s saying something. It was great meeting all the Maui zone folks. Most of the names mentioned here will include their online handles. I’ll break up our stay into a few posts.

I guess I’ll begin at the beginning. 1st…even when Maui is bad it’s great. The weather was so so, the surf was actually better here for much of the time (go figure), it rained quite a bit, and it was cool by Maui standards. We still had a great time. We arrived Thursday early evening met by brother Bill (PonoBill) and headed straight to Jacque’s in Paia for dinner (always a great way to start a vacation).

We met up with family and Alan (shapeshifter) from the zone. Great to meet him finally. We’ve been talking/chatting a lot online for the last year and a half and it felt like I was seeing and old friend. What a character…very interesting guy. His primary purpose for this visit to the islands is to source ingredients for his new skin cream. Works great by the way. Completely natural, great SPF protection, antibacterial, and smells good to boot. Just the stuff for skin that’s beat up from too much saltwater and sun and exposure to bacteria and pollutants in the water.

Friday 2/27
Bill and I did a short downwinder from Cove Park in Kihei to Sorrentos in the morning just to get wet. I wasn’t in the water 30 secs before falling hard on some coral and slicing and dicing my legs. Bleeding, chumming for sharks the rest of the way (actually not funny considering what happened later).

Met up with Rand (admin) and Chantalle (chan) for lunch and then later they joined us, Mark (kiwi) and Alan for a downwinder from the kihei wharf back to Mark’s. This was my 1st attempt getting offshore a bit in high winds and some swell. What a blast! I was on Bill’s 12′ Foote downwind board and was surprised how easy it was. I had a bit of a headcold which screws up my already bad balance but I was still able to stay upright for most of the run and catch some of swells.

There is a BIG difference between purpose built downwind boards and regular standup boards. They catch the swells so much easier. Despite the high winds there wasn’t enough fetch to generate big swells on the south side. The knee high swells that I was catching easily on the Foote would require a lot more trimming and moving around on the board on my 12-6 Starboard Cruiser and that is an easy board to catch waves with compared to most. If you plan on getting into downwind, a purpose built board is a big plus.

Chan is FAST!…..after hanging around a bit and swapping boards with Alan she took off and went way to the outside to catch the best swells and was quickly a dot on the horizon. Rand hung around for a bit and then started chasing her. Mark stuck around to take pics of the slow. He and Bill would have easily left Alan and I way behind if they hadn’t waited for us frequently. Bill on the 18′ Penetrator and Mark on his SIC F-18. Alan was on the 12-6 Starboard and the difference between a downwind board and a regular board showed. Alan is better on the water than I am and yet I could still pull away on the 12′ Foote because it was so easy to catch swells

Here are a few pictures to demonstrate (Thanks to Mark for the pics)
Bill on the amazingly fast Penetrator

Alan on the Starboard

Yours truly on the Foote (Alan just behind me)

Side by side

Catching some swells and pulling away. You can see how critical learning to read and ride swells is to downwind racing. More on that later. I’m a complete newb at this so its all board difference here (could help that my fat ass makes a better sail than Alan too…:)).


We were about 1/2 mile from Sorrentos when Mark called out to Bill. This is when I was glad my cuts from earlier were no longer bleeding. When Mark called Bill he turned his head to hear better and a bit of chop caused him to fall. Suddenly Mark starts yelling “BILL, THERE’S A BIG, MONSTER TIGER SHARK……GET ON YOUR BOARD”. When Mark 1st called out to Bill it was to let him know there was a shark near them…when Bill fell in the shark suddenly veered in his direction. Needless to say Bill wasted no time getting back onboard. For a brief moment i thought of paddling over to see if I could get a view of the shark…but that would have required paddling side on to the swell…increasing any falling potential…not a good time to do that. figured I’d focus on staying upright.

I was completely sold on downwinders after this 1st day. I’ve been doing what I thought were mini-downwinders here at home but it doesn’t even compare. A real downwind board and real downwind conditions make this an amazing way to spend some very fun time on the water. The best way is to get a crew together and be safe. Know your limits, respect the ocean, let folks on shore know your plans and expect a call from you when you launch and land.

Some good safety gear is probably a smart idea depending on where you are and the potential for problems. I’m thinking of a downwinder from Provincetown to Plymouth during a nor’easter. In those kind of conditions I’d want a PFD, waterproof VHF, flares, and a spare paddle. Better safe than dead.

More Maui to come…:)



  1. Bob,

    When are you starting your race board build project? We should chat direct via email.

    fishersfortblog at

  2. I have to get some things ready 1st. I don’t have a good spot to build it. No garage and all my woodworking is done outside on nice days. given the size and time necessary to build it I need to figure out the logistics 1st.

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