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HAWAII'S BACK YARD


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Kayaking delivers different perspectives of land and sea

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:14 a.m. HST, Jun 13, 2010


Sleek and stately as a sub, the humpback rose from the sea 10 feet away from an astounded kayaker off Kahana Valley. After releasing a 12-foot plume of spray, the mammoth whale dipped beneath the kayak and came up for one more breath of air before vanishing in the deep blue of the Pacific.

On another outing a hundred dolphins surrounded a kayaker near Shark's Cove. He quickly donned his snorkeling gear and jumped in the water. Unfazed, the dolphins cavorted so close to him, he could've easily reached out and touched them. That surely was the most incredible swim of his life.

"You never know what you'll see when you go kayaking with us," said David Elgas, co-owner of Haleiwa-based Coastal Kayak Tours. "The ancient Hawaiians traveled around and between the islands via canoe. Our tours enable you to look at Oahu from their perspective."

From the time he was a young boy growing up in Southern California, Elgas has nurtured a strong connection to the ocean. His parents taught him how to swim before he could walk, and he began bodysurfing when he was barely bigger than his board. He remembers fishing for perch off rock jetties, and learning how to surf on an old longboard that was so heavy he needed the help of a friend to carry it.

In 1987, at age 20, Elgas moved to Oahu's North Shore to pursue his passion for water sports, which he describes as "fun, green and a great way to get exercise. Kayaking is suitable for people of all ages, and they can do it at their own pace. They can start by going a short distance in a controlled environment like a stream or a river, or close to shore. When they build up their strength, endurance and confidence, they can take on the challenge of ocean kayaking."

ADVENTURES IN KAYAKING

» What: Coastal Kayak Tours

» Meeting place and time: Varies, depending on the tour

» Offered: Daily

» Cost: Three-, five- and seven-hour tours range from $125 to $260 per person. Kayak and kayak-sailing lessons are $50 per hour. Kamaaina receive 10 percent off. Discounts for groups of at least three people start at 15 percent.

» What to look for: Coastal Kayak Tours guarantees that you'll see turtles on every tour; if not, you'll receive a $5 refund. For an additional $15, your guide will take digital pictures of your tour and e-mail them to you. All tours are private and include an American Red Cross-certified guide, kayak and fishing equipment, beverages and snacks or lunch, depending on the tour.

» Phone: 638-9100

» E-mail: guides@coastalkayaktours.com

» Website: www.coastalkayaktours.com

» Notes: Participants must be between 10 and 65 years old, in good physical condition and know how to swim. Those who haven't been kayaking before or don't have much experience should take a one-hour lesson before going on a tour. If you are prone to motion sickness, take the appropriate medication as directed by your doctor. Wear a long-sleeve shirt or Lycra surf shirt, board shorts, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, diving gloves and a liberal dose of sunscreen. Bring a towel, snorkeling gear and a change of clothes in a dry bag. Coastal Kayak Tours periodically sponsors keiki kayak fishing tournaments. There's no entry fee, and the company provides prizes and a barbecue for the contestants. Call for more information.

Elgas is thrilled to operate a business that enables him to be in the water every day. Four years ago he was doing that only on weekends and between construction jobs. His girlfriend, Catherine Noah, dropped him off at Sunset Beach before dawn. From there he paddled to Haleiwa where she picked him up six hours later - hopefully with an ice chest full of aha (needlefish) and papio (young crevalle).

"The beauty and wildlife made the run very enjoyable even if the fish weren't biting," Elgas said. "After doing a lot of those trips, Catherine and I decided it'd be great to offer the same experience to visitors and kamaaina who don't spend much time on the water."

They launched Coastal Kayak Tours, which offers sightseeing and fishing tours on the North Shore, in 2006.

The Haleiwa excursions feature sightings of iwa (frigate birds), dolphins, monk seals and turtles. Ample time is set aside for swimming and sunbathing.

On the Waimea Bay, Three Tables and Shark's Cove tours, you'll paddle into the mouth of the Waimea River to enjoy spectacular views of Waimea Valley, one of Oahu's last partially intact ahupuaa (land division extending from the mountains to the sea). Snorkeling enthusiasts love the beaches at Three Tables and Shark's Cove because they are in a Marine Life Conservation District that harbors an incredible array of undersea creatures.

Long ago, Kahana Valley was a favored settlement because of its cool breezes and abundant fresh water. Highlights of this trip include gentle waves for kayak surfing and close looks at an ancient fishpond and tropical birds, including boobies and terns.

You'll land on one beach and hike to another during the tour to Mokolii islet, popularly known as Chinaman's Hat. Shoreline trails reveal breathtaking vistas of Kahaluu, Kaneohe, Kailua, Mokapu peninsula and the Koolau mountain range.

If you choose to explore Malaekahana, you'll stop at Mokuauia, or Goat Island, which rests one-eighth of a mile off Malaekahana Beach. Its draws include great snorkeling and bodysurfing; trails from which you can glimpse myriad nests of the wedge-tailed shearwater; and tide pools filled with urchins, sea cucumbers and crustaceans.

The seven-hour North Shore Tour showcases four of Oahu's best beaches - Sunset, a popular surfing spot; Waimea Bay, where daredevils leap 20 feet from Jump Rock into the ocean; Laniakea, reputedly the best place in Hawaii to see turtles; and Haleiwa, where you'll glide by picturesque Haleiwa Harbor, coral formations teeming with colorful fish, and the landmark twin-span Rainbow Bridge, which dates back to 1921.

"We take two breaks and travel downwind and with the current, which makes paddling for that daylong trip much easier," Elgas said. "Oahu's North Shore is one of the most beautiful places in Hawaii, and the views of it from a kayak are stunning. Plus, when you kayak you're not just looking at nature, you're immersed in it - the sun, the wind, the vastness and the rhythm of the water. That makes you realize how magnificent nature is and how lucky you are to be there at that moment."

 

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance travel writer whose travel features have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.






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