19 December 2007

Kayak Na Pali

Six months ago today, James and I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime: seventeen miles of sea kayaking along Kauai’s rugged and beautiful Na Pali coast.

Before this experience I had never kayaked. I had never even been in a boat on the ocean. Sure, I’ve canoed the Current River a variety of times during the last few years, but there’s really no comparison. ‘Kayaking Na Pali’ and ‘floating the Current’ are nothing alike.

And let’s be honest, it was James’ idea.

I was clueless about what I’d gotten myself into.

Known as the Everest of sea kayaking, it’s been the most physically challenging and rewarding experience of my life. Not to mention that it ranks second on National Geographic’s list of America’s 100 Best Adventures, after rafting the Colorado River and just ahead of dog sledding the Brooks Range in Alaska.

It was a Tuesday.

Our kayaking journey began when we walked out the door just after 5 am, or midnight if we were still in St. Louis.

For me, it certainly felt like midnight since we had only been on Kauai for about 36 hours – not long enough to adjust to the five hour time difference. And since we’re being honest, I’ll admit that I might have had one too many Mai-Tai’s at Tahiti Nui the night before. (Tip: avoid Mai Tai’s the night before. Hat Tip: Tahiti Nui is a must-visit while you're exploring Kauai.)

An hour later we met our group at Kayak Kauai in Hanalei, loaded into the van, and headed to Ha'ena County Beach Park where our sea kayaking adventure would begin. (There were a surprising number of quasi-homeless people living in makeshift camps around the park. Apparently, this is kind of common on Kauai and Maui.)

Our group organized itself on the beach and we securely packed our gear into our kayaks. After brief paddling instructions by one of our guides, Doug, we were in the water.

About three minutes later, James and I flipped over.

It wasn’t bad at all. The worst part was trying to use my weak-ass arms to pull myself back into the kayak. Yes, climbing back in to the kayak sucked more than falling out.

And that’s the reason I only took one or two pictures the entire day. Even when we’d take a break from paddling, we stayed in our kayaks. I had no idea when or if we’d flip again and I didn’t want to take any chances of ruining my camera. (Tip: pack a waterproof camera.)

One mile into the voyage our guides gathered the group together for the last chance to bail out: Ke’e Beach. After this point there is no road access until Polihale State Park, sixteen miles (of paddling) away. Between here and there stand cliffs of lava rock interrupted only by sea caves, waterfalls and pristine beaches, some of which are off-limits to kayakers.

There’s a reason Ke’e Beach is nicknamed “End of the Road” by the locals – it’s the point of no return.

…To Be Continued…

(I have Christmas responsibilities, yo.)

Listening to: Gorillaz - New Genius (Brother) [Mix]


  1. Damn...you have done a very hard adventure and...yes, you need a waterproof camera :)

  2. Flipping over.

    Yet another reason why I don't kayak.

    The first reason is that there are no cheerleaders.

  3. I've kayaked several times in the Gulf and in random lakes. . . nothing as strenuous as you, but getting back into the kayak from the water is the most un-graceful thing anyone should ever have to watch. It's much easier to get back in if you imagine that no one's watching your butt sticking up in the air as you hike your body back over the kayak.

  4. @Andrea Matranga.... Roughly translated, it means "Hello, do you speak Italian?" Or, "Goodbye, Italian Parliament."

    Dude, I gotta learn a little Italian.



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