03 January 2008

Kayak Na Pali: Part II: Re-do (A-gain)

After my mom called me a Cop-Out for writing such a lame second half to the better-written first half of my Kayak Na Pali story, I figured I could try and write something, anything to stop the heckling. (I never realized my mom was such a heckler.)

I think we paddled more than eight miles when we arrived at the open ceiling cave. It was an awesome sight to behold. The concept was simple enough; the roof collapsed into a pile of rubble leaving a giant skylight in the top of the cave. But this place was amazing.

I vividly remember seeing it the day before when we toured Kauai by helicopter. The giant blue donut at the edge of Na Pali was unmistakable in the rugged landscape. From the air, the cave looked enormous. I could see a couple boats inside and it looked like the perfect place to take a swim. I imagined myself climbing on the pile of rocks, stepping on a sea urchin (ouch!), shouting the f-word, listening for the echo, and then diving into the water.

In reality, by the time we arrived at the open top cave I didn’t have the energy to care.

In fact, I didn’t give a flying fuck about the stupid cave. I just wanted to get to our lunch spot and take a fucking break. I couldn’t stop thinking about how tired my body was.

The muscles in my shoulders and arms were burning.

I kept shaking.

My hands were fluctuating between numb and tingly.

I felt dehydrated. And I was starving.

If I climbed out of the kayak at that moment, without beach access that would allow me to step right back in, I’d have to ask one of the dudes to pull my ass into the kayak. How embarrassing!? No thanks.

I didn’t even get my camera out to take a picture. Instead, I leaned back in my kayak and propped up my feet. I enviously watched a few people jumping in, but I just wanted to rest.

To understand how I could feel so tired, you must know that in the five days prior to this my schedule was filled with everything but sleep. When we landed on Kauai I had slept less than three hours in the prior 72. A day and a half later, with barely ten additional hours of sleep, I was paddling my ass off along Na Pali.

What was I thinking?

At one point in the morning, our guides asked how we were. They seemed surprised to hear me say, “My hands are numb,” and James mumbled something like, “I want to puke.”

Them: Really? You guys look great! And you’re totally keeping up with the group.

Me: Ha ha… fooled you!!!

We played musical-kayaks and I ended up with some stranger on the back of mine. As it turned out, he had more than 25 years of kayaking experience. Not only had he kayaked all over the world, he had been a guide for many years. That dude changed the course of the day. He was a life-saver.

And yeah, I’m a total dick because I can’t remember his name; however, I do know that it’s not to be confused with Bill or Jack or Pete or Dennis.

In the two miles we spent together I learned quite a bit; mostly, I learned that my paddling technique was wrong in every possible way. He showed me a few things not to do and shouted out friendly reminders like, “Dooon’t foooorget to loooook at the sceeeeenerrryyyyy!”

And he was right.

I hadn’t been looking at the scenery.

I was paddling and mumbling to myself, “I’m never going to make it. Please God, summon a shark to my kayak and let him bite off just one of my arms. Preferably my left one, God, please.”

I had to change my mindset, refocus.

My inner thoughts went something like this:

Snap out of it, you big baby! Here I am, rocking like a hurricane (again), exploring an amazing place where very few people have gone and will ever go, a place where only the physically fit and brave can survive, and you’re praying for a shark attack!? That’s your answer to ‘the easy way out?’ …Unless you’re willing to have an emergency boat radioed in to your aid while the rest of the group has to sit and wait on your ass to be rescued, because you’re a big baby, not hurt - and I’ll bet that’s expensive – it appears that the reality of the situation is you MUST paddle until you reach Polihale beach. Like mom always said, Kwit-yer-bitchin!

Whoa, I just verbally kicked my own ass. You go, self!

I had spent far too much time focusing on the negatives and wishing my time away.

Kayaking Na Pali is one of the most incredible and beautiful adventures I’ve experienced. It was enlightening, overwhelming, exhilarating, breathtaking, astonishing, extraordinary, stunning and picturesque. Words and pictures can never capture the essence of Na Pali. It is captivating, romantic, dangerous and challenging.

I can’t wait to go back.


  1. I'm always amazed by what motivates people to such physical things. It's nice to know that even though you would totally do it again, you weren't happy the entire time either. If you know what I mean.....Every time my husband gets a tattoo he doesn't pretend that it doesn't hurt like hell, or that the last one didn't almost make him physically ill because it took so long, but he can't wait for the next one. The pain and agony makes it all part of the thrill, and what an accomplishment! Seeing those pics makes me want to go back.....

  2. a great "second half" to the trip! one thing for sure, if you take a physical trip get into shape that accounts for poor technique! if you aren't in too much pain and mumbling mode you will be that more aware of what is going on.

    thanks for sharing and i hope you do something equally challenging soon.

    my mom is a heckler.

  3. Wow.

    Sounds like fun.

    I went to the mall and then to Chuck E. Cheese.



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