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Handling a Huli

“Ho! Da bugga wen huli maka flip.”

August 1, 2013
Jonica Hall - Contributing Writer , Maui Weekly

Maui Canoe Club wisely invited Dave Kalama to lead a canoe surfing workshop for our captains. With that, I'm going to start this story by telling you that Dave Kalama is a great guy. Not only is he a consummate waterman, but he's also a consummate gentleman. A man who has successfully challenged waves in excess of 60 feet not only took the time to come out and work with a group of canoe captains who have a mere scintilla of his experience, but he also did this with such patience, kindness and sheer sense of fun. He uttered not one word about how much less we knew than he. But had he mentioned that fact, it would have been totally true.

It was a truly pono experience.

Although originally slated to happen at Thousand Peeks, just off of the Pali, the blown-out conditions led us to the north end of Launiupoko ("short coconut leaf") Beach Park. This break ended up being the perfect spot for our learning adventure.

Article Photos

Imua With Maui Canoe Club
Jonica Hall

Dave showed up with his custom Kialoa surfing blade in hand, and a mischievous but welcoming smile on his face. He began by showing us the best way to rig our Outrigger Connection surfing canoe for this particular break. He told us the things we needed to take into consideration when rigging--like which side the wave is breaking on and how big and steep the wave is.

After a thorough discussion about proper rigging, the intrepid first crew set out, including Dave.

The waves were, on average, about four feet, and the break was pretty gentle. Regardless, even relatively gentle waves have the power to kick some okole, which we had ample opportunity to experience. But that, in turn, gave us the opportunity to learn how to better handle a huli--rollover, or in old "skoo," "Ho! Da bugga wen huli maka flip."

After the first couple of rollovers, Dave patiently (and breathlessly) began to explain and demonstrate the best ways to handle a huli.

The first thing he told us is to try to hang on! It's better to try to go with the canoe than to possibly be pummeled by it.

There is a caveat to this, though, as there always is when talking about the ever-changing ocean. In an extreme case (like you're on a really big wave and losing it), it might be best to bail out of the canoe before all "h" "e" "double hockey sticks" breaks loose.

The next great lesson we learned was that when you try to un-huli your canoe, everyone should get on the inside hull side and push the canoe away just as it's about to right its self. This keeps the inside of the canoe virtually dry as it is re-righted. Great tip!

Of course, while you're working on this, you should also be trying to keep your canoe perpendicular to (facing) the waves.

Lastly, we were reminded that huli aren't usually all that bad, especially in conditions where you expect them. The good part is, trying keep a canoe from a huli takes the cooperation and attention of the whole crew.

Maui Canoe Club welcomes guest paddlers Monday through Friday for our 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. canoe outings. Please show up at least 15 minutes in advance. For more information, please visit



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