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Naish House 2.0 : A Hawaiian Winter

Sept 9, 2010

Author: Holly Robertson

The Naish House 2.0 coincided with a phenomenal winter in Hawaii. The original plan was to have the entire event take place on Oahu, but when December rolled around some serious storms in the Pacific delivered typically diverse winter conditions to both Oahu and Maui. Jaws was seeing its best swell in years and the Pipeline Masters was experiencing perfect waves and a record turnout. In between their kite sessions, the Naish team was exposed to all aspects of a winter on the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii is an amazing place any time of year, but a Hawaiian winter is a special thing. It’s still warm, with average temperatures being only a few degrees colder than summer. It can rain for days or be sunny for weeks. The wind is up and down, and the surf can go from flat to twenty-five feet in a matter of hours. As Forest Gump would say: “You never know what you’re gonna get.” In winter you can have long periods of no wind, but you can also have the best kiteboarding conditions ever, with incredible North Shore surf and riding at spots that you may only get to ride once or twice per year. You just have to be in the right place at the right time. You have to fly between islands. You have to chase it, and at the same time be patient and go with the flow. Wind, waves, rain or shine, Naish House 2.0 was about winter in Hawaii; hardcore kiteboarding when the conditions are happening and hardcore fun when they’re not! —Robby Naish

This year’s lineup consists of: World Champion Kevin Langeree; British Champion Sam Light; French Champion Florian Daubos; North Shore Oahu Unhooked Wave Master Reo Stevens; California Strapless Wave Phenomenon Ian Alldredge; All-around French Ripper Cyril Coste; Naish Kite Designer Damien Girardin; and Robby Naish.

Naish House 2.0 from naishkiteboarding on Vimeo.

DAY 1: Morning venture to Jaws on North Shore Maui and afternoon Westside kitesurfing session at a secret local spot.

Waking up early to beat the rush, the crew journeyed along the country road, winding past Ho’okipa to the pineapple fields of Haiku. The road to Jaws features the ocean on one side, so you can gauge the wind and swell for the day, and acres of cane and pineapple fields on the other.

Damien: A way-out-of-season typhoon coming from Japan turned into one of the biggest storms ever in the North Pacific, resulting in one of the biggest swells in years for Hawaii on December 7, 2009. These waves were coming with no wind, creating one of the sickest Jaws days ever! As we drove to the sketchy dirt road between mile marker 13 and 14, an announcer plays back a recording from exactly 68 years ago on this day: “Pearl Harbor is under attack!”

Sam: The wind forecast was kinda sketchy the first few days of Naish House 2.0, but the surf forecast rocked; it was huge! With comments like, “biggest swell in 40 years” and “60-foot faces” the whole of the North Shore on both Maui and Oahu were talking. I was on Maui a few days before the rest of the guys arrived and woke up at 6 a.m. to get down to Jaws (as it was a zoo at 8 a.m. the day before and I knew the wind would pick up slightly). I saw the biggest sets I’ve seen in my life!

Flo: Jaws is such a mythical place for water sports, and as an ocean fanatic, I was pretty stoked to admire the monstrous waves crashing into the reef. The ambiance at Jaws is surreal. When a big swell comes to Maui, it seems that the entire island is living in a “swell” mood. There were more than 50 skis out towing guys in. Robby and Kai Lenny were killing it. Watching the different generations out there together was epic.

Kevin: I saw Jaws for the first time in my life… That was seriously unreal!

Watching Dave Kalama, Laird Hamilton, Robby and 17-year-old Kai Lenny battle a dangerously beautiful wave like Jaws jump-kicked the guys better than chugging a gallon of Red Bull. After taking the morning to witness the eighth wonder of the world, it was their turn to get in on the action. With a light north wind kicking in on the North Shore they headed to the west side for an afternoon kite session (the only spot on Maui that works for kiting with a north wind). When they arrived at a secret local spot there was a side-shore wind around 15 knots with a two to three metre shore break that made for a sick first day of kiting. The guys were obviously stoked to be kicking it together again, doing what they love on the windy isle.

Damien: The lighting was insane as we drove to the west side of the island to a secret local spot. The wind was kind of light but there was a solid wave breaking super close to the shore. Kevin was just crowned World Champ in freestyle, but his wave riding is just as powerful too and he’s fearless! He’s charging the fat shore break with a huge grin on his face. Reo was really killing it too, showing off his famous off the top skills.

DAY 2: Team building activity on outrigger canoes and afternoon SUP session on a perfect wave at Kanaha (Central/North Maui).

All-around waterman and Naish Maui Sales Rep, Nitsan Solomonov, is an avid paddler and canoe club member. Nitsan arranged a traditional team-building activity on Hawaiian outrigger canoes. Each six-man canoe is made up of a steersman, who sits in the back, and five others sitting in front. The person in the number one seat sets the pace and the person in seat three keeps count letting the rest of the team know when to switch paddling sides. Flo and Sam must have thought they were on a gondola because they just sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the ride while everyone else paddled. Maybe they were just saving energy for the killer SUP session that followed.

Reo: The facet of Hawaii that I am always stoked to share with people is the Hawaiian culture. Since the landing of Captain Cook in 1776, the Hawaiian people have always shared a warm and loving attitude with others and that attitude hasn’t changed much over the years. They believed that the group as a whole should work together with everyone specializing in a certain area. This belief was not limited to the work of their survival in the areas of war and farming, but also transferred to areas of fun and recreation. Outrigger canoeing is an excellent example of this.

Kevin: It was fun but kind of hard because it was a team activity. The person at the head of the canoe sets the pace for everyone else. I was at the front and I kept getting distracted and forgot everyone was following my lead. I’d be going really fast and concentrating, then I’d see something off to the side and slow down to look at it, then stop altogether and realize everyone else had stopped too… oops. I’m not really good at team sports. It was fun to catch waves though; you catch them easy and just keep going.

Sam: After canoeing we decided to go for a stand-up session on a desolate outside reef bank. It’s a stellar wave that breaks on the outside, and then walls up into a weird bowl and a sick right that was barreling. Nitsan was out on a ski doing a sterling job dropping [photographers] Stephen and Elliot off in the perfect spot to get the shots, I was on a 7’9” which was a bit short for some of the big drops; I’d call it a solid overhead and double-overhead English size. I tried getting shacked a few times but just got worked. It was one of the best paddleboard sessions I’ve ever had. My favourite thing about surfing is when it’s just you out with your buddies, everyone is shouting and cheering and there’s just a righteous atmosphere.

Flo: SUP rocks. It keeps your whole body fit and it’s great to surf. The outside reef was just insane! The waves were clean and tight. We were the only people at the pick, getting huge drops. On the way back to the beach, the sun was dying under the mountains and I could see turtles, whales and seals. Mother Nature was looking her best.

Damien: The waves were insanely clean and the drop felt like a perfect Tahitian wave drop. Sharing a perfect glassy three metre wave SUP session with friends is as good as it gets.

DAY 3: Freestyle action on the Central/North Shore of Maui at Kite Beach followed by island hopping over to Oahu.

Day three brought perfect freestyle conditions with 12m weather and flat water at Kite Beach. Kevin, Sam and Flo were dominating the waters, showing off their champion freestyle skills.

Damien: The wind picked up the next day, permitting some serious freestyle action. Kevin was killing it, obviously still pumped from winning the world championship. Sam was throwing wake style move after move. Sam definitely shows how wake style is done. There isn’t a lot of muscle needed, but it requires a lot of momentum to launch off the jump and roll with it until landing. It is just Sam and gravity, a very pure style. Flo was fresh back from a knee injury that had him out for eight months and the 2010 Charger was the perfect kite for his debut.

Flo: Welcome trade winds! It was a bit difficult for me to show off my freestyle skills because of lingering pain and apprehension… but it felt so awesome to be out on the water again! There is nothing like it in the world; something about the ocean and what a kite permits you to do on the water that makes you feel so ALIVE! This difficult experience really changed my vision of the sport and reminds me how much you have to live it up every day. The lesson I learned from this is that you can’t control everything all the time, the way it goes can change so fast and you have to deal with it. Even if something happens or conditions suck, just play hard and always have fun!

From Maui to Oahu, there was too much going on to stay in one location. Checking out the forecast, all arrows pointed to chasing the wind over to Oahu. Everyone was at Damien’s house trying to pack 12 board bags (barely fitting it all into the bed of his truck) and get out the door in 15 minutes! The Super Ferry is no longer in operation, so the boys had to fly.

Kevin: We were rushing like crazy to pack everything and Damien is putting up his Christmas tree and hasn’t even started packing yet! It all worked out OK; we got everything on the plane, only paid $100 for the extra luggage (score), and barely made the flight. We got pretty lucky this time. We got into Oahu pretty late, grabbed McDonald’s and drove to the North Shore.

DAY 4: Kitesurfing at Mokes on North Shore, Oahu.

First kite session on Oahu was at Mokuleia. This is Reo’s stomping grounds where he undoubtedly contributed to some of the pathways through the bushes 11 years ago when he started kiting and all those lovely safety features hadn’t been invented yet. Reo learned to surf, windsurf and kitesurf at Mokes and was super stoked to show off this location to the rest of the team. With a sweet North swell and light wind, the wave riders were tearing it up until the wind collapsed and Robby lead the swim all the way to shore.

Ian: We got to Mokes and the wind was light. We could barely go on 12m but the surf was pretty fun. It was hilarious when the wind shut down pretty much instantly and everyone had to swim back!

Damien: Ian was simply killing it. His legendary strapless style got even more impressive since I saw him last. Robby was showing the boys how it’s done to ride backside; the whole “family” was out on the water together. When the wind suddenly turned off, the whole family got to swim back to shore together too!

Flo: In the evening we cheered some beers at Nick’s and barbecued. Robby grilled steaks! Huge thanks Nick! He has an amazing house in front of the beach on the North Shore. It was so much fun kickin’ it there.

Kevin: It was cool kickin’ it with everyone from last year’s house and watching the surf pick up along with the crazy sunset. Sitting beach-side of North Shore, Oahu makes you feel pretty damn lucky for this lifestyle.

DAY 5: Pipeline Masters on North Shore Oahu.

The next day unreal surf conditions accompanied the Pipeline Masters and the guys just walked down the street to show up at the right time to witness a record-breaking turn out.

Flo: In the morning we watched the Pipeline Masters, which is the final of the WCT Pro surf tour. The best surfers in the world were fighting for the world title in a thick six- to eight-foot Hawaiian. Back door and Pipe were breaking in huge barrels. Guys out there were ripping and lots of people were cheering on the beach. I had never seen a big surf contest before and it was impressive to watch celebrity surfers dropping in on these powerful, monster waves. Pipe is such a mythic wave, you can really feel that lots of important moments of surf history happened there, unfortunately sometimes causing casualties among the best pro surfers.

Kevin: Super cool to see that wave in real life. It was so crowded on the beach, it was like a football stadium!

DAY 6: The invention of tow-in kiting at Phantoms on North Shore, Oahu, and a little nightlife action at Waikiki in Honolulu.

No one had tried tow-in kiting yet, so on a light wind day the guys got out the Jet Skis and gave it a shot. It turned out to be a fun approach and a brand new avenue!

Sam: At our pimp house on the North Shore of Oahu right on the beach at Backyards, we were chilling on the balcony watching over about five world-class breaks including the famous towing wave, Phantoms, that only breaks at about 10-15 ft faces. The wind was light and offshore. On a recent photoshoot in the Caribbean, I tried towing behind a boat while flying a kite to create enough wind to kite along for about 20 yards to capture a picture. We figured if we could tow a wave guy, like Ian, into a wave, he would have enough apparent wind to catch the wave then use the power of the wave to keep his speed. No one has ever done it before so we thought we would give it a go as we had three Jet Skis waiting. It didn’t work quite as well as planned, as the wind was dropping even more, but after we ditched the kite I towed Ian into a bomber! Naa, it wasn’t huge, but it was so much fun towing him in. I think it’s definitely possible to tow in a kiter and might even give them more of a chance to get radical as they won’t have as much power in the kite pulling them out of their manoeuvre.

That night the guys ventured over to Waikiki to soak up some of the famous Honolulu nightlife. Kevin managed to attract some special attention during his first exposure to Hawaii’s big city.

Kevin: People always make comments about Amsterdam being full of drugs and prostitution. We drove downtown to the Beach Walk of Waikiki and the second I stepped out of the car someone immediately approached me and asked if I wanted to buy some weed. He walked away, and a moment later a prostitute came up to me! What are the chances?! It was fun going out on the town with all the guys. What is up with the TVs in bars? Why do people go out to watch television?

DAY 7: Shark diving outside the North Shore of Oahu.

It must have been Jaws going off on Maui that got the guys in the mood to go cage diving with sharks on Oahu. Kevin said swimming with “10 to 15” sharks was one of his favourite parts of the trip. Sam claimed that swimming with “15 to 20” sharks surrounding him was amazing. Ian thought that swimming with “over 20” sharks was incredible. Hmmm… starting to sound like a good old “fish story.”

Flo: In the morning we went for a shark boat trip outside the North shore. I’m totally fascinated by sharks. They’re super shy and intelligent, opposite of what most people think. This was a dream come true for me and I’m so stoked we did it! On the way back to the harbour, we met a group of dolphins. There were so many of them (babies and adults) jumping and flipping everywhere. The day ended magically. Once again I realized how wonderful the ocean is, and felt guilty to remember how we treat it at times.

DAY 8: Island life: SUP action around little islands off Kailua, cave diving and cliff jumping.

The last day was full of adventures. It consisted of standup paddling around islands and swimming into caves (where you could witness a bunch of extreme adrenaline junkies acting like a litter of scared wet kittens).

Ian: We took the SUP boards to these islands by Kailua. The water was crystal clear and there were huge coral heads everywhere. Waves wrapped around the islands and came from every direction. You could go LEFT and turn on a wave coming at you from the opposite direction and then go RIGHT. The water was glassy and it rained when we came in. Sam and Flo were trying to tip everyone over with their paddles, stupid mother-f%$ers. I managed to stay away from them.

Sam: After we went standup paddling around the little islands, we found some caves to investigate. Flo and I went into this tiny cave; dude, it was scary! When a set came in, the cave would fill to the top, then suck completely dry between each wave. You had to wedge yourself in, to stop getting worked. Stephen and his daughter were at the back of the cave where it was pitch black, super scary! There were all of us fearless international kiters, too scared to go in, when Stephens’s young daughter is in the very back! Bunch of wimps!

Flo: As the sun was going down, owing to mighty cliffs and breaking waves, the atmosphere was pretty frightening. Finally we went back to earth through the lagoon under an amazing sunset, shading off sky colours from blue to orange, then pink to green.

All in all it was a killer week. The boys didn’t kite every day, but they did score some awesome riding. Above all, they were experienced what winter in Hawaii is all about from Maui to Oahu, huge swell to flat water and Kona winds to cranking trades.

From there they packed their bags and went their separate ways. Kevin headed back to Holland for the holidays then shot off to South Africa for winter training. Sam headed to Australia to work on videos. Flo and Cyril headed to France to freeze their asses off. Ian headed back to Cali to kitesurf the shores of Santa Barbara. Robby and Damien hopped back over to Maui. And Reo is still on Oahu soaking up one of the best Hawaiian winters of his lifetime.

Special thanks to: Nick and the Geranio family; Henry and Janet Larrucea; Elliot Leboe, ACL Productions; Stephen Whitesell; Nitsan Solomonov; Sharon Balidoy, Lae`Ula O Kai Canoe Club; and Stephanie Brendl,

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