Nobody had ever done this. Not between Big Island and Kauai. My first idea was a paddle across the Atlantic. But I figured I’d start with something a little easier — like a 350-mile ride in a windblown Hawaiian channel, sleeping on a 32-inch-wide board, all while hauling 120 pounds of food, water and safety equipment.
There was no warm-up. I’d planned to leave early in the morning, but instead, to keep my wife from being restless all night, I left the night before at 9 p.m. Just jumped straight into one of the world’s roughest chan- nels and got to work in the dark. I’m not sure the head start helped anyone.
My best friends were the birds. The only people I saw were on fishing boats, but they never noticed the little speck (me) out there. I paddled right past orcas and dolphins, and the birds — brown boobies and pelicans — would fly up to arm’s length and check me out. When I’d sit to eat, they’d land on the board to watch.
The hardest part was being wet. After a day on the ocean you just want to dry off. It was impossible. The wind was a constant 25 knots, with squalls, so I couldn’t even open a dry bag for more than 10 seconds to get an energy bar.
One second I’d be asleep, the next I’d be swimming. The only way to sleep on the board was in 20- to 30-minute stretches. On the first night out there, I got rolled four times.
My cell phone worked. I had an EPIRB, a VHF radio and two GPS units. But I was surprised to have decent cell reception out at sea.
I forgot how to stand on dry ground. Going into this I knew I’d get seasick. But what I didn’t expect was hav- ing a hard time walking after 124 hours and 47 minutes of balancing on a board. When I stepped onto solid ground, I almost fell over. Then I gave my wife and daughter a hug.
Will I ever do this SUP trip again? Never.