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Checking Out Lanai

Jul 20, 2008

Shipwrecked on Lanai: Paradise is closer than you think

words by Matt Pritchard/ Photos by Jazz

What do you get when you take a bunch of Maui windsurfers, give them a 60-foot catamaran, and tell them to be careful? Depending on your perspective, you could call it a shipwreck waiting to happen, or just a lot of fun.

After endless days of flat surf and windy conditions, the hardcore everyday Maui sailor can go a little crazy.
    “We need to find some waves,” my brother, Kevin Pritchard, says after a slalom session at Kanaha.
    Freestylers Nick Warmuth and Riley Coon overhear us and quickly agree.
    “Yeah, I’m getting a little bored out here. I haven’t seen a wave in months,” exclaims Nick.
    The boys start talking, and one thing leads to another. Soon a plan is hatched to jump ship and explore a nearby island paradise: Lanai.
    The island of Lanai is a mystery. It can be seen from Maui and is its closest neighbour. The rich and famous built private estates high in the hills overlooking the beaches. We decide to check it out for ourselves and see what this mysterious island has to offer.
    Finding a ride over is the first priority. Riley is a new-school ripper living on Maui; his family owns and operates the Trilogy, a fleet of six 60-foot catamarans that do daily expeditions to Lanai. Riley and his dad, Jim Coon, have been exploring Lanai for years and know some secret spots that are difficult to access. We decide our best bet will be to dock at the local harbour and take a couple four-wheel-drive Jeeps.
    We arrive at Maui’s Lahaina Harbor to a boat decked out with tons of food and a full crew to take care of us. We’re living the high life on this trip. Captain Brian, all fired up to do some exploring, gives us a rundown of the boat and helps us load the gear. Jim, owner-operator of the Trilogy, is a local of Lanai and has explored every inch of the island over the past 34 years.
    Lanai was purchased in 1922 by Jim Dole, owner of Dole Pineapple, for a whopping $1.1 million. Lanai is 13 miles wide and 18 miles long, with limited paved roads. Formerly known as the Pineapple Isle, Lanai was once the largest pineapple plantation in the world. Now it’s the home of two luxury resorts, and almost all the land is owned by a development firm, the Lanai Company. The island’s major source of income is tourism; 75,000 visitors came last year alone.
    Our passage between Maui and Lanai is tame. We pull into harbour and immediately set off to load up the Jeeps with gear and supplies. The first stop is the Lanai Plantation Store to stock up on the basics: gas, food and water. If you’re up for it, camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the island’s private serenity. It’s also the most affordable because you can park your Jeep and set up camp anywhere.
    We make our way to the island’s east side and then head north to wrap around the backside. The Jeeps are packed with enough gear to operate a rental fleet of the latest windsurf gear. We spot the ocean from high atop the island and can see whitecaps pouring down through the Kalohi Channel between Maui and Molokai. What an incredible view: Lanai is the only island where you can see five other islands. Impressed, we’re getting excited for the chance to sail this newfound paradise.
    The first stop is Shipwreck Beach. Riley and his dad have sailed here before and claim it has potential. After a brief drive on the narrow paved road, we encounter a rough dirt trail. It’s time for four-wheel drive and a bumpy, dusty trek to the beach. We jump out of the car wide-eyed at the head-high surf rolling in.
    “It’s been so long since I’ve seen a wave,” says Kevin.
    The wind looks good, and we hurry to rig our 5 m2 sails. Local boy Riley is in no rush. We look at him and wonder why he isn’t in a mad panic like the rest of us.
    “The tide is still too low,” he reasons. “We can’t start sailing for at least another 45 minutes.”
    Kevin ignores Riley’s warning and heads straight out. There are a few spots of dry reef, but if you’ve ever taken a look at one of Kevin’s fins, you know he doesn’t care. Our buddy Jazz shoots off the beach and follows Kevin over the shallow reefs out to the ship wreckage resting in the break.
    The wreck is a massive World War II Liberty ship whose rusted hulk still clings to the reef. These remains are not the result of an accident. After World War II this vessel was given “residence” as an economical means of disposal. The ship, made of concrete, is slowly rotting away. The closer you get, the gnarlier it looks.
    Next on the water are Riley and myself. Nick is still trying to figure out what to rig. I realize it’s game on when I see Kevin climbing nearly halfway up the ship with a giant Back Loop. Riley looks right at home and leads the way through the shallow reefs without incident. The waves are consistently flowing, and the wind picks up. The boys are all hooting and stoked.
    Conditions are starboard tack with a hint of sideshore, and everyone is trying to show off their sickest moves. Kevin busts out his one-footed Back Loops, Riley throws out sick Shakas, and Nick is busy freestyling it up on the wave faces. I put in a couple tweaked Tabletops to mix it up. After throwing down some big jumps, waterman Jazz swims out with his water housing and fires off a few rounds of pictures to get up close and personal with the ship.
    “It’s pretty scary swimming around in those waters,” says Jazz. “I can feel all the fish looking at me, wondering what I taste like.”
    After three hours of pure fun, Riley calls us back in and we reluctantly follow. Smiles are flying everywhere as the stories stack up. Gatorade is flowing, and stoke is in the air. We are in the elements we love the most: sun, sand, wind, water and waves. Alone on a beautiful beach, it’s hard to believe we’re in Hawaii. This is how old Hawaii must have felt.
    We watch the sunset as we embark on our journey home across the channel. Maui is a beautiful place, but as we leave our newfound favourite spot, we also leave a piece of our spirit in the water. It’s not often you can sail with just your buddies in such fun conditions. This is one of those days to remember. The adventure ends 15 hours after it started. The entire crew is exhausted.
    Thanks to Trilogy (sailtrilogy.com) for making it all possible. If you ever get a chance to check out Lanai, don’t hesitate. It truly is a desert paradise in the Pacific.

 

Travel Guide: Lanai, Hawaii

How to go: To go by air you must fly first to Honolulu (HNL), which services Lanai (LNY) daily. The easiest way to spend a few days is to fly to Maui (OGG) and then cruise over by catamaran with Trilogy.

Tips for windsurfing: Any windsurfer can have a great time on Lanai. It may not offer the best and easiest conditions, but it’s perfect for the more adventurous at heart. Be careful of the reef and tides as the water can become shallow in a hurry. For the best sailing experience, check with the Coons, who own Trilogy. They’ve been sailing on Lanai for many years and are happy to share their local knowledge.

Gear: Lanai is an incredible island, but don’t expect all the luxuries of Maui. You need to take your own stuff, including windsurf gear, maps, ding repair kit, etc. There are no windsurfing or surfing shops on the island, so be warned.

Other activities: It’s still worth the trip even if you choose not to lug across your gear. Spend a day fishing, snorkeling, hiking, golfing, or just relaxing on a deserted beach.

Staying overnight: If you want to be more adventurous and avoid the beautiful hotels and rental properties Lanai offers, camping is a fun alternative.

Google Earth: 20° 49’25 N, 156° 55’12 W

Web: sailtrilogy.com, visitlanai.net, lanai-resorts.com, frommers.com

 

Shipwrecked on Lanai: Paradise is closer than you think

words by Matt Pritchard/ Photos by Jazz

What do you get when you take a bunch of Maui windsurfers, give them a 60-foot catamaran, and tell them to be careful? Depending on your perspective, you could call it a shipwreck waiting to happen, or just a lot of fun.

After endless days of flat surf and windy conditions, the hardcore everyday Maui sailor can go a little crazy.
    “We need to find some waves,” my brother, Kevin Pritchard, says after a slalom session at Kanaha.
    Freestylers Nick Warmuth and Riley Coon overhear us and quickly agree.
    “Yeah, I’m getting a little bored out here. I haven’t seen a wave in months,” exclaims Nick.
    The boys start talking, and one thing leads to another. Soon a plan is hatched to jump ship and explore a nearby island paradise: Lanai.
    The island of Lanai is a mystery. It can be seen from Maui and is its closest neighbour. The rich and famous built private estates high in the hills overlooking the beaches. We decide to check it out for ourselves and see what this mysterious island has to offer.
    Finding a ride over is the first priority. Riley is a new-school ripper living on Maui; his family owns and operates the Trilogy, a fleet of six 60-foot catamarans that do daily expeditions to Lanai. Riley and his dad, Jim Coon, have been exploring Lanai for years and know some secret spots that are difficult to access. We decide our best bet will be to dock at the local harbour and take a couple four-wheel-drive Jeeps.
    We arrive at Maui’s Lahaina Harbor to a boat decked out with tons of food and a full crew to take care of us. We’re living the high life on this trip. Captain Brian, all fired up to do some exploring, gives us a rundown of the boat and helps us load the gear. Jim, owner-operator of the Trilogy, is a local of Lanai and has explored every inch of the island over the past 34 years.
    Lanai was purchased in 1922 by Jim Dole, owner of Dole Pineapple, for a whopping $1.1 million. Lanai is 13 miles wide and 18 miles long, with limited paved roads. Formerly known as the Pineapple Isle, Lanai was once the largest pineapple plantation in the world. Now it’s the home of two luxury resorts, and almost all the land is owned by a development firm, the Lanai Company. The island’s major source of income is tourism; 75,000 visitors came last year alone.
    Our passage between Maui and Lanai is tame. We pull into harbour and immediately set off to load up the Jeeps with gear and supplies. The first stop is the Lanai Plantation Store to stock up on the basics: gas, food and water. If you’re up for it, camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the island’s private serenity. It’s also the most affordable because you can park your Jeep and set up camp anywhere.
    We make our way to the island’s east side and then head north to wrap around the backside. The Jeeps are packed with enough gear to operate a rental fleet of the latest windsurf gear. We spot the ocean from high atop the island and can see whitecaps pouring down through the Kalohi Channel between Maui and Molokai. What an incredible view: Lanai is the only island where you can see five other islands. Impressed, we’re getting excited for the chance to sail this newfound paradise.
    The first stop is Shipwreck Beach. Riley and his dad have sailed here before and claim it has potential. After a brief drive on the narrow paved road, we encounter a rough dirt trail. It’s time for four-wheel drive and a bumpy, dusty trek to the beach. We jump out of the car wide-eyed at the head-high surf rolling in.
    “It’s been so long since I’ve seen a wave,” says Kevin.
    The wind looks good, and we hurry to rig our 5 m2 sails. Local boy Riley is in no rush. We look at him and wonder why he isn’t in a mad panic like the rest of us.
    “The tide is still too low,” he reasons. “We can’t start sailing for at least another 45 minutes.”
    Kevin ignores Riley’s warning and heads straight out. There are a few spots of dry reef, but if you’ve ever taken a look at one of Kevin’s fins, you know he doesn’t care. Our buddy Jazz shoots off the beach and follows Kevin over the shallow reefs out to the ship wreckage resting in the break.
    The wreck is a massive World War II Liberty ship whose rusted hulk still clings to the reef. These remains are not the result of an accident. After World War II this vessel was given “residence” as an economical means of disposal. The ship, made of concrete, is slowly rotting away. The closer you get, the gnarlier it looks.
    Next on the water are Riley and myself. Nick is still trying to figure out what to rig. I realize it’s game on when I see Kevin climbing nearly halfway up the ship with a giant Back Loop. Riley looks right at home and leads the way through the shallow reefs without incident. The waves are consistently flowing, and the wind picks up. The boys are all hooting and stoked.
    Conditions are starboard tack with a hint of sideshore, and everyone is trying to show off their sickest moves. Kevin busts out his one-footed Back Loops, Riley throws out sick Shakas, and Nick is busy freestyling it up on the wave faces. I put in a couple tweaked Tabletops to mix it up. After throwing down some big jumps, waterman Jazz swims out with his water housing and fires off a few rounds of pictures to get up close and personal with the ship.
    “It’s pretty scary swimming around in those waters,” says Jazz. “I can feel all the fish looking at me, wondering what I taste like.”
    After three hours of pure fun, Riley calls us back in and we reluctantly follow. Smiles are flying everywhere as the stories stack up. Gatorade is flowing, and stoke is in the air. We are in the elements we love the most: sun, sand, wind, water and waves. Alone on a beautiful beach, it’s hard to believe we’re in Hawaii. This is how old Hawaii must have felt.
    We watch the sunset as we embark on our journey home across the channel. Maui is a beautiful place, but as we leave our newfound favourite spot, we also leave a piece of our spirit in the water. It’s not often you can sail with just your buddies in such fun conditions. This is one of those days to remember. The adventure ends 15 hours after it started. The entire crew is exhausted.
    Thanks to Trilogy (sailtrilogy.com) for making it all possible. If you ever get a chance to check out Lanai, don’t hesitate. It truly is a desert paradise in the Pacific.


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