Island Address Book 11-24-2005

Dave Kalama, Big-Wave Surfer, On His Favorite Island Adventures

By: Karla Aronson

Dave Kalama likes big adventure. In particular, he does a lot of big wave surfing at Maui’s famed surf break, Jaws, where he has surfed waves as high as 75 feet. In fact, he and his surfing partner Laird Hamilton, and fellow surfer Derrick Doener, can be seen defying such monster waves in the opening scene of the James Bond film “Die Another Day.”

What does performing such an extreme sport mean to Kalama?

“It’s a great symbol to me that humans can relate to the power of nature, and are able to interact with that power,” he said.

Kalama, who has lived on Maui for 20 years since graduating high school in Southern California, intended to stay for one year. “Until I stopped having fun,” he said. “I just haven’t stopped having fun yet.”

Kalama does not limit his adventures in nature to a surfboard alone, however. From hiking to paddling, to mountain-boarding or snowboarding, he seeks out adventures throughout the islands.

Naturally the first thing he recommends is that visitors go surfing. The safest surf is on the south shore of Maui. He recommends the coastline between Maalaea Harbor and Lahaina town.

“There are lots of surf sites,” along the beaches fronting Highway 30, he said.

Kalama riding the big waves

At another extreme, 10,000 feet above sea level, Kalama likes to hike through the crater of Haleakala volcano.

“It’s great exercise and a beautiful landscape,” he said.

For Kalama and his equally fit hiking partners, they prefer an adventurous 11-mile hike descending from Sliding Sands trailhead to the crater floor and back up the Halemauu trailhead.

“It usually takes us four hours, hustling,” he said.

Non-athletes should estimate at least twice the time, leaving early and bringing plenty of water, food and rain and sun protection.

On Oahu, visitors should not miss canoe surfing in Waikiki. A number of concessions offer the activity on the beach there.

“People who can’t surf get the sensation of riding a wave,” Kalama said.

He favors the activity not only because it is a unique experience, but because it is a part of the Polynesian culture both the canoe and the surfing.

On Kauai, hands down, adventurers should head to the Na Pali Coast, whether hiking in or paddling in by kayak.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” he said.

It’s also absolutely arduous. The roundtrip hike to Kalalau Valley is 22 miles from the North Shore trailhead at the end of Highway 560. Shorter hikes, such as the first couple miles into Hanakapiai Beach, are challenging but rewarding visually along the narrow, cliffside trails. In addition, visitors can book guided or independent kayak trips from May to September. For a single-day outing, you have to be fit enough to endure an eight-hour trip to complete the 17-mile coastal stretch north-to-south with the current.

On the Big Island, Kalama would recommend mountain boarding down Mauna Kea.

“It’s like a skateboard with big rubber tires,” he said.

However, visitors won’t find outfits renting the equipment given its degree of danger. So instead, in the winter, you can snowboard or ski from the volcano’s 13,000-foot peak.

Is there any adventure activity Kalama wouldn’t pursue jumping out of planes, swimming with sharks, maybe?

“Well, nothing comes to mind,” he said. “I’ll have to think about that one.”


Haleakala National Park

Na Pali Coast by Kayak

Waikiki Beach

Mauna Kea Skiing