Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama stand up paddle for awareness

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Expedition to raise awareness

(courtesy The Maui News)
Photos and story by Staff Writer MATTHEW THAYER
KAPALUA -- Big wave surfers Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama were happy to ride occasional small, open-ocean rollers Friday afternoon as they stood on their surfboards and paddled across the Pailolo Channel between Maui and Molokai.

Each glide on the deep blue waves took them a bit closer to Molokai and meant they had a few less strokes to paddle in their arduous journey from one end of the state to the other.

The channel crossing was the fourth leg of their marathon attempt to paddle and peddle their way from South Point on the Big Island to Hanalei on Kauai. They are undertaking the odyssey to raise funds to promote a documentary film on autism made by their friend Don King and his wife, Julianne Yamamoto King. The Kings’ film “Beautiful Son” is about their son Beau, 6, who suffers from the neurological disorder.

Autism refers to a range of disorders that result in behavioral symptoms in about two to six out of 1,000 children in the United States. It is believed to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors that results in a range of symptoms from severe outbursts to periods of acute repetitive behavior.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no known cure for the disorder, but there are medications that relieve symptoms and structured training programs can help an autistic child to talk, play and interact appropriately.

For the Maui supporters of the King family, the focus is on their marathon effort. Hamilton said if current westerly wind conditions continue they will likely end their challenge on Oahu and not attempt the long ocean crossing from there to Kauai.

“We’re not going to be stupid about it,” Hamilton said Friday morning as he assembled his racing bike at Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve. “We’re going to be realistic. This isn’t an expedition to the Himalayas where you go no matter what.”

He said if trade winds don’t kick up while they have the benefit of the full moon, they will save the Oahu to Kauai leg for another time when the wind, waves, moon and busy schedules all line up better.

“We’re just taking it one day at a time. I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot already.”

The trek began Wednesday afternoon when they arrived on the Big Island on a Mainland flight. Along with a few training buddies from Malibu, Calif., and a support team that includes drivers and a film crew, they drove to South Point where they geared up and began peddling their bikes at 5 p.m. Seven and a half hours and 120 miles later, they arrived on the opposite end of the island at Upolu Point. After a few hours sleep, they hit the ocean for a 40-mile, eight-hour stand-up paddle across the Alenuihaha Channel to Keoneoio on Maui’s southern shore.

Hamilton said the paddle was “long” with “no wind and no help.”

Kalama said the end was the toughest part.

“Seven-eighths of it was OK, considering the conditions,” Kalama said. “That last little bit, the island just wouldn’t seem to get closer.”

Training buddy Don Wildman was part of a two-person team that paddled the distance along with Hamilton and Kalama. The 73-year-old veteran of nine Ironman triathlons said the paddle was no picnic.

“It was like standing on a beach ball,” Wildman said.

Hamilton and Kalama took advantage of being home on Maui to return to their respective residences and get a good night’s sleep Thursday night, but they were back at it Friday morning.

The pair and four other riders set off from Keoneoio at about 10:30 a.m. and reached DT Fleming Beach about three hours later. By 2 p.m., they were on the water headed for Molokai. They were joined on this trip by several other paddlers, three support boats and briefly by a cinematographer in a helicopter.

After arriving on Molokai, they planned to cross the island on bikes by the light of the full moon to stage themselves for the next leg to Oahu.

While Hamilton said he planned to paddle to Oahu Saturday, Kalama is scheduled to make his crossing today while taking part in the Molokai Hoe Outrigger canoe race. Kalama is a member of a Lae ’ula O Kai canoe club crew entered in the 41-mile, long-distance race.

If the trades kick up and the marathon peddle-paddle challenge continues, the pair will ride across Oahu and then set off for Kauai either tonight or Monday. Once on Kauai, they will ride their bikes across the island, through Hanalei to the end of the road near the Na Pali coast.

“We want to make this a race,” Hamilton said Friday morning before starting off at the south end of the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve.

“But not for us, we’ll let other guys do it,” Kalama interrupted with a laugh.

Hamilton, still stiff from the Big Island crossing and facing far more to come, agreed the idea of racing didn’t sound so sweet at the moment.

“After this we’re never going to want to look at a bike or a paddle board again,” Hamilton said.

Matthew Thayer can be reached at

Posted by keizo on Sun, 10/08/2006 - 1:14pm

1 comment

I just wanna say that these guys are nutz and fricken awesome! And after Dave did the Moloka'i Hoe yesterday, while we were all celebrating and drinking some beers, he was biking up to the north shore. Unreal.

#1 Mon, 10/09/2006 - 2:20pm

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