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Maui Windsurfing Guide

“Whether you are are a windsurfing addict or a weekend warrior, you have probably discovered that Maui is a windsurfer’s paradise. This magical island has something to offer windsurfers of all levels; Beginners, Kids, First timers. All will like the tranquil waters in Maui’s bays and coves, or the extreme athletes will hit the waves on the many reef breaks, Speed sailors will revel in the focused wind blasting over 40 knots in Ma’aleaa Bay’s Speed Beach. Maui has it all.”  Aloha, David Dorn

What makes Maui special: Maui is located at roughly 21 degrees north of the equator, so we get plenty of sunshine and warm sunny weather all year. You hardly ever need a wetsuit because of the warm 85 degree water almost year round and the air temperature rarely drops below 75 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level. The location at this particular latitude ideally places the islands in the trade wind zone. Being an isolated island chain, Hawaii receives uninterrupted air flows from across the ocean, without large land masses that generate their own weather. Maui also receives the right amount of swells, and has abundant waves that break on the north or south shores depending on the time of year.

Oceanic Culture: Traditionally Hawaii had an oceanic based culture, and water sports still play a large part of the culture. Surfing and canoe paddling and sailing have long played an important role here in the islands. Surf swimming was common among the people. The canoe was a source of sport, and warfare, transport, and fishing. The ability and skill of the mariners to handle all the oceans conditions would have a direct bearing on the success of the people. Surfing too, called “He’e,nalu” in Hawaiian, was a serious recreation from the royal family all the way down to the common folk. Surfing had ritual, and spiritual significance, and strict rules governing who could ride what types of boards, when and where someone could ride. There were strict social class lines governing these activities. Surfing competitions were also held, especially between chiefs, and sometimes they gamboled their land holdings on the outcome of a surfing contest. Surfing Skill became a sign of prowess and surfing skills were very highly regarded. The surfing culture was largely revived due to the efforts of Duke Kahanamoku and the Waikiki beach boys, who popularized the sport in the early 1900’s. The sport of surfing was spread around the world with the diplomatic missions and surfing exhibitions of Duke Kahanamoku and early surfing practitioners. Duke introduced surfing to Australia in 1914. And eventually the Hawaiian sport of surfing became a worldwide phenomenon. In more recent times windsurfing also evolved in Hawaii. With many major advancements in the sport, and many of the sports pioneers coming from Hawaii. Many more windsurfing pioneers moved to Hawaii. Windsurfing became hugely popular in the 70’s an many windsurfing competitions and events were held in Hawaii, and many of the sport’s top competitors and innovators came from Hawaii. Windsurfing is now accepted and respected as a legitimate athletic endeavor, and many professional athletes live here and train here year round.
Maui Beaches: Maui has the right mix of sandy and rocky coastline. The rocky reefs create the ideal seascape, and the sandy beaches provide great access to the ocean. There are different beaches for different conditions and skill levels. The Beaches of the north shore are most well known for windsurfing. The north shore is the windward coastline, and gets the brunt of the trade winds, and the large winter waves.

Kanaha Beach Park: The most popular windsurfing beach in the state is Kanaha Beach Park, Kanaha offers may different areas for windsurfing and other sports. Kanaha deserves its very own pages. Click here for the Kanaha Beach Page.

Maui Seasons: the Maui seasons are not the typical ones that you might expect of your normal place. There are basically two seasons on Maui, the windy season, and the wavy season. The summer brings the most wind in the form of tropical trade-winds, These winds are very reliable and plentiful. The peak wind months are May through September. The wind blows all year just will less frequency than the summer winds. the waves are biggest in winter, with north pacific storms near Japan and bearing straights producing huge winds and waves. these wave trains travel 1000’s of miles to hit Hawaii’s northern facing shores. The large winter surf hits the northern exposures the hardest, abut can also wrap around the islands to create plenty of surf-able waves at various island locations. in winter the trade-wind producing high pressure systems move farther south and create winds from the east and south east. When the wind get south enough the wind flow direction across Maui reverses, producing a Kona (or leeward) wind. Kona Winds are from the south and are usually ridden in the south shore beaches. Kihei and Ka’anapali become the hot spots. And just a few daring pros might venture out at “Lanes” but this is definitely a high risk venture with the possibility of losing all their gear out to sea. 
Maui Geography: Maui’s volcanic mountainous geography plays a vital role on the wind patterns that predominate on the island. The two large volcanoes (extinct) create a huge valley that bisects the entire island. There are several Hawaiian islands with island wide valleys, Oahu, Big Island, Kauai, BUT only Maui’s central valley is oriented Northeast-to-southwest. This orientation is what makes Maui’s geography so favorable to wind sports. The valley acts as a huge funnel that directs and squeezes the trade winds. “Trades” come from the North East, and are scooped into the wide mouth of the valley on the north shore, and are then squeezed into the narrowing valley where it is forced to accelerate by an effect called the “Venturi effect”. Then by the time the wind hits Ma’alaea Bay is is blowing one and a half times the speed of the winds on the north shore, and this creates a steady blast of extreme high wind, that expert windsurfers just love.
Windsurfing Kids Camps: The youngest little board sailors can do a windsurfing lesson using tiny specialized rigs and stable boards. Kids lessons are available year round but really take off in the summer months, especially during the school holidays. Local kids and travelers can do one of the summer camps offered by Action Sports and Maui Sports Unlimited. These Youth power camps are giving back to the windsurfing community and providing an avenues for all kinds of kids to expand their. These youth camps are famous for turning out happy little windsurfers. The Youth Power kids camps have been going for over ten years, and have produced a new generation of  windsurfers including a new crop of professional windsurfers too. Kids camps are held in the protected waters in the upper kooks beach at Kanaha park. 
Beginner Windsurfing Lessons: Maui’s warm weather and trade-winds make ideal conditions for beginner windsurfing lessons all year round. Most lessons happen at the Kanaha Beach park on the north shore. Beginner lessons are scheduled in the mornings when the wind is lightest. Beginners take small lightweight sails and big stable boards, to make the experience easier. The instructors take small groups or private students for a few hours or lesson. There is usually a short land lesson followed by some easy sailing exercises in the shallow water near shore. Most people will be up and sailing in their first lesson, doing some tacks and turns. Lessons can range from a single day, intro lesson, up to a longer course or 3-5 days or more. Lessons are available for all levels of windsurfer, not just beginners. The windsurfing instructors can teach any skill ranging from your first waterstart, first jibe, up to Racing, Speed Sailing, wave jumping and more. Make sure that you describe your sailing experience accurately when you are booking your lesson.
Windsurfing Wave Sailing: Maui is synonymous with wave sailing. Wind and waves come together on Maui like nowhere else. the right combination is the perfect prescription for awesome wave sailing. The world’s best known wave-sailing beach is Ho’okipa beach on Maui’s north shore. This location was discovered by Mike Waltze in the 80’s and has become a landmark for windsurfers around the world, and for thousands of non-windsurfers too. Ho’okipa is an awesome location with the reef breaks close to shore that the spectators on the bluffs surrounding the bay, can see the action close up, and even catch the expression on the faces of the expert windsurfers as they shred the waves. take care because Ho’okipa is strictly for advanced windsurfers only. It only has a tiny sand beach, and a huge rock ledge that makes launching and landing critical. There are often heavy waves and strong currents that will drag unfortunate windsurfers over the rocks. If you get down-winded here, there is only rocky beaches to come in on downwind. If you sail at Ho’okipa expect to loose a portion of your equipment into the rocks, and some of your skin too. You must be an accomplished wave sailor, and a very strong swimmer before you attempt to ride here. Not to mention you will just get in the way of the pros if you kook out there. 
Other Wavesailing Spots: There are many more lesser known wave-sailing spots on the north shore; Upper Kanaha, Lower Kanaha, Sprecks, and Camp One and the best known wave-sailing spots, and are much more forgiving that Ho’okipa. There is also Lanes, and Kuau for the more advanced wavesailors. There is some wavesailing at Kahana on the upper west side, and also in Kihei especially at Maui Sunset, and Ohukai Beach in a southerly swell.
Beginner Wavesailing: When wavesailing on Maui for the first time it is probably best to go out at Lowers at Kanaha before trying other more challenging spots. Kanaha has almost no shore-break, and a flat area inside the waves where you can warm up, and dial in your gear and your jibes before hitting the waves here. Is is best to keep to the mushy rollers on the inside until you get your timing down, you and get used to the conditions. You had better be an expert water-starter and have reliable jibes or you will eat it in the waves and get tumbled  mercilessly in the washing machine like a rag doll. We recommend that you get a wave sailing lesson to save your self a lot of grief at this point.
Ho’okipa Breaks:  Ho’okipa is also a very popular Surfing beach. There is no windsurfing allowed at Pavilions break, and rarely at middles break. Here there is a ten man rule, which is “if there are 10 surfers in the water, you cannot go windsurfing here. Also there is an 11 o’clock rule, No windsurfing before 11am. Most of the windsurfing at Hookipa is at H’poko, the break at the western end of the beach near the grassy bluff at the western end of the bay.
The Weird Wave: Between The Lowers Break and the Uppers Break at Kanaha is the “Weird Wave”. The weird wave in like the “Bermuda triangle” of Maui. This area is to be treated with extreme caution and is best avoided at all times. the area appears deceptively normal, but its combination of currents and wave action create a vortex that can hold a swimmer down, and make escape extremely difficult. You have been warned!!! Seriously this wave takes lives *(at least three lost souls since I have lived here that I know of). Ask any experienced local or lifeguard to point out the location of the weird wave to you so you can totally avoid it.
The Bone Yard: The shallowest reef on the north shore is at lower Kanaha in an area known as the bone yard. the bone yard is downwind of where most windsurfers might go, and is in the kiteboard area. this area just north of Ka’a point is so shallow that the reef is exposed at low tide. The coral sticks up and looks like bones at low tide. At other times it might  just be covered by a foot or two of water, and suck dry in between waves. If you wipeout here you might be walking out over the sharp coral instead of swimming out. This area could be extremely hazardous if you get catapulted head first here. Avoid this area, there are plenty of better places to sail.
Maui Windsurfing Rules: No Launching Before 11am. No Windsurfing in Swimming Areas, at Kanaha. No Windsurfing At Camp One. No Windsurfing at Baldwin Beach. No Windsurfing At Ho’okipa if 5/10 surfers are at H’poko break. Beginner windsurfing allowed in defined beginner area at Kooks beach from 9am to 11am. For a more detailed look at the Maui Windsurfing Guidelines take a look at the Guidelines from the Maui Boardsailing Association Below. Or for the detailed Boating Regulations check out the DOBOR Information Below. 

11 o’clock Rule: On Maui we share the water with fishermen and divers. Divers and Windsurfers do not mix. Divers are just below the surface and are difficult to see, and windsurfers travel fast and can run over a skin diver. So there was a compromise struck between the divers and the windsurfers, that is now a state law. No Windsurfing before 11am, (except for beginner lessons at the beginner area at the northern end of Kanaha Beach). At other times windsurfers must keep clear of divers, and look out for diver’s flags. Please Note that not all divers use dive flags.
Priority Rules: Windsurfers are sail craft, and should always give way to swimmers, and surfers, and canoes, kayaks, and SUP standup surfers. Also you should always be on the lookout for marine life, especially turtles!!
Whales: You might see whales when you are out windsurfing on Maui. Whale season is December 15 to May 15th each year, but whales sometimes arrive early and stay late. Please do not interfere with whales for their sake and yours. Whales are protected marine mammals, and you must stay 200 feet away from them. If a whale surfaces near you, simply stop and wait for them to go away, or immediately turn and ride away from them. Whales are often females giving birth to their calves, or are escorting their young in Maui’s near shore waters. If you continue to sail toward a whale you will face a minimum $250.00 fine, or possibly jail. OBW, there are whale spotters stationed all around the island during whale season, doing surveys and studying whale behavior and they often have camera with telephoto lenses watching everything that goes on. 
Windsurf Slalom racing: Maui has a lot of slalom racing, almost every Saturday in summer there is a slalom series event of a prelim for the State titles. This is great to watch or even more fun to enter.  Here to windsurfers battle it out during the Neil Pryde Slalom series at Kanaha Beach Park.



Speed Sailing: has become very popular, timed events, and the emergence of the GPS Speed events has created a sub-category of windsurfer. the speed freak. Traditionally speed events were held at Speed Beach at Ma’alaea. where the wind was offshore and the water smooth. Now the trend is toward open water sailing, where individual sailors wear portable GPS devices and record best top speeds and speed averages, to be trained against and compared to. All through the summer speed meetings are held at various locations depending on the conditions of the day. Also Speed Sailing clinics and private coaching classes are available for future speed champions, or for those people who just like to sail really fast!
Professional Windsurfers:  Maui is also hove to many world class professional windsurfing athletes. many of whom have made Maui their base of training because of the year round conditions, and also spend much of the year traveling between events that are scattered around the world. many more windsurfers are retired professionals who have several generations of windsurfers, who continue to love the sport, and pass along their stoke for the sport. Now we are even seeing professional windsurfers as young as 9 and 10 years old competing locally, and also traveling to events too. Don’t be surprised when you see tons of famous pro-windsurfers at the local beaches and stores.
Windsurfing Vacations: Maui is known as a world class windsurfing destination, and the sport has increasingly become a destination sport. A vacation in Maui almost assures the best windsurfing conditions one could expect from any destination.  The windsurfing vacation can be a week or several months. and many people have made it an annual pilgrimage. There are returning windsurfers enjoying their 20th season on Maui, and they keep coming back for more. There are specialty travel services that understand the needs of the athletic traveler, and can also hook you up with the right place at the right price. Windsurfing travelers have grown from individual travelers, and in many cases matured and grown into windsurfing families that bring several generations with them. Some travelers might opt for the camping and backpacking experience, while others will want the 5star luxury of the resorts or private luxury home rentals. Most windsurfers usually will want the simplicity of a tidy clean self-contained condo. Click here for more information on windsurfing vacations. 
Windsurfing Industry: The windsurfing industry on Maui employs thousands of people. The windsurf manufacturers, shops, travel industry, professionals, schools, and support industry are integrated into the community on Maui. There are manufacturers of boards and sails, and all the accessories based here on Maui. Naish Sails, HotSails, Maui Sails, Ezzy, Simmer, Goya, Maui FinCo, Tectonics fins Maui, Maui Ultra Fins, Hawaiian Proline, DaKine, to name just a few, Many more companies have teams of designers and gear testers who are based here purely in research development and promotion of the new products. When you buy a Maui windsurfing Product or spend money in a Maui windsurf shop, you are helping to support the vital windsurfing community that in turn supports the windsurfing lifestyle that you know and love.
Lifeguards and Safety:   Always follow the directives of the lifeguards. They are responsible for public safety. Know the rules and follow the rules. Know the Local rules, and the Right of Way rules, so you will avoid accidents. Sail with respect for others. Do not get too close to other sailors. You may misjudge, or wipeout and hit someone. Never Sail farther than you can swim. People often get separated from their gear, and have to swim in. There are lifeguards at Ho’okipa and Kanaha, but they will only save you in a physical emergency. They quit at 4:30pm so you are on your own after that. Always sail with a buddy, check your gear before you go out. Stay with your board, It floats and is more visible than your head. If in doubt, Don’t go out! if you are unsure of your ability to handle the conditions do not go out. Use caution, there are always conditions too big for anyone. Better to be too cautious then too reckless.

In case of any emergency (fire, rescue, police, lifeguard) call 9-1-1

Links to Windsurfing Information


History of the Hookipa Ten Man Rule: Since there have been surf sports there has been an unofficial pecking order so that people got their fare share of waves and they avoided crashes. At Ho’okipa when windsurfing was introduced, the first windsurfers were also surfers, and they knew the surfing rules, and applied them to windsurfing, who has the right of way on the wave etc. Then the windsurfers also had their own rules, and had to work our a priority with surfers. Because Surfers rely on their own paddling power to maneuver, the windsurfers give way to them. So the windsurfer should automatically give way to any surfer. As windsurfing became more popular in the mid 80’s at Ho’okipa there was a need for an unofficial rule for sharing the water. Windsurfers and surfers came up with their own rules to share the water. Then in 1988 the state adopted the gentleman’s rules to make their, state regulations. The complete regulations can be seen at the state boating website in the ORMA regs. The 10-man rule is nothing new. it has worked for 30years. But the increase in numbers of surfers, and windsurfers in recent years has caused more overlap in use by the different groups and the application of the law has been tested. If there are no complaints, there is no need for enforcement, if there is conflict and complaints, the the laws will be  enforced. Like it of not the law is the law. and if someone tells you the law and you are breaking it, then you will be at risk of the penalties. Yes you can change the law, by a long legal process, but you must respect the existing law until it is changed. There were two new lifeguard towers added at Ho’okipa, because of the beaches heavy use, and the need for improved safety. The lifeguards duty is to provide rescue service and govern safe use of the area. If a windsurfer is sailing close to the surfers, there is a safety issue, and they can tell someone to leave the area at any time. If they invoke the 10man rule, it is for this reason. The other problem happens when a windsurfer tells a surfer to get out of the area, or a windsurfer complains when a surfer in in the area. This is asking for trouble. And the best way to get on the wrong side of the lifeguards and the local surfers. Windsurfing at Ho’okipa is a privilege not a right, at any time a surfer is present that windsurfer must avoid them. Windsurfing could bring about their own exclusion by making complaints against surfers at Ho’okipa. Surfers have surfed here for hundreds of years, and royalty surfed here long before any windsurfers.
For some historical perspective keep in mind that under the ancient Hawaiian Kapu system, you would most likely be put to death for such audacity. Respect the locals, respect the surfers, obey the rules, and share the waves. First you have to give respect BEFORE you may expect respect in turn. Some people do not appreciate this, or have no concept of the history of the place.

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