"Hawaii is a great place to be homeless" Adam commented as the two of us drove in his rusty old blazer to Keauhou Bay. Earlier he'd asked if I wanted to strap our bright yellow sea kayak, with the message "Aloha Kayak: the best outfit in Hawaii" written in magic marker along the side, to the top of my rental car, but I preferred to take his vehicle.
"There's fruit everywhere, and you can easily catch seafood, so you never have to worry about starving here." Adam continued. "There are places where you can sleep on the beach, although there are people who have certain territory that you need to stay out of if you don't want to get hurt." He spoke about being homeless in Hawaii with enough detail that I wondered if he had experienced it first hand. He had moved to Hawaii from the mainland a few years earlier, to get a new start, and chose Hawaii for that very reason. He explained that he currently rooms with his boss, the owner of Aloha Kayak, but sometimes when they have a lean month and he's concerned about being able to pay the rent, he's glad that being homeless in Hawaii is not too bad.
The word "adventure" is very versatile. Sometimes when I write about my adventures, I'm referring to thrilling, wonderful experiences that I would happily repeat. Sometimes, though, calling something an "adventure" is a way to put a positive spin on what was really a negative experience, which is how I'd describe my day spent sea kayaking and snorkeling on the Kona Coast.
The experience wasn't wasted, though, because I did learn things. Here are some of the lessons learned:
1. It pays to research tour companies online before booking a tour
As Adam and I slowly paddled our way through the teal blue sea, he became very talkative. He told me that two nights before, he'd gotten drunk at a party. He didn't remember it, but his friends told him that as he left the party, he'd run into a woman's car with his blazer. He told me in great detail about the various types of motorcycle gangs, and the inner workings of each. He told me about the tattoo that spelled "independent" in a semi-circle around his navel, and how he was inspired to get it through the influence of his older brother, who is soon to be released from prison after 12 years there because of his association with the Arayan Nations.
As we discussed these things, I asked myself "How did I come to be alone in the middle of the ocean with this man?" The answer, my friends, is because I just trusted a guidebook that was a few years old. If I had searched for current information on Aloha Kayak online, I would have seen many negative reviews that would have directed me elsewhere.
2. If you tend to get motion sick, sea kayaking is probably not for you
A few weeks earlier, my coworker invited me to a lunch meeting where he showed us photos and video of his recent trip to Nicaragua. Just sitting there in a safe, stable chair, but watching his shaky video made me motion sick that day. For some reason, it wasn't until I was out on the little kayak on the ocean waves that I remembered "Hey--I tend to get motion sick easily. Maybe sea kayaking isn't for me!"
Adam kindly gave me some Dramamine for the sea-sickness, but that also made me feel drugged out, and resulted in me sleeping for the rest of the day after returning from my adventure.
3. Your ankles can get sunburned too
Oops. Forgot to put sunscreen there. My ankles are still bright red, even a month later.
4. If you haven't been snorkeling recently, you might want a refresher course
One of the highlights of my entire life was the time I snorkeled in the Red Sea in 1990, and saw an amazing diversity of brightly colored fish. But, I haven't snorkeled since then. As the salty seawater was coming up my nose and I was struggling to feel comfortable breathing as I snorkeled around the Hawaiian coral reef, I wished I'd practiced in a swimming pool, or even the bathtub, before I came.
5. Stand-up paddle surfing is a great core workout.
As Adam and I paddled along, two guys came by standing on surfboards, paddling them along. Adam explained that this is the latest fitness craze, because it gives you an excellent abdominal workout. Because the waterproof camera I bought from Adam that day broke, I don't have the photo I took of them, but here's one I found on the internet to give you a sense of what it looked like.
6. There's a beautiful phenomenon called "Green Flash"
The ocean water was very clear and had sections of many beautiful colors--from deep royal blue to teal to bright green. As Adam and I discussed the colors, he told me about a phenomenon called "Green Flash" where occasionally at sunset a bright flash of green light is visible. You can read about it and see photos here.
7. Watching manta rays feed at night is a great experience
And as we paddled by the Sheraton Resort, Adam explained how I could have that experience. Every evening, the Sheraton shines lights on the water just outside one of their restaurants, where they have an open viewing area. The lights attract plankton, and when the graceful manta rays come to feed on them, you can have a beautiful view of them. I did that a day or two later, and was grateful for the experience.
8. How to get into a kayak from deep water
Once I was finished snorkeling, I realized that maybe getting back into the kayak from the deep water would be a bit of a problem. But, Adam kindly and expertly instructed me on how to get back in again without capsizing us. From the side of the kayak, you use your strong arm to hold the side nearest you, and reach your weaker arm over the top of the kayak to hold on to the other side. Then, you flip your legs, which helps lift you over the top of the boat, until you are lying on your tummy, perpendicular to the kayak. At that point, I was tempted to raise my knees over the edge of the boat to climb in, but that would have capsized us. Instead, you just roll over onto your back and sit up, so your rear end is seated in the boat with your legs hanging over the side. then it's easy to pull your feet back into the kayak. If you'd like to add this to your list of life skills, here's a link to a more-detailed explanation.
Even though the experience of sea kayaking and snorkeling along the Kona Coast wasn't all I had hoped for, I was still glad to add it to my collection of life experiences.