Our friends on The Valley Isle of Maui have been posting some amazing shots of the huge conditions on the Maliko Run on the North Shore this week. So, we thought we’d check in with Suzie Cooney, whose video and photos of one of her friends, Kevin Vangritis from Cary, NC posted earlier this week were pretty spectacular. So is the backstory on what happened as they were headed out of the Maliko Gulch at the start of their run.
Walls of Water
“That day, the surf was 8 to 10 feet with a wind swell to 15 feet-plus and the trades were ranging 30 mph plus – with 40 mph gusts. These conditions continue to build as the marine weather forecast predicts gale force winds through Thanksgiving with even bigger rising surf,” Suzie recounted.
“BIG sets were rolling in from outside Sprecks reef. We stayed out about 1.25 miles and made our way in near Pier One (at Kahului Harbor.) Normally, there’s no need to stay out THAT far but,yes, that day we had to.”
Just outside of Hookipa Beach Park, not too far from the start of the run, a Portuguese Man O War wrapped around Kevin’s right leg. Often mistaken for a jellyfish, the Man O’War is a very venomous marine animal made up of a colony of organisms working together. One of the organisms is comprised of long tendrils averaging 30 feet in length that can deliver an excruciating sting.
“It was painful but we had to keep moving as the mountains of water were too dangerous to sit much more than a minute max,” Suzie said.
But wait, there’s more.
About 10 minutes later, a shark started to rise below his board! Worrying about a shark while dealing with a PMOW sting – we can’t even!
“Conditions like these are for only the strongest, most skilled waterman and women who have experience with many big days under their feet,” Suzie said. “Big bodies of water are constantly rolling and moving like mountains, but the biggest concern is that a rogue set will form and sneak into the outer reefs with little or no warning.”
Safety, safety, safety
Suzie is also adamant that paddlers do not go out alone and go only with the most seasoned downwind companions when Maliko is firing like it is now. “Also, carrying an EPIRB device and/or cell phone is simply a must,” she advises. “Everyone who paddles with me must have both or at minimum a phone.”
“Of course;.’, check your leash – maybe even take an extra, pack zip ties, food and always take hydration. This is not a time to be cool and it’s not just a normal day on Maliko you can sprint down without water.”
Choose your colors wisely
Suzie offers some other great safety advice that we think is applicable no matter where you paddle.
“A super bright hat and top also is important as one drops in and out of the swells and can disappear from sight on big days like this. Also, if there is a rescue, you can be spotted easily. I also wrap my paddles in bright orange tape so if one gets loose I can immediately seeing floating on the water,” Suzie said.
And we agree with Suzie when she says “smart wins and when in doubt, don’t go out.”
If you want to keep tabs on Maliko conditions, check out Suzie’s weather report here: https://www.malikorun.com
And to learn how to be a stronger paddler for Maliko or what ever your next downwind challenge is, check out Chapter 10 in her SUP Bible, How to Increase Your Stand Up Paddling Performance .