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Valentine's Day paddle is no breeze


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POSTED: Sunday, February 15, 2009

Kent Backman wanted a little adventure with his girlfriend for Valentine's Day.

He got a lot more than he bargained for.

The adventure started when the couple departed on a stand-up paddle journey from Hawaii Kai to Kaimana Beach in Waikiki, one they've taken many times together.

The National Weather Service had issued a high wind advisory, which means possible sustained winds of 30 mph and gusts to 50 mph.

A squall pushed the couple out to sea as they paddled past Diamond Head. “;When we finally got to the Ewa side of Diamond Head, we couldn't make the corner because it was just too blown off shore,”; Backman said.

His girlfriend, Liz McFarlane, was quick to take the blame. “;I'm not a strong enough paddler,”; she said. “;He would have been fine without me. He could have left me.”;

“;It was Valentine's Day,”; Backman said. “;I might as well just hang out.”;

Backman, a muscular guy whose lips were turning blue from the cold, blamed himself for underestimating the wind.

Backman called for help on his waterproof phone at about 5 p.m. McFarlane was fighting sea sickness and the couple was still about 100 yards from the Diamond Head buoy.

Firefighters launched a helicopter to keep sight of the couple and a rescue boat went to pluck them from the water three miles off shore. The boat had to make two passes to pick up the couple because the wind kept pushing it away, said fire Capt. Alan Carvalho.

By about 6 p.m., firefighters brought the couple, uninjured, to Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor.

McFarlane, who was shivering in a yellow fire jacket, said she was “;cold, but happy to be out of the water.”;

She quickly retreated into the firetruck to warm up and get an escort back to their car.

“;It was a surprise date for Valentine's Day,”; said Backman, a Hawaii Kai resident. “;I wanted a little more excitement.”;

When asked how the date went, Backman said, “;I'll let you know.”;