Mary Adamski

Hawaii’s Back yard

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

There's time during the kayaking excursions to drop overboard for a snorkeling look-see to discover what lies below the water's surface.

Brothers paddle
into 'great quiet'

Tips for the novice paddler

Micco Godinez describes the kayak as "a poor man's yacht," but it has rewarded him with experiences that have been rich indeed. In 1980, accompanied by his brother Chino, the intrepid adventurer embarked on his first kayaking trip -- a five-month, 1,500-mile journey through the breathtaking Inside Passage, from Everett, Wash., to Skagway, Alaska.

Another memorable expedition took the brothers through the Hawaiian chain by kayak, from South Point on the Big Island to Kalapaki Beach in Nawiliwili, Kauai. On that three-week odyssey, says Godinez, "We did all crossings in the pitch black of night, when the winds had diminished and there was no sun. We had no escort boat -- just a radio, flares and an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, a satellite-tracking device). That was a great trip, powered for the most part by poi and sardines."

That kayaking has become a passion of Godinez and Chino is no surprise, considering they spent their early years in pre-revolutionary Cuba, "always on the brow of the ocean," says Godinez. "We are Cuban refugees; our Dad is Cuban, our Mom is American. A la 'The Old Man and the Sea,' our dad would strike out and go fishing in a rowboat."

After leaving Cuba, the family settled in Puerto Rico, where the brothers have fond memories of surfing, sailing, diving and fishing. Surfing first drew Godinez to Hawaii in 1974. For five years, he lived and worked on Oahu off and on, exploring the other islands whenever he could, including making several backpacking trips to Kauai. When Godinez wasn't in Hawaii, he was answering the call of the wild in Alaska.

In the fall of 1983, he succumbed to the lure of Europe. He recalls, "I go into a fish-and-chips place in Britain, sit down and look up at the wall of the booth I was in; there was a huge poster of the Na Pali Coast! That was an epiphany! A week later, I was back on Kauai. Chino moved over a year later from Caracas, Venezuela, where he had gone into the wood business with our older brother, and we joined forces. That was the beginning of Kayak Kauai."

GODINEZ AND CHINO have been riding a wave of success ever since. From the start, kayaking has been the heart of their business. Boasting the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, Kauai is a natural for the sport, asserts Godinez. The rivers lead to pristine beaches and wilderness areas, including the Na Pali Coast, which he calls "one of the most picturesque and challenging paddles in the world -- the Everest of sea kayaking."

Paddlers are treated to tranquil, picturesque views of Waioli Valley from the vantage of Hanalei River.

Combining paddling, snorkeling and beach combing, the family-oriented "Blue Lagoon" ranks among Kayak Kauai's most popular tours. Participants glide into the tranquil embrace of the Hanalei River, its banks adorned with yellow hao trees, Java plum, papyrus and more. Golden plovers, night herons, gallinules, meadowlarks, wandering tattlers, koloa (Hawaiian ducks) and nene (Hawaiian geese, the islands' state bird) provide friendly company along the way.

Near the mouth of the river, Makana, the peak made famous as Bali Hai in the 1958 Hollywood musical "South Pacific," commands attention. Paddlers enter lovely Hanalei Bay near Puupoa Point, below Princeville.

"It seems that we are about to paddle into the jaws of the famous Hanalei surf break," says Godinez, "but lo and behold, we quickly turn right and slip into the cool calmness of the Puupoa reef. We calibrate tours to the ages and desires of the participants. If they're feisty, we'll take them out to play in the surf; if they're more subdued, we'll stay the conservative course."

KAYAKERS LAND either at the beach at Puupoa or an oasis called Hidden Beach. Ample time is reserved for swimming, snorkeling, beach combing and refreshments before the group retraces the route back up the Hanalei River.

Godinez has made the trip countless times, but never tires of it. "Kayaking is quiet, meditative and great exercise," he says.

"On Kauai, it's especially memorable because you never know what you might discover around the corner -- waterfalls, caves, beaches and valleys that are only accessible from the sea.

"Paddling is in sync with the bucolic charm of Kauai. It's not only relaxing, with low impact on the environment, it's a wonderful way to listen to the 'great quiet.' The land and waters whisper to you and show you things you wouldn't notice when you're in a different frame of mind. Paddling is the essence of peace in an often chaotic world."

Kayak Kauai's
Blue Lagoon Tour

Address: 5070-A Kuhio Highway, Hanalei, Hawaii 96714

Phone: (808) 826-9844

Time: This three-hour tour is offered at 9:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. daily except Sundays and holidays

Cost: $60 for adults and $45 for children under 12, including refreshments and snorkeling gear. Kamaaina receive a 10 percent discount when booked directly. Kids around the age of 12 may paddle their own kayak. Younger children are paired with an adult.

Notes: Bring a camera, sunscreen, a light shirt, bathing suit, footwear (tabis, aqua socks or tennis shoes), a towel and a change of clothes.

Other tours: Ask about the Secret Falls hiking/kayaking trip; Na Pali Coast Sea Kayaking (available during the summer); surf lessons, custom hiking tours; and the Kauai Discovery Tour, a six-night, seven-day package including meals, ground transportation, accommodations, and the best activities from the company's one-day tours.

Web site:



Kayaking as easy
as one-two-three

Micco Godinez offers these tips to the novice paddler:

>> The kayaking stroke is not a matter of power, but of technique and finesse. An effective stroke isn't hard, but smooth and easy. Flex open the pushing hand of your paddle with every stroke. If you keep a death grip on the paddle, your fingers will cramp.

>> Extend your arms so you can get full blood flow to the end of your arms. The same is true with your legs; keep them as straight as possible. If you bend them, they'll start cramping.

>> The paddling stroke involves the shoulders, but only as a transfer agent. The real power emanates from the abdomen. If you have paddled correctly, this is where you'll hurt the next day.

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer
and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.

E-mail to Travel Editor

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