Photo: Kiteboarding Kanaha Beach Maui Hawaii

A kiteboarder soars high above Kanaha Beach on Maui, Hawaii.

Photograph by Douglas Peebles

By Robert Earle Howells

Maui’s Hookipa Beach has long been a crucible where wind and wave sports are born, refined, and practiced to their perfection. Think Robby Naish, Laird Hamilton. Think tow-out big waves, the explosion of windsurfing, and now the apotheosis of kiteboarding. The crescent of North Shore sand framed by grandstand bluffs gets blessed by 25-knot trade winds and blasted by a powerful reef break that can surge to mast-high or double that when Alaska storms deliver a big north swell. Kiting that combination means a heart-thumping experience of big aerobatics and incredible speed. Read: Experts only. So much so that kiteheads are reminded to abide by federal aviation regulations. Seriously. Mortals go early or just take a seat in the theater and watch the show.

No one’s born with the ability to kite Hookipa, which is why Kanaha Beach, seven miles (11 kilometers) west, exists. Here an offshore reef slows the waves to a mere chop, allowing 150 to 300 yards (137 to 274 meters) of flat sea and a novice’s ultimate blessing—side-shore breezes that blow you back to land. Maui, that is, not Tahiti. It’s the place to learn the art of kiting, no windsurfing ability required. It’s a place to evolve and transcend and just maybe graduate. Next stop: Hookipa.

Need to Know: Contact Action Sports Maui ( for lessons, rentals, and sobering advice. An intro class is $199.

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