Hui Wa'a Kaiukahi

A Whale of a Tale!


Kevin K.L. Ching DDS


One of the most thrilling experiences is the viewing of wildlife from your kayak. When the wildlife is 50 feet long and breaching, the thrill reaches a fever pitch. It started as partial reverse "Weed Out The Wimps" paddle. As Doug and I inched around Portlock, the ocean started getting active. The clapotis was manageable and helped to increase my alertness. The water turned from azure to deep blue and the water became smoother after we left the point. A wave crashing on the deeply cut cliffs told the story of how the once massive cinder cone was whittled away by an unrelenting blue force.

We finally reached Hanauma Bay, and the south side of the bay was active with spectacular splashes 20 to 30 feet high.The tail is all that's left. We rested in the relative protection of the partially submerged cinder cone for a few minutes. Before long, we paddled on north to Sandy beach. It was at that point that I asked Doug if he was interested in doing a double "Wimps" paddle by paddling onward to Makapuu and back to Hawaii Kai. He wasn’t too excited by the idea so we stopped just north of Hanauma and turned back south. As we paddled back, a boat was visible about 2 miles southeast of Koko Head, and I kept watching it for a while. Soon the reason the boat was parked out at that point became evident, as a pair of "blows" were clearly visible. I called out to Doug and he saw the plumes as well. As we stopped to watch the show, I needled Doug for not buying the waterproof binoculars he was talking about last month. All of sudden I heard a loud "Poofffff!" A humpback was blowing just 30 yards east of us! I was totally speechless; I was never that close to a whale before. Then there was a second blow just behind us when I spun my kayak around to see; all that was left was the plume, then the dorsal fin and the tail. Frozen in awe, we watched as the pair made their way towards Makapuu. My thoughts were drifting on to how the Hawaiians must have felt as they paddled past the immense kohola.

When we could barely see the whales in the distance, we continued back to Hawaii Kai. Being a little fatigued by the paddle out I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about the veritable washing machine that we were about to face on the way back. The reflected waves seemed surfable as they raced back to sea. In the distance was Portlock point and in between, a lot of white water. As we approached Portlock, Doug related a story about the last "Weed Out the Wimps" paddle that Alan had claimed that he had seen a whale breach just before they turned into Hawaii Kai. Doug noticed that no one else had seen the breach, so he told Alan it didn’t count. We were having a good laugh about it, when all of a sudden "Whummmp! Sssshhhh!" a humpback breached 60 yards away. It was an awesome display, as the whale jumped a second time and third time each time with a deep, resonating splash. I glanced behind and saw a small fishing boat taking an erratic course, actually sweeping inside us close to the cliff at Portlock point. I reasoned that the boat was trying to avoid the breaching whales, but they were 60 yards away. Suddenly the answer became apparent, the deep blue water 20 yards away was suddenly becoming azure, then two streaks of white were coming closer to the surface. The white lines were the air bubbles that were flowing over huge pectoral fins of a gigantic humpback. Suddenly, "Poofffff!" up came a huge plume then the dorsal fin and the tail. Fear and awe hit me simultaneously as I kept praying she wasn’t thinking about breaching. Then just as gently as she arrived, she disappeared deep into the blue water. Looking around, I noticed an audience on the cliff at Portlock, I’m sure someone there wasn’t all that happy that we were so close to the whales. We turned into Mauna Lua Bay and returned to our take out spot with memories to last a lifetime.


It is illegal to approach within 100 yards of whales in Hawaii. It is also illegal to disrupt an activity or prior activity by any act or omission. If you see whale activity while kayaking, stop paddling and enjoy the show, don’t paddle out to them because this may interfere with some very vital activities such as nursing. Paddling towards whales may cause them to change their behavior, which may result in your arrest or worse if you get between a mother and it’s calf. Let’s all cooperate so that future generations may enjoy these beautiful animals.

(c) 2003 Hui Waa Kaukahi