March 23, 2016

It’s hard to believe, but my time in Hawaii has come to an end. Tomorrow, I will board a plane and leave this place, and it’s possible that I will never return. If that sounds overdramatic then I would say you’ve never visited these beautiful islands. You’ve never felt the tug of your soul as you looked at a calendar and realized you had to leave a place that is like no other. IMG_0785.JPG While I was here, I had the unique privilege of being a tourist, but experiencing these islands how the locals do. I arrived with an itinerary that I was eager to fulfill, but when I reviewed it with my host, I was politely told that we wouldn’t be doing much of what was on my list. Needless to say, I was very disappointed, but I would soon learn that I was also naive. He explained to me that there are two Hawaii’s. There is the Hawaii that is sold by travel agencies and souvenir shops, this version is manufactured to be beautiful and memorable, but lacks grit and authenticity, and then there’s the real Hawaii. The real Hawaii could never be described with pen and paper – it’s a sensation.IMG_0188 copy.jpg It’s a heartbeat that resonates through the land and the existence of the people that call it home. It’s a secret to the passerby and hides under the blanket of lush greens and easily attained exhilarations, revealing her self only to those who are daring enough to walk at her pace. This island is alive. She exploded from the ocean floor over 40 millions years ago.  With violent force, she came into existence and gave home to ancient civilizations. She offers the best mother nature has to offer: forests full of wild fruit, clear emerald blue waters, towering ridgelines and a race of people that have founded a culture based on a concept of love and hospitality.  Hawaii is not a vacation, it’s a life changing experience. It’s a place of fairy tales and mind-numbing beauty.IMG_0775.JPG If you ever get the chance to come to one of these amazing islands, don’t get caught up in the tourist traps, don’t go to trip advisor and look for things to do. Buy yourself a map of the island, rent a jeep and explore the real Hawaii. The land the locals are lucky enough to call home.

Aloha, Maddie IMG_0787.JPG

Paddle Work

March 16, 1016

This post is for those interested in the paddle I have been building. I will walk through the process I have followed up until present day. Putting in 2+ hours everyday so far, all that is left to do is the final fiberglass and epoxy coats!

When I arrived in Hawaii, the paddle had already been milled and glued together for the sake of time. To glue it, the shaft, blade, and grip are first glued separately and then together. To get the bent shape of the shaft, the whole thing is set to cure with a wedge shoved under the bottom half. At this point everything is rectangular and referred to as a blank. My paddle is made out of bass and cherry.

glued tog paddle.jpg

(Not a picture of my paddle, but it shows what they look like after being glued together.)

This first thing I did was transfer a pattern onto the blade and cut that out on a bandsaw. This started the phase of giving everything a rough shape.


Next was to make reference lines on the shaft (which we made to .25 in from the center). Typically this is done with a router and a cove bit. Not something I know much about, but you would push the paddle through the router and it would shave of the edges until it had the shape you wanted. Instead of doing this, I went the conventional route and used a spoke shave.
This gave way to a much slower, but way cooler way of  rounding the shaft. It adds to the value of the traditional paddle building, and forms these beautiful shaving curls.


Once the shaft has been shaved to the reference lines, taking on a nice egg shape, I rounded it out a bit more by buffing it with sandpaper.The nice thing about making my own paddle is that it can be fitted to my hands; a luxury for me since things tend to run slightly bigger than for optimal comfort.
Going back to the blade, the next thing was to get the thickness down. I measured some more reference lines, this time on the depth of the blade. I taped a piece of string to the tick marks I had made, and then spray painted it. This gave a nice line to which I then shaved  down to using the orbital. At this point the blade is about 3/16 in thick.



The amount of sawdust that came off from this part of the process was insane, and required a respirator in addition to safety goggles and hearing protection. This was even with the orbital being hooked up to a vacuum. I really enjoyed using the orbital though and it is easy to see progress with.

After the blade started looking like a blade, it was time to give the handle some love. Using a previous paddle from the shop, I traced the shape of the handle, cut it out using a bandsaw, and rounded its edges with the orbital.

When everything had its intended shape, it was time to fine tune it all. I talked a little bit about this in my previous blog post, but basically this phase required a lot of attention to detail and a lot of hand sanding. First I had to make sure that the blade cut was symmetrical. To do this, I measured from the center to the edge on each side for every 1/4in down the blade and then re-shaped it with the orbital. I also did one last round on the orbital to get any bumps out (places where it was much thicker). Then I went on to smooth out all of the transitions between the grip, shaft, and blade so that the paddle became one. IMG_1489.JPGIMG_1491

This was the longest part of the process because it required lots of continuous inspection and backtracking to make sure everything was even and flowed. You can see the stripes of different woods that we used, and to make sure that the thicknesses of the lines were uniform, especially on the shaft, is imperative for the paddle to come together and look like a polished, finished piece. ( The shaft is layered, and thus when shaped and sanded the layers start to show.) It took forever, but was worth the trouble in the end.

The last piece was to sand everything going from sandpapers 60, 100, 120 to 220 grit. Using the 100 grit smoothed the entire thing, taking out scratches from the 60 grit, then the 120 and 220, and finally a foam block. By the end, the wood became super smooth and felt great to the touch! Here is the almost finished product. The last thing to do will be to fiberglass and epoxy the whole thing so it is sturdier and does not absorb water.  IMG_1534.JPG

This has been a great project for me to work on. I have a solid background in wood working and tools, but I haven’t done a lot recently, and especially not without my dad. It is always a different experience doing things on your own compared to with your parents. I have reaffirmed my knowledge of “working in the shop” and learned some new tricks along the way. I can’t wait to finish this baby up and try it out!

If you are interested in these gorgeous, traditional paddles, the guy that has been coaching me through this has his own paddle business, so feel free to check out his Instagram page @elainepaddleco !


Getting Out in Nature

March 13, 2016

A continuation of paddle work has ensued! I am now into the nitty gritty, shaping and working the transitions from the handle to the shaft, and the shaft to the blade. Mostly using hand powered sandpaper at this point, each session leaves my upper triceps aching. I am also making sure that the blade of the paddle is flat and symmetrical. This requires some more smoke shaving, the use of an orbital, aaand more hand sanding.


Friday morning we woke up early to catch the sunrise. The trail was called the Pillbox trail, taking us up a ridge on the East side of the island.  Hiking up in the near pitch black, we arrived at the top a mere 20 minutes later. The pillboxes located on the trail were previously used during World War II to track targets at sea and send locations for firing. They also gave way to nice seats for watching the sunrise. We decided, however, to walk just a little farther and grab a spot minus the twenty-five other spectators. Behind me in the picture on the right are two islands that are called the Mokes.

Later in the day we enjoyed a Hawaiian burger that included fresh pineapple, teriyaki sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, swiss, and mayo. A crazy combination, that left us very content. Thanks to the waiter that insisted we try it (with added bacon!)!  There was also a quick stop to Waikiki Beach, to check that off my list. This is the beautiful, sought after vacation spot on Oahu. Gorgeous, but too crowded for my taste.


Saturday we went to check out the Swap Meet. This market place had over 400 vendors selling both original artwork and touristy souvenirs. In the central picture, the dark fruit is an avocado; it’s crazy huge!

After picking out some souvenirs, we headed for the peaceful tranquility that the Byodo Temple offers. This temple was built to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants that came to the island. It is a small scale replica of the original in Japan, located at a United Nations World Heritage Site. You are invited to find a quiet place to meditate or just walk around and enjoy the temple and its grounds.

To really immerse myself in the habitat of Hawaii, my host family agreed to a camping trip! We slept nestled under an indigenous Acacia Koa tree. If there is a wood that understands the pulse of the Hawaiian people, it would be Koa. It was considered a wood of the gods, and is now protected due to over harvesting. I have been learning a lot about different woods through working on my paddle project. The mountains that we woke up to were stunning, and then we proceeded to make and eat eggs and spam for breakfast. Spam became popular during World War II and has continued to be a staple for the Hawaiian people. It’s pretty tasty!

On one last note, beware of the bugs. This one is considered small!



Trying to be More Than Just a Tourist…

March 10, 2016

I arrived in Hawaii on Friday night and was instantly impressed with the balmy weather. My host family said just wait until the morning when I could really see the beautiful state of Hawaii….

For my first day, I was surprised with a Zodiac ride out to a sandbar. I have never seen such blue water in my life. The ocean incorporates every shade of blue and green you can imagine, and then topped off with a blue sky, and mountains covered in foliage on 3 sides of me, I was pretty damn impressed. When we got out to the sandbar, the water was just below my knees, and we waded around just taking in the scene.



On Tuesday I met with an employee of Makai Ocean Engineering to learn about what is going on in the world of renewable energy. The facility(pictured below) is situated on a pier over crystal blue water looking out into the Pacific. We sat outside to have a picnic lunch and I learned that its actually not a great time to be in the renewable energy business! With gas prices going down, so is the interest in sustainable energy. We did talk about their two biggest projects going on on the Big island: OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) and SWAC (Sea Water Air Conditioning). They pump cold water from deep in the ocean and cycle it with the warm water on top to generate electricity. This works because the difference in temperatures can drive a turbine that produces power. OTEC is actually only 3% efficient meaning that they lose 97% of energy in the process. However, it can be done in such large scale and with little impact on anything, that it is still effective in generating the amount of energy they want.


Aside from exploring Oahu, I have been building an outrigger canoe paddle. Outrigger canoes were used by the first settlers who found most of the Pacific Islands and are still very popular for canoe racing.


The paddle on top is what I am working on. Below are others in the process.

There have also been many new foods that I have been tasting along the way. Today we stopped at a local market and tried papaya, guava, dragon eye, apple banana, white mountain apple, egg fruit, and rambutan. The apple banana and rambutan were my favorites, so if you ever get the chance to try them, I strongly recommend! And of course, there was an ice cold coconut to drink! We also tried garlic shrimp, a must-have in Hawaii, and now I understand why.

On the left are the rambutan which have a similar consistency to a peeled grape; jelly like, and on the right is me with my coconut.

Last and most definitely least of my trip so far was our trip to Waimea Falls. It was much more of a built up touristy attraction than anticipated, and although the fall was pretty and the walk through the botanical garden to get to it was nice, it was extremely anticlimactic.

I am on the hunt for authentic Hawaii, and with 3 weeks to enjoy it, I hope to do more than just see what most tourists see. Check back soon to see what else is happening in Hawaii!



Hawaii Bound!

February 28th, 2016

T-minus 5 days until I am on a 12 hour flight taking me to “One of the most beautiful places on Earth.” Of course its beauty was only one of the things drawing me to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, specifically the island of Oahu. Aside from that, I was captured by the leaps and bounds Hawaii is making in the renewable energy field. On June 8th, 2015 (about one year ago) the Governor of Hawaii signed four energy bills, one of which holds Hawaii to their goal of generating 100% of their electricity from renewable energy by the year 2045. They are the first U.S. state to set such a goal, and an aggressive one at that! By not having to spend $5 billion on imported oil a year, Hawaii will be able to invest more money into their economy. I will be visiting Makai Ocean Engineering to learn more about their current research and technologies being developed right now.

Along with learning about the business of renewable energies, I will be immersing myself in Hawaii’s unique culture by preparing cultural food and building paddles that the natives used when discovering the islands.

I am a very excited senior interested in our Earth, engineering, traveling, and what Oahu holds for us and our future. Keep coming back if you share any of these interests!