The home of Big Surf Jaws
"You must go to Paia", Omar at Boss Frog told me, "The people are nicer there. You will like it."
"We must go to Paia", R told me the next day, "That's where the surf is. That's where 'Jaws' is. You will like it."
I knew I will.
Paia is a different kind of little town; as different as it gets when you drive up from the resort communities of the West Maui, with their glitzy hotels and manicured golf courses, all the way to sugarcane fields, old-world shopfronts, and surf. If you need to reach out to the real heart of Maui, you will certainly not find it in Kaanapali of West Maui, or, for that matter in the clinical heartless golf-resort town of Wailea. You will perhaps not find it even in Paia; but you will surely be very close to it.
Paia is a surf town, if there ever was one. We approached it from the south along Baldwin Avenue, after a morning trip to Haleakala National Park, and was stuck behind a large number of pickup trucks and cars with surfboards on their back, and some very weather-beaten, and mostly long-haired, people inside. The place looked a bit run down, with some houses with broken windows, but overall it had a lived-in appearance. A homely place, not a ritzy one. The place had character.
With some luck, we found parking on the road, and took a stroll down Baldwin Avenue to the Hana Highway intersection. On the way we passed by some interesting store fronts, and equally, shall we say, interesting people. This was not surprising, given that Paia is known as the Hippie capital of Maui.
After a long long wait (which possibly approaches some five minutes) at the traffic light at the intersection of Baldwin Avenue and Hana Highway, we crossed the road. There were a lot of people crossing through the red light, and I really don't blame them. The funny part was this guy who crossed the street through the red light to hit the pedestrian light button on the other side, so he could cross back again. Hmmm. Strange things do happen at Paia.
The Paia downtown, or the Baldwin Avenue and Hana Highway intersection, is quite non-descript, perhaps somewhat old-worldly. We had some ice-creams from the "Ono Gelato" store, which was good, but not remarkably so (we still remember the goodness of ice-cream from Cowlick's, Fort Bragg, California). The view from Ono Gelato store looking at the Fish market restaurant is typical old Hawaiana. Sort of reminded me of Hawi, Big Island, Hawaii.
We walked down to Baldwin Beach park. The black clouds were rolling in from the north, giving it an apocalyptic look. The scene was almost like from those Sci-Fi movies where the family swimming in the water was oblivious to the warning signs of the ominous cloud, and didn't know that the world was about to end. Some other people, sitting around, drinking from their brown-paper wrapped bottles, didn't know it either it seemed, or perhaps they didn't care. Some of them appeared to be already at a much higher elevation than the sea level, shall we say. Even a tsunami will possibly not reach them.
We had heard of the famous "Jaws" surfing near Paia (actually, some 8 miles or so from there). There, when the conditions are right, waves can reach monster height of 60 feet or thereabouts. The "surferetti" typically gather on those days to scale the high waves, while the less bold watch from cliff tops. Today was not one of those "Jaws" days, unfortunately; the surf prediction was only a couple of feet. We checked out the shoreline of Hoopika Bay, which attracts the lesser-skilled surfers. The "Jaws" will have to wait for another time.