Band on the Run: Surfing & The Superferry in Maui, Hawaii

Ember Swift, Canadian musician and touring performer, will be keeping us up-to-date on what it’s like to tour a band throughout North America. Having just arrived back from Beijing where she spent three months (check out her “Canadian in Beijing” series), she offers a musician’s perspective on road life. Enjoy!

My five days (four nights) in Maui went by too quickly. I filled them up with as much as I could, and even then the time seemed to slip between my fingers like sand.

On Thursday evening after the last family event that followed the wedding from the previous day, my roommate Elaine and I decided to skip out early and head to Kihei, a surfing town farther south by about an hour where she had spent a few days on her own before joining the wedding party earlier in the week.

My motivation for leaving (besides seeing another place other than “resort row”) was to connect with an old friend and fellow musician: Erin Smith. She and her husband moved out to these parts about three years ago and she is now making her living as a musician in Maui, playing almost every night and “touring without touring.” Basically, that means that she plays to new faces and new nationalities every night because Hawaii is such a tourist center, but she never needs to leave her home and pile into a van or a plane to do it.

Now there’s some foresight.

Before heading to Kihei, we stopped into the town of Lahaina where Erin was playing that night and headed to the venue called “The Cool Cat Café.” She was playing her acoustic and singing – no band – but had a two hour contract with the restaurant which included both original music and covers. The place was open air, as are most venues in Hawaii, and so the sound of her voice caught my ears as we were parking the car and I followed her voice music right up the stairs and into the café, as I’m sure other patrons do when they hear her soulful singing.

Brilliant. That’s marketing at its finest.

Erin noticed me as I walked in and flashed me a big grin while she was playing. Elaine and I sat down to some local beer and watched the last few songs before Erin was on break. At that point, she came over to our table and we chatted for about twenty minutes before she had to get back on stage.

Life on the island of Maui seems to have done Erin quite a bit of good. She is freckled and smiley and has taken up surfing. Seems funny to imagine a Canadian (non-coastal) girl on a surfboard, but I celebrate it for her. She talked about the surfing movement in Hawaii and how much of a state pastime it is. She even referred to the energetic wave (pun intended) that takes over the community when the swells are high. To me, the funniest thing she told me was that it’s not uncommon for people to “call in surf” (rather than sick) when there’s good waves to be catching. Employers generally accept it there! It’s to be expected after all.

Elaine and I slipped out of the café during her second set in order to get on the road for Kihei and to check into our accommodations that evening. We were staying in the same cottages that Elaine had rented before the wedding (Lihi Kai Cottages) and hers came with a cot for me since it was only the one night that I would be staying.

These cottages also came with full kitchens, full baths and a huge main room. Easily double the size of the resort rooms and half the price. Not to mention the fact that the kitchen came stocked with real cutlery! I had to laugh when I noticed this (and take a picture, of course!)

The next day, I had a lovely brunch with Erin and her husband Ross and then spent most of the day watching the surfers before having to catch my plane for San Francisco that evening. It’s not hard to get lost in the sea air, the rhythmic roar of the waves, the transit of the sun across the sky. I took it all in with every pore that day, eager to keep some of that ocean air in my system for as long as possible.

Just before packing up and heading for the airport, I caught a report on the news about the new “Superferry” in Hawaii and how environmentalists are trying to stop it from launching. They said that inadequate environmental assessments had been carried out and that whale calving grounds were in jeopardy. I looked up more information on the internet and found these interesting sites and articles, but had to leave before I could ask anyone who lives there anything else about it.

I did feel happy to hear that the environmental activists were at least being taken seriously enough to have the courts involved. I’ll be trying to keep up with it from here.

I waved goodbye to Hawaii from the departures lounge, a floor of the airport that has no walls. It is open air just like the cafes. You arrive on the sidewalk and you have no need to walk through any doors because there simply aren’t any. You just walk towards the desk of your airline.

I laughed out loud when I noticed that and one of the porters looked at me strangely. I just smiled back at him and checked into my flight at the very last possible moment.

There was still sand under my nails.

I’m taking some of Hawaii home with me, in more ways than one!