Maliko Run Downwind SUP Foiling Tips From Dave Kalama

Maui is known as one of the best developmental “playgrounds” for testing all things surf and SUP especially when it comes to downwinding on Maliko. Many of the sport’s same legends and pioneers are breaking new ground making new discoveries and keeping stand up paddling on the cutting edge.

In this article I take you back to the first time I saw an actual SUP foil board on a wave and then catch up with Dave Kalama to ask him this thoughts on the future of SUP foiling on Maliko. I asked him to shed some insight on some of the finer points and nuances about getting started in specifically downwind paddling and what skills and gear you need. ( SEE VIDEO OF DAVE FLYING ON MALIKO BELOW)

The concept of foiling is really not new per say, but when it comes to SUP, it’s definitely raising lots of eyebrows of interest and really taking off. Now we’re starting to see cars driving all over Maui with these weird things with wings on top of their surf racks or half hanging off the tailgate of a truck. You should see the finger pointing and expressions on people’s faces at the Hana Highway and Haleakala intersection.

People are asking, what kind of radio antenna is that? Catch any big fish with that? Or just straight up, “what the heck is that? You can be sure some will decorate them for Christmas just to get a few extra looks and laughs.

I remember not too long ago on a very calm Sunday afternoon, I went to Kanaha to check out some of the left over surf from a recent N swell. It was weird that there was only myself and this one other guy out. That’s when you question and wonder if people saw the big fish and everyone left? It was so glassy and not a ripple of wind.

That other paddler just happen to be Alex Aguera doing this weird thing that looked like he was bobbing up and down like he was on a pogo stick. He was “pumping”. I learned the term later; as he paddled and balanced on this small, thick, square-ish board with one strap on the middle. He was catching freaking every small wave or what seemed like nothing at all! He smiled at me as I gave him a look of amazement and awe like a kid on Christmas morning. I didn’t have words. Not even a squeak.

Well then what seemed like literally a few days later; a few of the usual core group of some of the highly known skilled local waterman; start showing up doing this weird bobbling thing again up and down the line ups. They were rising out of the water like some born again surfer with a smile and amusement, as if someone gave them a time machine to go back to their childhood when they first learned the freedom of riding a bike, or in Maui’s case, catching their first wave.

Flash forward only a few months and there’s Dave Kalama of Kalama Performance DAVEKALAMA.COM and founder of GoFoil and Alex A, ripping down Maliko.

For a timeline purpose it was only several months back now, the first day Dave Kalama completed his first full Maliko run on a SUP foil. He popped over the house to drop off a board on his way home, and as he sat on a bench in the garage with this look of blissed out exhaustion and said, “Man, that was hard! I had to sit down 5 times and rest! My front leg was on fire!” Then he flashed a big smile with a deep that Dave chuckle and said, “but It was SO much fun” as he shifted his legs a couple more times.

Well like everything else Dave does, he makes it look so easy. And for those of you who are now  SUP foiling, some of you I know are now putting your sights on Maliko as one of the goals.

To help you plan, prepare and train as you plot your course to fly on your foil downind on Maliko, I asked Dave the following questions:

  1. How popular do you think downwind SUP foiling will be on Maliko in the near future? What’s the reality of people being able to really grasp the art of downwinding on a foil?

“It’s going to continue to grow. The barrier of entry will be pretty high. First you have to be proficient at wave riding and then you can start to break through and figure out the downwinding. It’s possible and it’s sort of like downwinding in general, there’s a lot going on you gotta try and figure it all out.”

  1. The learning curve for SUP foiling on Maliko compared to regular downwind paddling is probably longer and bigger. Would you agree and please expand on that? How is it different and why?

“Yes. It’s very similar, but it’s going to be a small portion of stand up for downwinding in general because it is difficult. There’s no doubt about it, but if you have downwind experience already it will help you, but not initially. ( He laughs ) You have to recalibrate how you look at everything and what is rideable.

You can’t ride the same part of the wave. You have to stay mid swell or higher. Can’t allow yourself to run to the bottom.

  1. Any tips for those aspiring to make the full Maliko Run on a SUP foil?

“The two tips are: Be very proficient at wave riding and the better you are at pumping yourself up on to your foil the easier time you’ll have at downwinding. The whole thing is sort of predicated of being able to pump yourself onto the foil with just a little push. If you have don’t have pumping skills, you have no business even flirting with downwinding yet.

I then posed the question about leg strength. Dave’s reply: “Yes, but I don’t care how much leg strength you have but it will seem sufficient initially but then you’ll start to figure it out and get more efficient.”

4.What’s the best foil choice and board set up?

“Foil size, the biggest you can get. That makes it easier to get up and then board size, bigger initially so that it’s easier to can catch the swells but as you get better at pumping, and having the ability to get the board pumping, then you can start to ride smaller and smaller boards to make it easier once you are up.

Foil and board choice: “The GoFoil would be the Maliko Foil. And then you’re going to want to start with a 10 footer and then probably end up with an 7/6 – 9ft.

  1. What was your top, max speed so far on a SUP foil on Maliko and your time, Maliko to the mouth entrance?

“My fastest I’ve ever gone is around 20-22mph something like that. I’ve only done one Maliko Run where I stayed up the whole and that was 44:40

Just when you think you’ve seen it all on Maliko or much less any body of water, SUP foiling is pushing limits, raising a new “fun bar” and making many feel like they are literally flying. Downwind paddling on Maliko just got more exciting. I’m curious to know what the “malolo” or flying fish think about seeing these winged things rise above the surface as they skim and dart across the water with them?

A big mahalo to Dave Kalama for the inspiration and for sharing these valuable tips, we can’t wait to see more videos! 

The future of foiling is here. Be safe everyone and fly on.

Suzie Cooney
Maliko Run™

Want a killer, custom SUP foil board shaped by Dave Kalama? They are beautiful!! Check out some killer photos and learn more from Dave by clicking here: Dave Kalama Performance Foil Boards Be sure to tell him we sent you.


Learn more about The GoFoil and what you need to get started:


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