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We all know how fun paddling can be during the day with the sun on our backs, but have you experienced nighttime paddling? It’s a whole new experience when the ocean shines back at you. At Rainbow Watersports on the North Shore of O’ahu, Hawai’i, this is one adventure we know our paddlers will experience deep within their souls. Come along with me on a virtual Twilight GLOW paddle… The water is sprinkled with pink and purple shimmers, reflecting the colorful sky. A small group of us are sitting on our paddle boards in the middle of the bay enjoying the sunset. The orange sun dips beyond the horizon, and other paddlers and beach goers turn back to shore, ready to head home.
For many people, the small moments of twilight are rushed by, as though twilight is just an afterthought of a sunset. The sky turns from a painting of pinks and orange to lavender then purple. Our group begins to chatter with one another, when suddenly a spotted ray leaps out of the water in front of our boards. “Woah, did you see that?” I exclaim. “That was awesome!” comes the reply. We all laugh, savoring the joy of the moment.
There is something magical about a purple sky that appears when the last of the sun’s rays have disappeared. It ignites anticipation for a star-filled night sky. It calms the soul as land and sea enter a time of stillness. With a simple click of a button, the rods of lights attached to our boards illuminate the ocean floor beneath, reflecting back a scenic view of colorful coral.
A turtle passes underneath our boards and the lights on our boards shine on its checkered shell light a spotlight. Puffer fish, parrot fish, and other reef fish swim underneath. Some of them swim quickly away, and others seem drowsy with sleep and float in the bath of light.
The navy sky darkens to black and the lights under our boards starkly contrast with the dark sky to reveal the world beneath us. As we paddle along, purple and white coral heads appear beneath us like overgrown cauliflower.
The lights of Hale’iwa town glow yellow and give us a sense of direction while also averting any vertigo that may otherwise be experienced paddling in the dark. In the daytime, there is so much for our senses to take in. But in the dark, our senses are more keen, and distractions have disappeared.
The spotlight effect of the boards’ lights compel us to take in one moment of beauty at a time. The boards’ lights shine outward, creating a circle of light that extends a body-length around the board—we are literally floating above a halo of light! Night is waning on and we head closer to shore.
As a finale to the night’s adventure, we lie on our boards and look up at the starry sky. Here in the country, thousands of bright stars pierce through the darkness. We rock gently upon the water like on a watery hammock and try to name some of the constellations. This moment has lit up our souls.
Tips to keep in mind:
1. The stronger light beams you have, the better will be your visibility. We are happy with the lights from Nocqua.
2. Go with a buddy; you’re always safer with others, especially when you will be the only ones out on the water.
3. Wear glow necklaces. It helps keep everyone visible. We also put glow bracelets on our paddles. This way, in case a paddle falls in the water, it is easy to see.
4. Stay relatively close to shore. Ocean conditions can change when further out to sea.
5. Paddle where lights on the shore are visible. Paddling in total darkness throws off your equilibrium and can be very disorienting, causing vertigo.
6. Check the forecast. Wind conditions should be light-to- no wind and no waves. Also check the forecast for the morning. If there is a large morning swell, often it may start building through the night.
7. Have fun! You’re gonna love it. Looking for a twilight paddle retreat on O’ahu? Give Rainbow Watersports a call to come experience it for yourself!
Heidi Burgoyne is the owner of Rainbow Watersports, the original stand up paddle school on the North Shore of Oahu. She lives with her fabulous husband and four children, and loves sharing joy on the water with others.