NAWILIWILI — The volleyball game kept going. The sun had long unleashed its palette of golden hues. And two ladies, Dagmar and Soleil de Zwart, waited silently.
Wrapped in their own thoughts, the small crowd which had collected around the grassy knoll fronting the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort and Beach Club offered consoling words to try and mask the unchanging scene of an empty beach and ocean.
Bart de Zwart, attempting the first-ever, Big Island-to-Kaua‘i crossing aboard a stand-up paddleboard, alone and unsupported, was supposed to land at 6 p.m., according to Dagmar.
It was now past 6:30 p.m. and there was no word, no phone call. Just the volleyball game that continued at Kalapaki.
“We’re waiting for the guy,” the players said.
Dagmar tapped the keys on the cell phone.
“Five or 10 minutes more,” she said, before diving back into the silence of her thoughts.
Those were agonizing minutes for the mother and daughter of the stand-up paddler from Maui who started “The Ultimate Crossing” Tuesday night from North Kohala on the Big Island, attempting the unprecedented 300-mile journey.
“As the support group began to grow, people kept telling me about the Guinness Record Book,” Dagmar said. “But you need at least two witnesses and Bart is paddling by himself.”
Soleil paced the water’s edge, clutching a teddy bear she had found while waiting the five days, the waves lapping between her toes.
“There he is!” someone shouted.
Flanked by a pair of stand-up paddlers who had gone to the Ninini Point Lighthouse on a practice run, they had run into Bart making his final few yards to Kalapaki Beach.
“We’ve been waiting since before 5,” said Mary and Gary Cate of Kansas City.
“We heard about it on TV and decided we wanted to see this.”
Slowly, the trio made its way to the beach. Dagmar and Soleil were at the head of the crowd which began clapping and heaping congratulations on the solo paddler.
That was 7:20 p.m., just about 10 minutes after making the first sighting.
“Wow! This feels funny,” Bart said after recovering from a small shore break. “People told me about this. I traveled around the world, but I never thought it would feel like this.”
He alternated his body balance between both legs, adjusting to the land after five days and nights on a 14-foot paddleboard.
“He has a lot of respect for the Hawaiian paddling and culture,” Dagmar said. “He always wanted to do this, hoping to retrace routes the Hawaiians used in their simple canoes.”
Bart, the owner of Kanaha Kai Maui surf shop, said he had been planning on this trip for six months.
“The paddling is the easy part,” he said.
“The hard part is being by yourself, eating, sleeping
and how to get around the
islands in the wind and swells.”
He said the trip took more than 215,000 “paddlestrokes.”
“The last few miles was the easy part,” he said. “When I started, the winds and swells kept me down on the board for hours before I was able to stand up and paddle.”
As the crowd waned with the disappearing daylight, Bart got help from spectators in moving his board to the room they were staying at in the Kaua‘i Marriott.
When asked about his future plans, his words were simple: “I don’t have any right now.”
Visit www.sup-crossing.blogspot.com for more information.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.