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Surfing in Hawaii, You Can Do It

Surfing in Hawaii, You Can Do It

It’s like flying, it makes you feel free and lifts you into the air like a seabird in the wind. Once you try it you’ll be hooked, the word is “stoked”. I’ll give you a hint, it’s a sport, it happens in the perfect warm waters of Hawaii, it gives you a tan, and makes you feel really alive, ok, it’s surfing in Hawaii.

On the islands, you can go surfing at any time. You want to lie on a surfboard, paddle out and dip your arms in the warm Hawaiian water? You want to learn how to get outside to the surf break, turn around and catch a wave? You want to fly across a wave?

I’ll tell you where you can get your own board and a surf lesson and be surfing this very morning.  If you are on Maui, The Big Island or Oahu you’re never more than 20 minutes away from a surf shop, ready to rent you a board, give you surf lessons and get you out there in the waves. If you know how to surf, you can rent a board and go. I’ll tell you all about it.

Learning to surf in Maui with Maui Wave Riders surf school near Kalama Park in Kihei
Learning to surf in Maui with Maui Wave Riders surf school near Kalama Park in Kihei

The Origins of Surfing in Hawaii

But before you hit the waves it might make it more interesting to know a little about surfing in the islands. Wherever you paddle out in Hawaii, a Hawaiian has paddled out on that very beach, or near to it, a thousand years ago. Surfing of course, didn’t start with a nicely shaped surfboard, that came later. It probably started by mistake, maybe like this.

About a thousand years ago, maybe on what is now a Maui beach, a Polynesian man was enjoying a morning swim. He came upon a floating tree trunk and swam over to it, a wave suddenly lifted him up and rushed him to shore. It was exciting. He smiled wide, the ride had blown his mind. He was the first surfer in Hawaii.

Centuries went by as Polynesians carved sleek boards and rode the waves. They kept surfing and in 1778 the famed explorer Captain Cook saw them on Hawaii Island and described the Hawaiian surfers in his journal. He wrote, “When surf is breaking on the shore… Hawaii men lay themselves flat on an oval wood plank, they wait for the greatest swell. Pushing forward with their arms it sends them on the wave with a most astonishing velocity. They seem to feel great pleasure in this”.

Duke Kahanamoku – a Surfing Legend

If you’re on Maui or any island you can feel that same pleasure surfing this very day. But before you drive to the nearby surf school and begin surfing in paradise, you must know about the greatest surf hero of them all, Duke Kahanamoku.

You know Babe Ruth, Muhammed Ali and Arnold Palmer in other sports, surfing’s big name is Duke Kahanamoku. Playing baseball, it’s Babe Ruth, surfing’s great one is Duke.

Duke Kahanamoku - a Hawaiian, a surfing legend, an Olympian
Duke Kahanamoku – a Hawaiian, a surfing legend, an Olympian

Surfing in Hawaii rode along through history unknown and unmentioned until a 6’2″ bronze-skinned Hawaiian man leaped into the swimming pool at the 1912 Olympics winning gold and silver medals in the 100 meter free-style. In three Olympic games he won 5 medals in all, a true hero. His record was not equaled until Michael Phelps 100 years later. He was unsurpassed in surfing and brought surfing into the light of the world.

He was Duke Kahanamoku, king of surfers. He appeared in many Hollywood movies with John Wayne, Bing Crosby and others. He was always the humble, friendly Hawaiian, known as the Ambassador of Aloha. A giant statue of the Duke stands forever at Waikiki welcoming all to Hawaii. To get an overview of the best surf breaks on Oahu, check out this Oahu Surfing Guide.

Taking Surfing Lessons with Maui Wave Riders

Which brings us to you, wanting to get in the water and ride the waves yourself. You won’t be going to the surf spot on Maui known as Jaws because the waves are usually 20 feet high. You also won’t be going to Waimea Bay or Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu, waves get to 40 feet high. Pipeline surf spot, no way, too dangerous. You will be surfing friendly, small waves, maybe 2 or 3 feet.

If you know how to surf you can paddle out anywhere, but beginners should take it slow and easy, big waves can play rough. But when you do get in the water and feel the rush of a wave lifting you up you’ll love it. Time to rent a board and start on a surfboard.

Surfboards and surf lessons are everywhere. There are 8 surfing schools on Maui, 8 on the Big Island, 10 on Oahu and 9 on Kauai. Type in ‘surf schools’ on whatever island you are on and you’ll be on your way.

On Maui you might try Maui Wave Riders surf school in Kihei, you can’t miss it. It’s right across from Cove Beach Park, between Kalama Park and Kamaole Beach Park I. Walk in and rent a surfboard for a day. They walk with you across the street and help you get your wings, to surf that is.

Maui Wave Riders surf school in Kihei, Maui
Maui Wave Riders surf school in Kihei, Maui

If you want surf lessons, they are reasonable and will get you out there surfing (almost) like a pro. You can choose a group lesson as well as semi-private or private one. And if you are staying on the West Shore, Maui Wave Riders have a surf school there too. However the lesson goes, even if you flounder and flop at first, in the end the feeling will be a thrill. Once you get good at surfing there are many surf spots on Maui and all the Islands. To find them you can “talk story” with the local surfers or go to The Surfing Site on the net and you will get the “scoops” on all the spots.

By the way, before or after renting a board at Maui Wave Riders and surfing, you can stop and eat breakfast at the charming outdoor cafe almost next door to the surf school. It’s the Kihei Caffe, the ultimate local place for a great breakfast.

Yummy pancakes in Kihei Caffe, Maui
Yummy pancakes in Kihei Caffe, Maui

You really should treat yourself to this fantastic surfing experience. You feel the cool water on your ankles, lie on the board and start paddling, your arms and hands feeling the cool ocean.

Then getting out there, smelling the fresh salt air and feeling the breeze on your face. Then seeing a swell forming outside, start paddling until you feel the board moving swiftly under you, and jumping to your feet! You are flying, joined with the whole ocean and all of nature. Wow! Is what you will shout zooming along the wave.

Surf’s up! See you in the water.

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