Surfing is synonymous with Hawaii. It was known only in Hawaii until Duke Kahanamoku brought it to the international stage in the early 1900s. And so what better place to learn to surf, than in its ancient home?
You might have aspirations of riding the Bonsai pipeline, but if you’re new to the sport, check out one of these spots where you can learn safely, from the pros.
Kahalu’u Beach Park – Kona, Hawaii Island
Kahalu’u Bay is protected on one site by a breakwater, making it a great place to surf. Much of the surfing areas on the big island are created by reef breaks, resulting in a very rough bottom, but Kahalu’u Bay is deeper than most, so it’s beginner friendly.
Kahalu’u Bay Surf & Sea offers private, semi-private, and group lessons all year round. Lessons start at their surf shop where you can learn the basics, get schooled in surf etiquette, and hear some safety tips. Then you’ll head out to water where the instructors will help you catch some real waves.
Ukumehame Beach Park – Lahaina, Maui
South of Lahaina you’ll find a place locals call “Thousand Peaks” because of its many spots to catch a wave. Surfing here is a bit more relaxing than on some of the more populated beaches. And, you’ll want to aim for morning lessons, before the tradewinds pick up making rougher seas.
Maui Surf Girls, one of the oldest surf schools on the island, was started by Maui born Dustin Tester as a surfing camp for young girls. They continue to run the all-inclusive camp, taking teenage girls from all over the country for a week of surfing, zip lining, and other fun adventures. These days, they’ve added quarterly adult women’s camps and year-round surfing lessons for everyone. Like most surf schools, they offer private, semi-private, and group lessons. But, Maui Surf Girls has one of the highest teacher-to-student ratios on Maui at 4:1. One extra cool thing they offer is a Surf Photography package. Friends and family will find you extra cool when you show them high-res photos of you riding the waves. Plus, Luna the surfing dog. I never say no to dogs.
Hanalei Beach Park – Hanalei, Kauai
Located on the northwest shore of Kauai, Hanalei is a top spot for beginner surfing. Unlike the Big Island surf spots, Hanalei Beach Park has a sandy bottom. There’s no need to avoid the ocean bottom or wear reef shoes. Also, you can catch the waves closer to shore, so you’ll spend less time paddling out and more time hanging ten.
The instructors at Hawaii Surfing Adventures will give you all the technique and safety instruction on shore, and then paddle out with you and help you get up on your first wave. They aren’t just there for the technical though, they teach respect for the ocean too and for the aloha culture. Most classes are in the morning, and they always try to wrap up the day by 1 pm when the local school children get out of class and want to hit the waves themselves.
Waikiki Beach – Honolulu, Oahu
Waikiki is a hugely popular spot for new surfers. The bottom is sandy and the waves are gentle. It’s likely close to where you’re staying if you’ve visiting Oahu and it was once the playground of Hawaiian royalty. It’s popularity also means it gets crowded, but area instructors think that’s good because you’re never far from someone who can help.
Ty Gurney Surf School is located in the heart of Waikiki, just across the street from Roy’s Waikiki. Ty’s does most of their lessons at Pops, a breakpoint in Waikiki that’s just a little off from the central area, meaning less crowding. They only offer private and semi-private lessons too, again keeping crowding down. While videos and photos aren’t included in the price, a videographer paddles out with every lesson. You can choose to buy photos and video or not. It’s totally up to you. If you get home and wish you had a video of your surfing prowess, you can still reach out to their videographer. Plus, again, surfing dog! Gracie, the worlds best surfing English Bulldog.
There are numerous surf schools in Hawaii and it’s hard to go wrong with any reputable company. If you’re new to surfing, don’t try jumping out there on your own. Even with a little time under your belt, you’ll still want to check with lifeguards. Waters may look safe to you, but let the experts make the call.
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