Stand-Up Paddling in Honolulu and Oahu


Stand-Up Paddling

More Sports and Activities

From the lakes of Wisconsin to the coast of Lima, Peru, stand-up paddling (or SUP, for short) is taking the sport of surfing to the most unexpected places. Still, the sport remains firmly rooted in the Hawaiian Islands.

Back in the 1960s, Waikiki beach boys would paddle out on their longboards using a modified canoe paddle. It was longer than a traditional paddle, enabling them to stand up and stroke. It was easier this way to survey the ocean and snap photos of tourists learning how to surf. Eventually it became a sport unto itself, with professional contests at world-class surf breaks and long-distance races across treacherous waters.

Stand-up paddling is easy to learn—though riding waves takes some practice—and most outfitters on Oahu offer lessons for all skill levels. It's also a great workout; you can burn off yesterday's dinner buffet, strengthen your core, and experience the natural beauty of the island's coastlines all at once.

If you're looking to learn, go where there's already an SUP presence. Avoid popular surf breaks, unless you're an experienced stand-up paddle surfer, and be wary of ocean and wind conditions. You'll want to find a spot with calm waters, easy access in and out of the ocean, and a friendly crowd that doesn't mind the occasional stand-up paddler.

Best Spots

Ala Moana Beach Park. About a mile west of Waikiki, Ala Moana is the most SUP-friendly spot on the island. In fact, the state installed a series of buoys in the flat-water lagoon to separate stand-up paddlers and swimmers. There are no waves here, making it a great spot to learn, but beware of strong trade winds, which can push you into the reef.

Anahulu Stream. Outfitters on the North Shore like to take SUP beginners to Anahulu Stream, which empties into Waialua Bay near the Haleiwa Boat Harbor. This area is calm and protected from winds, plus there's parking at the harbor, and surf shops nearby rent boards.

Waikiki. There are a number of outfitters on Oahu's south shore that take beginners into the waters off Waikiki. Canoes, the surf break fronting the Duke Kahanamoku statute, and the channels between breaks are often suitable for people learning how to maneuver their boards in not-so-flat conditions. But south swells here can be deceptively menacing, and ocean conditions can change quickly. Check with lifeguards before paddling out and be mindful of other surfers in the water.

White Plains. If you've got a car with racks, you might want to venture to White Plains, a fairly uncrowded beach about 27 miles west of Waikiki. It's a long, sandy beach with lots of breaks, and plenty of room for everyone. There are lifeguards, restrooms, and lots of parking, making this a great spot for beginners and those just getting comfortable in small waves.

Equipment and Lessons

Hans Hedemann Surf School. Get professional instruction in stand-up paddleboarding right in Waikiki, where the sport originated. This school offers group lessons, semiprivate lessons, and private training. Lessons are also offered through locations at the Halekulani hotel in Waikiki, Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, and at the Kahala Hotel. Park Shore Waikiki, 2586 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI, 96815-6614. 808/924–7778 or 808/447–6755. From $75.

Hawaiian Watersports. Paddle in the picturesque Kailua Bay or in the waters off Waikiki with Hawaiian Watersports. Two-hour lessons are offered in groups or in one-on-one sessions. Look for deals on the website. Half-day rentals are also available. There's also a branch in Kailua. 415 Kapahulu Ave., Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/262–5483 or 808/739–5483. Rentals from $49, lessons from $99.

Paddle Core Fitness. Paddling is a way of life for Reid Inouye, who now shares his passion for the sport with students. (He's also the publisher of Standup Paddle Magazine.) His company offers introductory classes as well as fitness programs for serious paddlers. Lesssons are held in the flat waters of Ala Moana Beach, where there's a designated area for paddling, and you can have either group or private lessons. Ala Moana Beach Park, Ala Moana Blvd., Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI, 96814. 808/385–0717. Lessons from $50.

Rainbow Watersports Adventures. When you spot this company's colorful "Rainbow Water Sports Van" at the bay near Haleiwa Beach Park, you'll know you're in the right place. You can get a two-hour group lesson on Oahu's North Shore, semiprivate lessons—two paddlers, one instructor, or one-on-one lessons. All lessons are held in spots popular with the resident green sea turtles. A three-to four hour coastal-eco adventure trip including snorkeling and lunch is also offered. Haleiwa Beach Park, Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI, 96712. 800/470–4964 or 808/372–9304. Lessons from $69.

Surf 'N Sea. With stand-up paddleboarding lessons for every skill level, Surf 'N Sea is a great place to start. Beginners can take the introductory lesson to learn proper paddling technique. A two-hour session that focuses on honing your skills. More advanced paddlers can book surf trips that take you out to several North Shore breaks. 62-595 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI, 96712. 808/637–3008 or 800/899–7873. Lessons from $55.

Hawaii Duck Tours. Offering three itineraries, these unique tours in WWII-era amphibious assault vehicles take advantage of the ducks' dual means of travel by navigating the streets of Oahu and then gliding into the water in sheltered bays. The Honolulu City Tour takes you through Waikiki to downtown Honolulu and Chinatown passing historic landmarks along the way. The Pearl Harbor tours give you the option of visiting the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument (aka The Arizona Memorial) for $89 or, for $10 more, you can visit the USS Missiouri. Both spend some time on the water at Keehi Lagoon. For $69, the Maunalua Bay Tour takes you east out of Waikiki past Diamond Head toward Hawaii Kai for some time on the water off the coast of Koko Head Crater. All tours offer pick up at central locations in Waikiki. Ala Wai Boat Harbor, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/988–3825. From $49.