Surfing in Honolulu and Oahu
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Perhaps no word is more associated with Hawaii than surfing. Every year the best of the best gather on Oahu's North Shore to compete in their version of the Super Bowl: the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The pros dominate the waves for a month, but the rest of the year belongs to folks just trying to have fun.
Oahu is unique because it has so many famous spots: Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Kaiser Bowls, and Sunset Beach. But the island also has miles of coastline with surf spots that are perfect for everyday surfers. But remember this surfer's credo: when in doubt, don't go out. If you're unsure about conditions, stay on the beach.
Equipment and Lessons
Aloha Beach Services. It may sound like a cliché, but there's no better way to learn to surf than from a beach boy in Waikiki. And there's no one better than Harry "Didi" Robello, a second-generation beach boy and owner of Aloha Beach Services. Learn to surf in an hour-long group lesson, a semiprivate lesson, or with just you and an instructor. You can also rent a board here. 2365 Kalakaua Ave., on the beach near the Moana Surfrider, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/922–3111. www.alohabeachservices.com. Lessons from $40, board rentals from $15.
Faith Surf School. Professional surfer Tony Moniz started his own surf school in 2000, and since then he and his wife Tammy have helped thousands of people catch their first waves in Waikiki. The 90-minute group lessons include all equipment and are the cheapest option. You can pay more (sometimes a lot more) for semiprivate lessons with up to three people or private lessons. You can also book an all-day surf tour with Moniz, riding waves with him at his favorite breaks. Sheraton Waikiki, 2255 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/931–6262. www.faithsurfschool.com. From $50.
Hans Hedemann Surf School. Hans Hedemann spent 17 years on the professional surfer circuit. He and his staff offer surfing, bodysurfing, and stand-up paddleboard instruction, four-day intensive surf camps, and fine-tuning courses with Hedemann himself. One-hour group lessons are the cheapest option, but private lessons are also available. There are also locations at Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, the Kahala Hotel and the Halekulani in Waikiki. Park Shore Waiki, 2586 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. 808/924–7778 or 808/447–6755. www.hhsurf.com. From $50.
Hawaiian Fire. Learn how to surf from some of Hawaii's most knowledgeable water-safety experts at this school, owned and operated by Honolulu firefighters. Lessons include 45 minutes of ocean safety instruction and 75 minutes in the water at a secluded beach near Barbers Point. Transportation is available to and from the Ko Olina area only. Both cheaper group lessons and private lessons are offered. A great option for kids ages seven and up. Ko Olina Resorts, 92-1047 Olani St., Suite 1-109, Kapolei, HI, 96707. 808/737–3473. www.hawaiianfire.com. From $119.
Surf 'N Sea. This is a one-stop shop for surfers (and other water-sports enthusiasts) on the North Shore. Rent a shortboard by the hour or for a full day. Three-hour group lessons are offered, as well as surf safaris for experienced surfers, which can last between four to five hours. 62-595 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI, 96712. 800/899–7873 or 808/637-9887. www.surfnsea.com. Lessons from $85; rentals from $5 per hour.
A few things to remember when surfing in Oahu:
The waves switch with the seasons—they're big in the south in summer and loom large in the north in winter. If you're not experienced, it's best to go where the waves are small. There will be smaller crowds, and your chances of injury will dramatically decrease.
Always wear a leash. It may not look the coolest, but when your board gets swept away from you and you're swimming a half mile after it, you'll remember this advice.
Watch where you're going. Take a few minutes and scan the surf from the shore. Observe how big it is, where it's breaking, and how quickly the sets are coming. This will allow you to get in and out more easily and to spend more time riding waves and less time paddling.
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