Windsurfing, invented in the 1950s, found its true home at Hookipa on Maui's North Shore in 1980. Seemingly overnight, windsurfing pros from around the world flooded the area. Equipment evolved, amazing film footage was captured, and a new sport was born.
If you're new to the action, you can get lessons from the experts island-wide. For a beginner, the best thing about windsurfing is (unlike surfing) you don't have to paddle. Instead, you have to hold on like heck to a flapping sail, as it whisks you into the wind. Needless to say, you're going to need a little coordination and balance to pull this off. Instructors start you out on a beach at Kanaha, where the big boys go. Lessons range from two-hour introductory classes to five-day advanced "flight school."
After Hookipa Bay was discovered by windsurfers three decades ago, this windy North Shore beach 10 miles east of Kahului gained an international reputation. The spot is blessed with optimal wave-sailing wind and sea conditions, and offers the ultimate aerial experience.
In summer, the windsurfing crowd heads to Kalepolepo Beach on the South Shore. Trade winds build in strength, and by afternoon a swarm of dragonfly-sails can be seen skimming the whitecaps, with the West Maui Mountains as a backdrop.
A great site for speed, Kanaha Beach Park is dedicated to beginners in the morning hours, before the waves and wind really get roaring. After 11 am, the professionals choose from their quiver of sails the size and shape best suited for the day's demands. This beach tends to have smaller waves and forceful winds—sometimes sending sailors flying at 40 knots. If you aren't ready to go pro, this is a great place for a picnic while you watch from the beach. To get here, use any of the three entrances on Amala Place, which runs along the shore just north of Kahului Airport.
Action Sports Maui. The quirky, friendly professionals here will meet you at Kanaha Beach Park on the North Shore, outfit you with your sail and board, and guide you through your first "jibe" or turn. They promise your learning time for windsurfing will be cut in half. Lessons begin at 9 am every day except Sunday and cost $89 for a 2½-hour class. Three- and five-day courses cost $240 and $395. 96 Amala Pl., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/871–5857. www.actionsportsmaui.com.
Hawaiian Sailboarding Techniques. Considered Maui's finest windsurfing school, Hawaiian Sailboarding Techniques brings you quality instruction by skilled sailors. Founded by Alan Cadiz, an accomplished World Cup Pro, the school sets high standards for a safe, quality windsurfing experience. Intro classes start at $89 for 2½ hours, gear included. The company is inside Hi-Tech Surf Sports, which offers excellent equipment rentals. Hi-Tech Surf Sports, 425 Koloa St., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/871–5423. www.hstwindsurfing.com.
Second Wind. Located in Kahului, this company rents boards with two sails for $55 per day. Additional sails are $10 each. Intro classes start at $89. 111 Hana Hwy., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/877–7467. www.secondwindmaui.com.
In March the PWA Hawaiian Pro-Am Windsurfing competition gets underway at Hookipa Beach. In June the Da Kine Windsurfing Classic lures windsurfers to Kanaha Beach, and in November the Aloha Classic World Wave Sailing Championships takes place at Hookipa.
Maui Race Series. For windsurfing competitions featuring amateurs as well as professionals, check out the Maui Race Series, six events held at Kanaha Beach in Kahului in summer. Kanaha Beach, Maui, HI. 808/877–2111. www.mauiraceseries.com.