Hawaii is a surfer’s wet dream. It’s golden sand and babe-jammed beaches are pounded by waves of epic proportions all year round and from all directions. There’s no such thing as ‘off-season’ – the end of one merely signals the start of another, the only thing changing being the side of the island with the most breaks. Moreover, the 50th state is the acknowledged birthplace of the sport and has hosted a record number of World Championships. It simply doesn’t get any wetter better.
Even if you’re not a surfer you’d be forgiven for getting over excited. Just watching the Pros hurl themselves into the death-defying whitecaps is a mind-blowing experience in itself. Though if you’ve come this far then you may as well surf – it’s an awfully long way to come just to sit on a beach and sip a cocktail. Luckily, there is invariably something for surfers of all levels on Hawaii. So cough up, buckle up, check in to your Hawaii vacation rental and grab a board. Things are going to get rather damp…
The chief island of the scattered archipelago is probably the most tame in comparison, so is ideal for absolute beginners. The top spots are Pine Trees, a laid-back breaker just south of Nelha, and Ke’ei Beach, a secluded and small swelling ride that is often overlooked.
As the windiest island of the archipelago, Maui, and in particular the aptly named Jaws and Hookipa surf spots to the north, can whip up the most jaw-dropping groundswells when conditions are right. Some reach heights so staggering that surfers have to be towed into them by jet-ski. This, needless to say, is not an ideal environment for a beginner, though is definitely worth a watch. Head over to West or South Maui instead, where Kaanapali, Lahaina and Kihei provide less intimidating surges.
This is where it all started. ‘Duke Kahanamoku’, whose bronze statue welcomes surfers to Waikiki Beach today, introduced the sport to the world in the early 20th century. Since then, surfing has become the most popular watersport in the world, and Oahu, is the jewel in the crown. One glance at the colossal rollers on the north shore during winter will reveal why. Banzai Pipeline, Sunset and Waimea Bay, for example, sometimes see waves of up to 100ft and are tackled by only the most harebrained aficionados.
The South shore is more beginner-friendly. Waikiki Beach itself and in particular, Canoes, where the Duke allegedly reached the end of his legendary mile-long ride, offer swells of a much more agreeable nature during the winter months (in the summer it is less forgiving). However, these spots are rarely without crowds in owing to this.
If you’re looking to escape the hordes, then perhaps Kauai wouldn’t be a bad idea. Most of the island’s surf tends to happen on the pristine and phlegmatic Hanalei Bay. Here, surfers can expect to ride swells of all sizes, though again, as a northern shore spot, learning conditions are better during the Summer months. Poipu is a tamer choice if you’re over during the winter, and Kalapaki and Shipwreck Beach are also worth checking out.
Lessons are generally costly at around $90 for a two-hour session, but whether you’ve come on a whim, a honeymoon, an all-expenses paid trip or a raft made of sticks, surfing in Hawaii is just something that you absolutely have to do. It’s basically the law.