Myth: You sit out on the back line, sun-kissed and salty, feeling the golden rays beat down upon your brow, soaking up the silence and gazing back at the shimmering blue shoreline. A perfectly peeling wave comes, a couple of strong strokes, a quick pop up and you are gliding gracefully to shore.
Reality: Wave after wave barrels over your head, smashing you into the razor sharp reef and trying to rip your board from your birdlike hands. You gasp and splutter, feeling a paralyzing panic spread from tip to toe.
In a desperate attempt to get the hell out of there you paddle feebly into a wave, one moment of elation as you feel it lift you up before it chews you up and spits you out. You feel like the water is trying to tear you limb from limb.
You finally wash up onshore like Tom Hanks in Castaway. You skulk away from the shoreline vowing never to return. You leave your vacation in paradise licking your wounds. The End.
Steer Clear of Anthony Kiedis
Anyone who has ever tried to step into churning white water with a board will already be grimacing at the flashbacks the above paragraphs brought to their mind.
Fact: Surfing is awesome, but it can also be hard and, if you aren’t a modern day Laird Hamilton, then you need to tread softly. Hawaii is the ultimate surfer’s paradise; a place of beautiful barrels, balmy temperatures, and blue waters.
It simply wouldn’t be a vacation to Hawaii if you didn’t at least attempt to dance on waves. Yet there are knife sharp reefs, giant swells and a hard as nails local mentality that means that some spots are best avoided (think Anthony Kiedis as Warchild in Point Break. For those of you who didn’t see Point Break; imagine Keanu Reeves, Anthony Kiedis, and Gary Busey in the same screen shot…yeah).
Luckily, for those wannabee Kelly Slaters and soul surfers, we have picked the perfect beaches that won’t leave you snapped in half.
PS- if you don’t know who Laird Hamilton is, it’s time to check him out.
For Crushing Tourists with Flying Surfboards…Canoes, South Shore, Oahu
They say there is a such thing as safety in numbers and over at Canoes you can be sure that beginner surfers blend in with the crowd. If you had dreamed of an empty shore break all to yourself then you will be sorely disappointed.
But if you are seeking a historical spot made famous by the Duke himself (AKA The King of Surfing), with soft peeling waves, deliciously deep reefs that won’t cut you up and a chance to hang ten with a load of long boarders – this is your number one spot, when taking a surf tour of Hawaii.
Have a blast but watch out for a tide of tourist swimmers blissfully unaware of flying surfboards.
PS- if you don’t know who the Duke is it’s time to check him out;
For Avoiding Puncture Wounds and Chilling on the Sand…Hanalei, North Shore, Kauai
In the summer months, the waves of Hanalei are perfectly pristine and the soft sandy bottom means that you don’t need to worry about leaving the water with puncture wounds.
In the winter, it becomes a different story, so novices are advised to use their brains over their beauty and to check it out before literally taking the plunge. When right, Hanalei lends itself to consistency and offers impeccable views of emerald cloaked mountains rising behind the curl of the blue waves. They don’t call this the garden island for nothing.
When the waves choose not to play ball, then there is always the option of sitting on the sugary sand and sipping a cold one; we all know that’s really why you took that Hawaii flight after all.
For Mistaking Snorkelers for Sharks and Jabbing Them in the Eye…Kawela Bay, North Shore, Oahu
If the rest of the beaches in Hawaii are making you weak in the knees just looking at the swell, then Kawela will restore your courage.
The surf doesn’t always kick up here – but when the surrounding breaks are throwing our giants you can find a playful swell rolling into the soft shore. The protective green hills on both sides shelter Kawela from the thundering waves that tear up the North Shore.
As Kawela is also a snorkeler’s paradise don’t freak out and start jabbing snorkelers in the eye, thinking that they are sharks (FYI apparently that’s how you save yourself in a jaws attack). If you happen to touch down on a day when the waves aren’t ripping, you can just leave your board in the sand and go in search of the green sea turtles who love to glide, like wise old shamans, through these waters.
PS- if you don’t know how to save yourself in a shark attack then it’s time to check this out.
For Swallowing Saltwater with a Crowd…The Cove, Kalama Beach Park, Maui
This mini Waikiki pulls in the crowds, but the waves are so soft and gentle that everyone simply has a ball instead of finding ways to cheat death.
For first timers The Cove is a godsend. There’s a short paddle out, meaning that you don’t have to fight whitewater and end up exhausted before catching your first jewel of the day. There’s also a surf shack on the sand that rents soft top boards. These are awesome for beginners, because when they hit you on the head (and they will), it will only result in a dull thud instead of a fiberglass concussion.
Also lifeguards patrol the sands, keeping their beady eye on wobbly and half-drunk Hawaii package tour beginners. You don’t have to worry about looking cool and collected, as everyone is pretty much swallowing salt water and wiping out.
For Getting Close to Pipeline Without Murdering Yourself Silly…Ehukai Beach Park, North Shore, Oahu
For those that have mastered standing up and built a little confidence out in the swell, Ehukai Beach Park can be the best place to find your middle ground.
Think of it like an extremely weak B list horror movie. Not scary enough to make you check your closet before bed, but enough to give your heart a flutter through the nervous laughter.
Ehukai isn’t big enough to have you running screaming for the shore, but it’s a good spot, if you want to go home boasting of having surfed the iconic North Shore without murdering yourself at Pipeline.
There’s a beautiful little barrel and a sandy bottom with only a few slithers of rock.
Remember the Golden Rule; Don’t Be a Dick
So, there you have it; five starter spots that won’t leave you in traction or flailing like a beached whale at the bottom of the deep blue sea.
No seriously, jokes aside – surfing is awesome and life changing and one of the best things you can do on your holiday in Hawaii.
But never step out of your depth, don’t drop in and if you only want to surf to look cool you are in for a grand wakeup call – think saltwater streaming from orifices, falling down like a moron and generally failing in front of a lot of people. Totally. Worth. It.
PS- If you don’t know surf etiquette then it’s time to check this out.
PSS- if you needed to follow all of the links in this post, you’re probably better off on a “swim with the dolphins” tour. You’re not ready to surf, yet. Just saying…