see + do
Surfing on Oahu, Hawaii
Concierge.com's insider take:
If Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing, then Oahu is its capital. The North Shore is famous worldwide for the much-photographed, super-advanced break known as Pipeline, the multiple breaks at Sunset Beach, and the big waves of Waimea Bay. Between October and May, the crowds at these spots double, as surfers from all over the world (and tour buses full of spectators) make their pilgrimages. The Vans Triple Crown—the Super Bowl of surfing—is held in Oahu every year between late November and early December (www.triplecrownofsurfing.com).
Waikiki Beach was once surfed only by Hawaiian royals, but today it's often crowded. Still, the gentle waves are ideal for beginners. Legendary Hawaiian surfer Dane Kealoha started his own surf school at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki in 2008 and offers some of the best private lessons in town (808-924-3263; www.hyattsurfacademy.com). Top-notch lessons for younger kids (as well as adults) are given by surf-loving off-duty firemen of the Honolulu-based Hawaiian Fire Surf School. They take students out to an empty break on the west side of Oahu, where there are no witnesses to embarrassing first-time wipeouts (808-737-3473; www.hawaiianfire.com).
Rentals are readily available all over the island, but if you want to purchase a board, Country Feeling Surfboards is a good bet. To bring that natural, easy "country feeling" back to riding the waves, surfers Jeff Bushman and Kyle Bernhardt shape their surfboards out of environmentally friendly materials. They substitute soy- and sugar-based products for polyurethane foam, and use sun-cured resins and deck inlays made from hemp, organic cotton, silk, or bamboo. Even better, their boards are actually affordable (they start at $625). Order a custom model via their Web site at least three weeks before your trip, and you can pick it up on Oahu's North Shore when you arrive (808-638-7192; www.countryfeelingsurfboards.com).
If surfing seems intimidating, you may want to try your foot at stand-up paddling—a.k.a. paddle surfing—which involves balancing on an oversize surfboard and propelling yourself with a single paddle. It's all the rage because it has a much quicker learning curve, which makes it a lot more fun, too: You will not only stand up on your first day, but if you're in reasonable shape, you can expect to master it within an hour. It's easiest if the ocean is flat and gets more challenging when you attempt to catch waves. To get started, take a lesson at the Nancy Emerson School of Surfing (808-244-7873; www.mauisurfclinics.com).