We’ve all seen them on TV or on the beach. That gloriously tan surfer gently holding his or her surf board almost like cradling a baby, and heading for the shore to enjoy one of the most popular water pastimes in the world. You’ve always been slightly jealous, but now you are in the famous Waikiki Beach, in Oahu, Hawaii, and want to finally join their ranks. How should you proceed?
Although surfing was practiced by local people throughout most of Polynesia prior to contacting with the first European ships, Waikiki Beach is the birthplace of modern surf. The waves in this beach are very gentle most of the year and therefore perfect for beginner surfers, which you’ll see all over the beach attempting to surf.
Find a reputable school on the shore
There are numerous surf school on Waikiki beach, some a mere small hut on the beach, and some a more permanent establishment on Kalakaua Street or inside the area hotels. Although probably all of them have reasonable teaching standards, some are better than others and your training may be more comprehensive if you choose well at this stage.
For our first lesson we went to the Hans Hedermann school inside the Park Shore hotel, which offered several advantages such as introductory video presentation, and relatively small groups, but some other competitors seem to also offer these items.
Choose your class
As always, money talks loud and clear. Do you want to be alone with the instructor or are you comfortable with entering a group class and letting others see your failures on the board? (To be honest most of them will be struggling just like you).
Probably what makes most sense for a beginner is the group class, since you won’t be advanced enough to fully appreciate the private lesson and you’ll be spending most of your time paddling to return to the instructor at the point where the surf breaks anyhow. Having said that, we noticed some schools offering ultra-packed classes, which are not in your best interest. Make sure before you purchase to ask how many people will be in your class, anything more than 6-8 would be too many unless you have more than two instructors.
Get your paperwork in order
Yes, you’re on vacation, but you still have to get the paperwork in order. After choosing your class and paying, you’ll need to sign a waiver absolving the school for any mishap. This is good because it will remind you to be careful out there!
They should lend you a longboard, rash guard and special shoes. Now you’re completely decked out like a surfer, but don’t puff your chest too far out because your generic gear clearly signals your “newbie” status to other surfers.
Practice on the sand
The instructor/s will take it from here; after the video presentation showing you basic rules and surfing etiquette, they will guide you to the beach just like mother duck with her ducklings in tow. Once on the sand, they will set you up to practice paddling, passing waves, and finally standing up on the board.
The instructors will lead you to the best beginner waves at any given time, as they know the beach like the palm of their hand and are in tune with the weather conditions. In our case, the chosen spot was east next to the closest pier to the Waikiki aquarium.
Commence your surfing safari
Paddle, paddle paddle! Your arms, neck and back will probably be sore for several days after today, but don’t think about it now –you’re surfing! Follow the instructors out to sea and start paddling to catch the waves whenever they give you the signal. Some instructor may decide to push you to launch you at the correct moment.
Get up on the board and hang loose, you’re doing this! You’ll feel a rush of excitement when you first stand on the board and see the Diamond Head volcano crater, the line of hotels on the beach, and feel the wind on your face. Unfortunately it will be short lived because you’ll probably fall off sooner rather than later. It doesn’t matter, for a few brief seconds, you were surfing. And now you may have caught the surfing bug, and it may never let you go.