Hawaii is world renowned for its pounding surf. World famous breaks include Pipeline, Waimea, and Sunset beaches, where wave heights can frequently climb to over twenty five feet. Maui and the Big Island have lots of spectacular breaks as well, including Jaws, and Hapuna Beach. If you are an adventurous traveler, you are likely to take your chances surfing at least some of the Island’s less bone cracking breaks. Please take some time to go over a few tips from us at Discover Hawaii Tours that ought to make your surfing attempts an all around safer and more fun experience. Surf events is an adventure for me to watch the surfers playing in the waves.
First things first, if the waves look too big for you to handle you should probably trust your gut. If you are uncertain about the conditions you can always ask the lifeguards, or surfers fresh from a session. Unless you are a skilled swimmer, entering the fray without surfing experience can truly be a dangerous experience. You are going to have to contend with not only the relentless pounding of the waves, but the jagged coral below the water as well. The reefs can sometimes be located just a few feet below the water level. In addition to being razor sharp in some spots, they are also crawling with spiny sea urchins that will truly mess up your day if you land hard on one.
A great way to avoid these dangers is to start out in Waikiki beach, where the Waikiki Beach Boys will be more than happy to lead you to what may very well be the best spot in the world to safely learn the basics of surfing. They offer equipment rentals and will keep a sharp eye on you while you are learning the ropes.
Speaking of equipment, a surfboard can at once be your most important surfing tool and a hindrance, if not handled properly. Chances are the first few times you try surfing you are going to be doing so on a nice big long board. A larger board makes it much easier for one to learn to balance, but it can also be cumbersome while maneuvering in the waves. If you happen to wipe out, you could have to worry about being dragged around by the hefty board strapped to your ankle. Also, you are likely not the only beginner surfer out there, and being hit by an out of control long board is surely going to leave a mark. Another tip when surfing with long boards is to be careful when returning to the surface of the water. If you shoot to the surface without looking up you might be met with a very surprising and spine crunching thud as you attempt to emerge from the water directly below your floating board.
Despite the risks, in general, having a surf board with you is a good thing for people trying to ride the waves. They provide a buoy that you can always cling to in times of distress, and make for exhilarating rides when mastered. When out there among other surfers, don’ be pushy, especially if you are truly inexperienced. Let the more skilled surfers have the waves they want, learn from them, and bide your time until your wave comes on through.
Believe it or not, having a board is not necessarily a must have for surfing in Hawaii. Body surfing is a great way to experience the waves, but it too can get a bit hectic for beginners. For one, being a lone body surfer among surfers is a great way to get yourself run over. You certainly don’t want to have those fins slash over you as you float near the break. There are lots of surfing spots on the islands that are specifically body surfing spots. Frequently, bodysurfing locations have shorter, heavier waves that sometimes break near the beach. For instance, Sandy beach on Oahu is legendary for being a world class body-surfing location. The surf is nearly always up, and visitors and locals alike flock to this beach in droves. Sandy beach is otherwise known as break-neck beach, which should be enough said for inexperienced swimmers thinking about checking out this awesome break.
If you just can’t help from testing it out, please take these tips with you. For one, entering the water can be a challenge in itself. You are going to want to time your charge with the crashing of the waves. Once you see an opening, don’t hesitate. You want to get out past the breakers as quickly as possible. Dive under the waves as you head for deeper water until you find yourself out of the break zone. Once there, enjoy, because getting in is going to be an adventure. Watch the way locals approach bodysurfing, and mimic them on the smaller sets that come through. If you see them catch an amazing wave, don’t hesitate to let them know. If you spread a little aloha you are going to get that aloha back, which might be in the form of acknowledgment of a nice wave you rode or assistance if you find yourself in trouble. Inevitably you are going to get sucked over the falls, which means you are going to get sucked up and out of the wave into the turbulent white-water. What exactly this feels like is hard to describe but it’s akin to being in a washing machine. This is where one can be seriously injured. Firstly, do not stick your arms out in an attempt to stop yourself. Doing so is an easy way to land awkwardly on the sand which, coupled with the power of the wave in which you are caught up, can easily wreak havoc on any flailing limbs. Our second tip is to tuck your chin and close your mouth. This will help keep your spinal cord in tact should you end up landing on your head. It should also keep your teeth from crumbling out of your mouth, which is always something to smile about.
If you happen to experience going over the falls don’t let your guard down when you finally regain your footing. Waves don’t stop. So, before you get pounded again, you are going to have to decide whether you are going to go back on out there, or head on in.
If you follow these rules you are likely going to have a good time learning to surf in Hawaii. As was mentioned before, pay attention to the way the more seasoned surfers are going about riding the waves and you should pick it up after a little fine tuning. If you are at any time feeling distressed do not hesitate to call for help. Being labeled as a newbie surfer is much better than struggling alone to stay afloat.
If you want to get an idea of some of the various surf spots around the island, consider joining Discover Hawaii Tours as we have tours that drive by nearly every major surf break on the island. If the waves seem overwhelming from the comfort of our deluxe air conditioned buses, you might want to leave that spot off of your list. Take it from Discover Hawaii Tours; they are a lot bigger up close.
2010 graduate of the University of Hawaii, and current staff writer at Discover Hawaii Tours.
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