Hawaii is a great place for families to learn to surf together. // © 2013 Hans Hedemann Surf School
Cowabunga! Surf’s up, dude, and so are everyone’s spirits during a family surfing lesson in Hawaii. The 50th state boasts some of the best wave-riding in the world, and where better to give it a try than the place that put it on the map?
In 18th-century Hawaii, members of royalty were the masters of surfing, visiting local beaches and gliding on boards crafted from carefully selected wood. For today’s island residents, surfing isn’t just a pastime, it’s a culture. Families can tap into the ancient tradition while learning the Sport of Kings.
Thanks to Hawaii’s geographic blessings, families can easily find the right conditions for surfing in warm and inviting seas. The time of year dictates the ideal setting for multiple generations to carve some curls. In the winter months of November through March, beginners should stick with the mellow South Shore. The North Shore presents preferable options for first-timers from April through October.
Visitors of all ages and abilities can slide into a surfing safari by signing up for a group class, with dozens of top-notch schools around the state eager to help them hang 10. Before the gang hits the water, however, they must spend some time on shore with licensed instructors who teach them everything they need to know for a safe and enjoyable outing, from surf etiquette to reading the waves.
Across the board, surf schools require that participants know how to swim. Most of them provide surf shirts for students and, at the same time, they wholeheartedly recommend that participants wear sun block. In addition, many companies limit lessons to four students per instructor, but they are generally receptive to adding teachers to accommodate larger families, groups or reunions. Lessons usually last one to two hours, but full-day and overnight camps are available for the ultimate bonding session.
Oahu, which is ringed with a lei of city and country sands, draws throngs of newbies to the splashy sport. For many, the longtime surfing mecca of Waikiki is a great place to start. There, taking a lesson is as easy as signing up at one of the seaside booths that line Kuhio and Waikiki beaches, then learning the basics from one of the seasoned beach boys who have been sharing their knowledge for generations.
“When a wave breaks in Waikiki, it often has three distinct areas,” said Hans Hedemann, a Hawaii-born waterman and award-winning professional surfer who now runs a surfing school on Oahu. “The outside is where the waves first meet the reef and break with the most power. There is a secondary area where the waves break again. Closer to the beach on the inside is where our instructors work with novices and kids. On some days, students can connect a wave all the way through from the outside to the inside.”
On Oahu, Hedemann’s firm offers lessons to children as young as five years old up to people in their 80s. Private and semi-private classes ensure that teachers can keep a close eye on their students. An instructor might even ride on a large surfboard with a younger child.
“If someone is willing to give it a try, we’ll figure out a way to get them riding waves,” said Hedemann.
Frank Carpenter, owner of Kona Boys surf school on Hawaii Island, said that surfing is a part of the culture of the islands, which makes it that much more special to share as a family.
“Learning a new skill is humbling and sometimes awkward but also exciting and rewarding,” said Carpenter. “Sharing the laughs and triumphs with loved ones brings you together through the experience.”
We provide a safe and supportive environment full of hoots of encouragement, big smiles and constant shakas, helping the whole family feel the ‘stoke’ that is associated with surf culture.”
Mom, Dad and the kids can catch surf fever on Hawaii’s neighbor islands as well. For instance, Goofy Foot Surf School, on Maui, promises to get everyone standing on their boards and riding a wave in two hours or the session is free. Another reputable Valley Isle firm, Maui Surf Clinics, is part of the Nancy Emerson School of Surfing, created by a former world-champion surfer.
At Kauai Surf School can customize a family surf camp on the sunny South Shore with rates that include gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner each day and accommodations in its Poipu surf house.
Catch a Wave
Here’s a sample of companies to call when surfing is on the family to-do list.
Kona Surf Adventures
Hawaiian Surfing Adventures
Kauai Surf School
Goofy Foot Surf School
Maui Surf Clinics
Big Wave Dave Surf Co.
Hans Hedemann Surf School