Island Address Book 2-17-2006

Kirk Smith,Hawaiian Airlines, on His Favorite Surf Spots

By: Dawna L. Robertson

Kirk Smith is a down-to-earth kind of guy. While workdays catch him creating cutting-edge concepts as senior director of advertising and promotions for Hawaiian Airlines, Smith spends his off hours searching for swells.

Smith surfs. He has for more years than he’d like to say. So it’s not simply a hobby at this point; it’s his passion.

When it comes to surfing philosophy, Smith’s is simple.

“The best wave I’ve ever caught? Well, that would always be the last one I caught,” he said.

As a teenager in Santa Monica, Calif., Smith was bitten big time by the surf bug. He actually visited Hawaii specifically to surf at age 16. And then he never left.

“I grew up loving the waves and wanting to make it a permanent part of my life,” he explained.

And he has, in a major way. Smith has lived on Oahu, the Big Island, Maui and Kauai, so he’s certainly surf savvy.

Surfing is now turning the tide toward a renaissance. This ancient Hawaiian expression of social status and power is witnessing a new wave of enthusiasm, so to speak. Yet, die-hards like Smith never noticed a wipe out of its appeal.

“Surfing is a lifetime sport,” he said. “And there’s no better place to pursue it than here in Hawaii.”

Where to Hang Ten

With his island-wide wave wisdom, Smith offered insight to his personal picks.

On his home island of Oahu, he favors the South Shore. Weekends have him heading out with Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian Airline’s president and CEO.

“We’ll hit Diamond Head Cliffs and Waikiki,” Smith remarked. “The great thing about Waikiki is that you can find good conditions any time of year.”

With a smile, he recalled, “Depending on the time of day and where the crowds are, I’ve had Waikiki all to myself. I’ve actually spent two to three hours catching one wave after another.”

But Smith’s sentiment for the site spreads far beyond the ocean.

“There’s nothing like surfing off Waikiki when turtles are popping up, the sun is setting and music is playing along the beach,” he explained.

As for Oahu’s North Shore, Smith prefers the gentle, tapering walls of Chun’s Reef and Laniakea, with its green sea turtles feeding just offshore.

Living on Kauai from 1975-1982, he was fond of the island’s west-side surf.

“Kauai has by far the best waves of the Neighbor Islands on a consistent basis,” Smith claimed.

“On the west side, I like Major’s Bay and Pakala. Pakala is one of the best left-breaking spots. It’s a long point break, which is rare in Hawaii. Hanalei also has great waves.”

A Big Island resident on two separate occasions, Smith found the surf to generally lack consistency. But where there’s a will, there’s a wave.

“When I lived in Kona, I’d surf Pine Trees near the airport. On the Hilo side, I’d pick Honolii. It’s just a popular little break with easy access.”

Smith’s Maui choice is Honolua Bay, where Hawaiian Airlines recently sponsored the Billabong Maui Pro.

The seasoned surfer highly recommended that anyone with even the slightest wave crave take the plunge into surf lessons.

“If you don’t know how, there are so many great surf schools here to help you learn,” he advised.

Smith also noted that Hawaii’s waves break differently and are much more powerful than anywhere on the mainland. So lessons focus on local conditions as well as technique.

As an activity that’s as much about the lifestyle as it is about the challenge, Smith agreed with today’s wave warriors? Surfing can definitely sweep you away.