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
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
“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
“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.