Traveling to Hawaii For Surf
Each island has world class surf, so if you’re hoping to get tubed, take a lesson, or simply watch the competitions, Hawaii is your ideal surf spot. There are a few rules of thumb you’ll want to remember when surfing on your all inclusive Hawaii vaction including:
1. Respect your fellow surfers- the locals can be territorial of their waves so stay humble, friendly, and treat those in the water with consideration. Also, if you paddle into a crowded spot, respect the line-up and don’t cause a scene. The surfers in Hawaii take their sport seriously and are not too keen on loud or obnoxious people interrupting their surf sessions.
2. Bring your own board- rental companies will charge you an arm and a leg for board rentals, especially if you want something decent. We recommend paying the $100 (one-way) board bag fee through the airline if you want to save yourself some money on your Hawaii surf trip. Also, if you plan to bring your own board, you should definitely invest in a nice board bag. While the airport workers are supposed to charge you $100 per board, many times they won’t check your bag and you can get away with bringing up to 4 boards for only one charge.
3. Be aware of the conditions- surf conditions can change in an instant out here, so always check the surf report or talk with a lifeguard before braving the waters. While you might think Sunset is small and perfect for practicing your duck dive, it’s been known to build up to twenty-foot waves within a half hour. Wind conditions will also give you a heads up for your surf day, depending on the direction, and current will also have an effect. Many are unaware of Hawaii’s strong currents, so if you’re not a decent paddler, you could be cause for a lifeguard rescue.
4. Don’t underestimate the sun- just because you can surf without a wetsuit on in Hawaii doesn’t mean you necessarily want to. The sun reflects off the water and intensifies the sun’s rays on the skin, so be sure to protect yourself. Many surfers wear net hats (or trucker hats) in the water to protect their face, while others lather on the zinc oxide sunscreen or use rash guards or tee shirts. In the wintertime, many surfers also wear neoprene tops and suits because, believe it or not, you will get a bit chilly in the water if you’re a sitting duck.
5. Know the break- Hawaii has reef breaks, shore breaks, beach breaks, point breaks, and all other types of surf breaks you can imagine. It’s important to be familiar with the wave before you paddle out, especially because it’s common for large rocks to become invisible during swell, or for reef to become exposed during low tide. You should know where to enter and exit the water and if the wave is better for its lefts or for its rights. Know the wave’s characteristics and be cautious if you are surfing in unfamiliar terrain.
And for those looking for a surf trip on Oahu, here is some quick information on what to expect: Oahu is notorious for it’s seven-mile miracle, a stretch on the north shore that houses a handful of the world’s most famous surf breaks, including Pipeline, Sunset, and Waimea Bay. For experienced surfers from the mainland, this is a dream come true. Just be cautioned during the big wave months (October-March) because you do not want to get caught out in those shore breaks. North shore is for experienced surfers only, because the waves break on shallow reef, there is a heavy undertow, and the swells are known to climb into the double digits in minutes.
Oahu’s south side offers mellower surf spots for the vacationer looking for a fun surf lesson. It also offers intermediate surfers plenty of waves to work with, and during the summer, the south side pulls in swell for some good rides. You can find plenty of sheltered bays for swimming and snorkeling as well, but Waikiki is another world-renowned spot for long boarders. Oahu’s west and east sides are a bit more difficult to surf, due to their terrain and lack of accessibility points. The east side has a few good surf spots, but some beaches have been restricted to body surfing and body boarding only. Make sure to check into this feature if you’re traversing the island, before you and your board jump into the water. The west side has great beach breaks that are made possible by the steep underwater drop offs and reef structure. There is a strong local presence here however, so if you decide to brave it at Makaha, make sure to follow the above guidelines.