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Oahu Surfing Offers Many Styles

Information about surfing on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.

The island of Oahu is known as "the gathering place." Ironically, the water that surrounds the island is also a gathering place. The water is shared by a diverse blend of people from different ethnicities, ages and walks of life, all drawn to the magnificent waves to "hit the surf."

The face of surfing has changed on Oahu with many new styles and experiences. Long boards, short boards, paddleboards, wake riding boards, body boards (also known as boogie boards); windsurfing, kite surfing, body surfing, surfing spas, surfing lessons - surfing has become a universal sport that has brought together many types of people. When it comes to surfing, the one thing that is common ground is the love of having fun in the ocean.

Oahu’s surf scene is world-renowned. Visitors from around the globe make the voyage to the island in hopes to experience the surf that has become legendary. In the wintertime on the North Shore of Oahu, waves can measure up to 40-feet high. The sensation of watching the waves roll in, hearing the thunder as they crash on the shore and feeling the mist from the monster waves is an awe-inspiring experience. For the courageous and experienced few that ride those waves, the thrill and peril of harnessing the power of this natural phenomenon makes for great tales that find their way into island myth.

In the summer time the hot surfing spots shift to the South Shore. Not nearly as large as the winter waves of the North Shore, the South Shore can still offer "overhead" wave rides that make for a great time. Closer to Waikiki and Honolulu, the convenience of the South Shore provides access to numerous breaks that are well suited for beginners to learn and fun enough for experienced surfers to enjoy. Novice surfers can take pleasure in the waves of Waikiki convenient to most hotels; surrounded by fellow novices, learning together and from one another making for a more comfortable environment.

The windward coast, aptly named for the constant on-shore winds, offers an opportunity for completely different types of surfing – windsurfing, wake boarding and kite surfing.

Windsurfing applies the use of a sail attached onto a surfboard and the surfer utilizes the power of the wind. The rider uses the wind as his "motor" and like a sailboat, controls the direction he or she goes by the sail.

Many whitecaps or "bumps" in the water formed by the wind can be found on the windward coast creating a useful water park for wake boarders. A hybrid of water skiing and snowboarding, wake boarders are pulled by a boat on a board that resembles the shape of a snowboard. The whitecaps formed by the wind act as natural little ramps that the riders can launch off of resulting in "big-time air."

Known as the fusion of windsurfing and wakeboarding, kite surfing applies the use of a kite to harness the power of the wind and a wakeboard that allows the rider to glide across the open water. Kite surfing is the newest rage to hit the surfing scene in recent years.


The sport of surfing originated from the ancient Hawaiians. The earliest account of surfing documented by the western world was taken from excerpts of European sailor, Captain King’s journals in 1779. Surfing for the ancient Hawaiians was a symbol of social status and power. Royalty used surfing as a means of maintaining their strength, liveliness and authority over their people. Only the elite class was allowed to use certain materials and wood for their boards resulting in a superior quality board, which separated the royalty from the commoners.

As time progressed, in the late 1800s, surfing would have been extinct had it not been for the interest of a young teenager by the name of Duke Kahanamoku. An Olympic swimming champion, Hollywood actor, Hawaiian folk hero and pioneer of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku and his friends kept the sport alive and promoted surfing and aloha worldwide. Kahanamoku or "the Duke" as he was popularly known, was immortalized in his formation of the Hui Nalu or "The Club of Waves," which still exists today.

Surf Etiquette

Once in the water, "surf’s up!" In addition to the physical sport of surfing, proper surf etiquette is an intricate and important concept to understand. Displaying the wrong practices of etiquette among locals as well as other visitors could leave a surfer beached on the shore. Staying out of the path of someone who is trying to catch a wave or who is already on it – is the proper etiquette.

The surfer who is on at the height of the wave (more towards the inside of the breaking wave and away from the shoulder) has the right-of-way and trying to "drop in" on him or her is improper. As the golden rule applies, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Observe the local regulars out in the surf line-up. Most of these seasoned veterans share this respect for each other, and mirroring their actions is a good way to learn the unwritten rules.

To learn and experience the many styles of surfing Oahu offers, the following organizations listed are a few of the places to check out:

From surfing to racecar driving, Adventures Extreme Hawaii offers extreme sports to experience the real Hawaiian outdoors.
Phone: (888) 573-5100
Web site: www.adventuresextremehawaii.com

Hawaiian Fire Surf School is a school designed to concentrate purely on the art of surfing. Instructed by off-duty Hawaii firefighters, these life-saving professionals share their knowledge of the water through their informative classes.
Phone: (808) 384-8855
Web site: www.hawnfire.com

At Hans Hedemann Surf School Hawaii, experts strive to make surfing an exciting, memorable, fun and successful experience.
Phone: (808) 924-7778
Web site: www.hhsurf.com

Offering personalized lessons and tours in surfing, kayaking and kitesurfing, Hawaiian Watersports is another source for water sports.
Phone: (808) 255-4352
Web site: www.hawaiianwatersports.com

Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks Inc. (KSK) provides everything from kayaking to surfing, teaching beginners, and challenging advanced.
Phone: (808) 262-2555
Web site: www.kailuasailboards.com

Article provided courtesy of the Oahu Visitor's Bureau

See also:
- Surfing on Oahu
- Surfing Lessons on Oahu
- Other Activities on Oahu
- Attractions on Oahu

Related Links
Oahu Island - Main Menu
Islands of Hawaii
Hawaii for Visitors

A NOTE FROM KATHIE: If you have any corrections or updates to the information on this page or if you would like us to add any information or links, please send a message to the email address on our contacts page.

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