The first Europeans to arrive on the Hawaiian Islands were fascinated by some of the pastimes of the Polynesians. Especially the people that were riding the waves with a board or standing on those boards while paddling caught their attention. Nowadays everybody knows this is Surfing or Stand up Paddling.
Although – as mentioned – already the first Europeans to visit saw how you can ride the waves with the help of a piece of wood it still took a long time before this sport became famous at the beaches around the world.
Only when Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, called The Duke, became famous in the early 20th Century as one of the worlds best swimmers this sport became known. At the Olympics in Stockholm in 1912 he won the gold medal in the 100m freestyle competition. During those Olympics as at all the other international competitions he was part of, he had always his board with him riding the waves whenever possible. And even back home on the beach of Waikiki more and more people wanted to learn how to do this. And so Surfing started to become more and more popular, first in Hawaii then in California and finally around the globe.
Today a lot of the beach resorts on the islands offer a 2-hour class with the promise that you will be able to stand on the board by the end of it. From my own experience I can tell you it works. I was able to stand up on the board. Well, at least for a couple of seconds. 🙂
Where to find the best spots to surf depends on the season. The trade winds that are responsible for the high surf are blowing from a southwestern direction during the summer months and during the winter they are coming from the Northwest. Thus during the summer months you will rather go to the southern beaches for the best surfing conditions.
If you are a beginner the beach of Waikiki is your year-round choice. The waves won’t be as towering as in other places and if you don’t succeed right away you will always have other tourists around you that are doing even worse. The pro’s wait for the winter and will then go to Oahu’s North Shore where the waves can reach up to 30 ft. On Maui there is a spot that even the pro’s handle with a lot of respect. On the southern tip of Maui is La Perouse Bay, where surfing is really dangerous due to heavy riptides and sharp riffs in the water.
Stand up Paddling:
What will a surfer do when there are no waves to be ridden? He can always ly on his board and paddle which is rather exhausting. For such situations the old Hawaiians always had a paddle at hand which enabled them to move in a upright position across the water. It took a bit longer before this sport made it’s way around the world, but it has been increasingly popular during the last couple of years. From my own experience I can tell you that it is a lot easier to learn and on top you can practice it on the lake or river that is just a block away from your house. So why did it become trendy? Stand up Paddling is supposed to make a flat stomach. And who doesn’t prefer a sixpack over a keg around his waist?
On the islands you will find plenty of places where you can go SUP. You can always get your first instructions at most of the beach resorts in a 2-hour class and believe me, it’s very easy. My favorite places to go SUP are Kane’ohe Bay on Oahu and Hanalei Bay on Kauai.
Where can you be seen doing either of those sprots?