Surfing: Hawaii’s Gift to the Sporting World

May 6, 2014 | By Waikiki Magazine Team

There’s no escaping the culture of surfing here on O‘ahu—it’s a part of the fabric of the island. And although you might think the bright-colored board shorts, dozens of surfboard shapes and endless surf-inspired apparel are “what it’s all about,” the essence of surfing isn’t merely an image on a T-shirt.

Early Hawaiians considered “wave sliding” a ritual and social activity, reserved for the royal family. Boards were carved from fallen trees, and rode by ali‘i (chiefs) in places that commoners weren’t even allowed in the water (Waikiki, for example). In fact, a commoner found disobeying could be sentenced to death!



Today, there’s no less passion in the sport. The surf industry—aside from merchandising—is a multi-million dollar industry for professional surfers who earn their keep by carving turns on challenging waves. And there’s no better place to reside year-round than on O‘ahu, which has the most consistent surf breaks than anywhere else in the world. With names like Baby Queens, Old Mans, Cliffs and Pipeline, literally hundreds of breaks can be found on our shoreline.

Yet you don’t need to be a pro to catch a wave. Most surf schools guarantee “stand up on your first lesson,” while others offer services like in-water photography or even video services (in case you need proof of your accomplishments to bring back home to your friends and family). All aim to share the “stoke” of what it feels like to catch a wave, and have it propel you through Waikiki’s tranquil, azure waters.

Generally, longboards (8 to 12 feet) are easier for beginners and ideal for paddling in the breaks around Waikiki; shortboards (under 7 feet) are meant for higher performance, quick turns and larger waves; stand-up paddleboards are a graceful, more aerobic workout that makes use of a tall paddle used to propel surfers across longer distances. All are available for rent in Waikiki, both on the beach, in surf shops and at the major resort hotels.

Whether you’re 4 or 94, there’s a wave out there for you. If you’ve never surfed, please seek out an experienced guide. However easy-seeming the surf, it’s fairly easy to get hurt in the ocean. Experienced guides will begin with a land lesson that covers the basics (and safety), followed by a “session” in the water. Below are a few names to get you started. Hang ten!

Schools of Surf: Catch your first wave in Waikiki!



Founded by professional surfer Ty Gurney, this school focuses on getting their student into the peak of surfing, customizing surf lessons to each individual. Students are towed out into the line up by their instructor and allowed to get a taste of the local surf community.

Ty Gurney Surf School, 205 Lewers St., (808) 271-9557



Offering a memorable experience, Hawaiian Fire Surf school, owned and operated by Honolulu City Firefighters with a passion for surfing, provides an emphasis on safety. Fire crewmembers certified in Open Water Rescue, CPR and EMT-B operate these hands-on classes.

Hawaiian Fire Surf School, (808) 737-3473


One of the most renowned surf schools in Hawai‘i, Hans Hedemann promises an enriching Hawaiian surfing experience for beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers. The school offers a variety of surf camps, lessons and activity packages. Japanese-speaking instructors available.

Hans Hedemann Surf School, 2586 Kalakaua Ave., in the lobby of the Park Shore Hotel, (808) 924-7778


Pro longboard surfer Kai Sallas shares his knowledge via his new surf school headquartered at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. In addition to surf lessons (ask about the Waikiki Beach Marriott Surf Package), you can book private surf lessons for yourself and a few friends.

Pro Surf School Hawaii, 2552 Kalakaua Ave., (808) 343-9667



“Ambassador of Aloha” and professional surfer Tony Moniz founded his family-friendly Faith Surf School with his wife in 2008. The school quickly grew to become Hawai‘i’s largest surf school with three Waikiki locations. Certified instructors offer surf tours, standup paddle board lessons, outrigger canoe surfing and more.

Faith Surf School, multiple locations, (808) 931-6262