Surfing on Oahu
November 10, 2020 1:14 PM   Subscribe

I just found out that my son is leaving in one week for a vacation on Oahu. He would very much like to learn how to (board) surf while he's in Hawaii.

I actually grew up on Oahu, but, for whatever reason, I only ever body surfed (maybe it was because I lived a few miles from two of the best body surfing beaches in the islands—Sandy and Makapu). In any event, that was a good three decades ago. The upshot is that I could use information from Mefites in order to be of use to Transl3y Jr:

. What beaches are best for beginning surfers in the late fall/early winter season (mid-late November)? North shore? Waikiki? __?

. Can you recommend any good surfing schools/camps/instructors?

. Any general tips for making the most of the opportunity to learn how to surf in the islands? Does anyone have any good books or videos they can recommend for beginning surfers?

Apart from surfing, what attractions are must sees in the islands these days? E.g., is the Polynesian Cultural Center still worth seeing? (Come to think of it, in the time of Covid, is it even open?)

Thanks in advance!
posted by Transl3y to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total)
A lot of Hawaii is closed and if he doesn't do the COVID testing the 14 day quarantine is real. (The Polynesian Cultural Center is closed.)

My Hawaiian friends are asking people to please please not visit.

That said, Waikiki has the easiest surfing I've ever experienced. It was like riding a bus. You can rent a board (and an instructor) on the beach and the loaner board is huge. The waves are long and consistent. The downside is that it's a very popular beach. It's also a tourist beach so you won't be pissing off locals, which is nice.

The lifeguards in Hawaii in general I found to be very approachable and informative. If they tell you it's unsafe to go out that day, I would take them at their word, even if you see other people out.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:21 PM on November 10, 2020 [17 favorites]

You asked for attractions but i eat to travel so im answering with a food tip - it was just profiled in the newest season of Somebody Feed Phil on netflix, but your son should run, not walk, to get shave ice from Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha. The original is way south but theres a newer location in the Ala Moana mall.

my lone surfing attempt was at waikiki with the Hans Hedemann school located inside the Queen Kapiolani at the far south end. would recommend for sure.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:21 PM on November 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

Surfing lessons are offered on the beach at Waikiki; our older kids took a short course (couple of hours, maybe?) when we were there several years ago. It might have been arranged through the hotel, I can't recall but someone will surely be able to let you know who to talk to.

If he has time, he should drive up to the North Shore to see the surfing-related goings-on there. The size/scope of the waves there was terrifying to this Gulf of Mexico habitué. The Pearl Harbor museum was interesting, and a hike up Diamondhead was worth it for the terrific views. Make sure to try some malasadas from Leonard's.
posted by jquinby at 2:18 PM on November 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

On a quick Google, the Polynesian Cultural Center is indeed closed.
posted by augustimagination at 2:33 PM on November 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Make sure he gets his COVID test from an authorized provider! Small_ruminant is right about the quarantine being real.
posted by entropyiswinning at 3:01 PM on November 10, 2020 [4 favorites]

Agree with all of small_ruminant's comments.

For a beginner surfer in winter, I'd recommend against the North Shore (except to watch the pros). Waves get big around this time of year until April. You can't even stand-up paddleboard in Haleiwa when the swells are big (at least, the SUP rental places won't rent to you, as a beginner). Waikiki is a good bet for a beginner this time of year.

Also, please ask him to wear a mask to any touristy places and especially when inside. Mask compliance was generally very good on Oahu (I just moved away in July). He should read over the most recent Emergency Order for the City and County of Honolulu - this discusses how big of social gatherings are allowed (max 5 people) and other important info. New ones are posted here.
posted by Paper rabies at 3:54 PM on November 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

Sadly, Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha in Ala Moana couldn't withstand COVID and has closed. The Pearl Harbor museum is closed due to COVID. Diamond Head is closed due to COVID.

If he _must_ come now, the beach is the main thing open. (You _can_ eat in restaurants at the moment, but...I wouldn't.) Please tell him to wear a mask at any time he's around other people, inside or outside, unless he's on the beach or in the water, in which case he should stay as far apart from others as possible.
posted by LadyOscar at 6:30 PM on November 10, 2020 [5 favorites]

Waikiki is great and it definitely won’t have the normal crowds. North Shore is not for beginners past October. I am jealous of his trip!
posted by gryphonlover at 8:28 PM on November 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Others have covered the very sensible advice about the North Shore in winter not being appropriate for a beginner. Waikiki is a fine place to learn. I've known people who worked for Hans Hedemann (although not currently), and have always heard good things about those folks. As for other activities, there's a decent network of trails in the mountains adjacent to Honolulu, if he's into hiking. Google "Na Ala Hele", or send me a mefi mail.
posted by lex mercatoria at 10:56 PM on November 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

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