Over the years I’ve lived more and more of my life on the water. I’ve become a passionate scuba diver, of course, but I’ve also dabbled in other things — competitive swimming, ocean kayaking, and windsurfing, to name a few. And yet I had never tried one of the most iconic watersports of them all — surfing.
When I made plans to visit Hawaii, one of the planet’s great surf meccas, I knew the time had come for me to finally catch a wave. After all, I recently decided I’m heading to Bali in early 2013 — another world famous surf spot. As I started looking into surf lessons in Oahu I was a little overwhelmed by the options. There are dozens of schools concentrated along Waikiki Beach, and another cluster up on the North Shore, where experienced surfers head every winter to pay homage to the famous waves.
Yet one surf school quickly stood out to me. Hawaiian Fire is staffed mainly by Honolulu City Firefighters who are passionate not just about protecting the island but also about surfing. They come with props from Lonely Planet Hawaii, they have excellent reviews on Tripadvisor, and well…. let’s just say they aren’t bad looking.
I made a reservation immediately.
I have pretty horrible balance and have only recently begun enjoying this thing they call “physical activity” so I was somewhat skeptical of the claim that they’d have me riding a wave in just two hours. But lo and behold:
Believe me, there were some well documented bumps in the road. I love when activities have professional photographers present — I pretty much go straight for the outtakes.
Shockingly, by the end of the lesson I had caught as many waves as I had wiped out on. These were baby waves, perfect for learning on. By the end of the two hours I had a solid understanding of stance and balance, though I think it will just take practice before I understand what waves to take and which to let pass.
The instructors I worked with were all Hawaii natives and their passion for the islands and for the sport came shining through. They were great instructors and fun people to spend a morning at the beach with.
I think a huge part of my success had to do with the secluded beach we were on. When I saw the — literally — hundreds of surfers crowding the breaks at Waikiki Beach, I was really stressed about learning to surf. So imagine my relief when I arrived at secluded and peaceful Breaker’s Point to find that we were the only ones out on the water, save for the sea turtles I saw popping up before the lesson.
Hawaiian Fire‘s lessons are two hours long and include all equipment you’ll need, like reef shoes and rash guards. According the website, there’s 45 minutes of on beach instruction and an hour and fifteen minutes of water time, but I actually felt like I was in the water for a higher percentage of the time than that.
Hawaii is not a budget destination, so I wasn’t surprised that semi-private lessons run $109 per person. While there were only three students at my lesson, in peak season there can be anywhere from 8-15 students per class. Still, with a 3 to 1 or better student/teacher ratio, you’ll get all the one on one attention you need. For an additional $50, you can purchase a Hawaiian Fire logoed 2GB flash drive topped up with professional photos from your lesson. The photographer will be there either way, so there’s no pressure to decide up front. Of course, you guys know me — I edited the heck out of the straight-out-of-camera files, so don’t expect any black and whites or anything fancy.
Hawaiian Fire provides transportation to Breaker’s Point to and from Waikiki and Ko Olina, though you can also choose to drive yourself. The beach is about a forty five minute drive away from Waikiki, but the time melts by pretty quickly with rainbows and reggae music keeping you company. I also used the time to compile a mental list of all the places I can’t wait to go surfing now! Watch out waves — here I come.
Are you a surfer? Always wanted to try? Leave me a note in the comments and tell me where I should catch a wave next!
Many thanks to Hawaiian Fire for providing me with a complimentary surf lesson. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.