Learning to Surf in Oahu
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.
This looks like a blast! Between this and the skydiving it looks like you hardly spent any time on land 🙂
Just wait for my diving and stand up paddling posts 🙂
Look at you!!!
Yes look at me… DOING SPORT!
Who are you and what have you done with my daughter!
For my Divemaster! Clearly you don’t listen when I talk 🙂
OK,…I’m so impressed!!! I tried it a while back, and it wasn’t pretty! 😉 You look like you’ve been doing it forever!!!
Well… they were pretty good waves 🙂 I think it will be hard next time I try to do it without an instructor standing behind me telling which waves to take!
Yeah!! I was hoping you went surfing while you were there. Hawaii is on my surf destination list. I am used to surfing in Tofino on the west coast of Canada and seeing photos of people surfing in just a rash guard makes me jealous 🙂 A place I think you definitely need to visit for surfing is a tiny fishing village in Peru called Puerto Chicama – it is way off the beaten track, but has one of the longest left-hand breaks in the world. Beautiful little town as well. By far one of my favorite travel destinations!
Um, CANADA!? I think I am a warm weather surfer 🙂 Peru is firmly on my “to-go” list, so I will definitely look up that town when I’m there!
This look WICKED!!!! 😀 Good Job Alex
Thanks so much Scot! Hopefully there are many more surfing posts to come from exotic destinations all over the world!
You are so cute!!!! I love these pictures!
I love when I get Zoe comments 🙂 Miss you!
You’re a natural! I’ve never surfed but now I want to try… the only problem is my unreasonable fear of sharks, but here’s hoping I will get over that someday, haha.
Well in that case I would recommend NOT watching Soul Surfer before trying any surfing activities, like I did. What a dummy!
YEAH! Well done! Oh my word I love surfing! I only went in Sri Lanka but they also have great waves for beginners and it was one of the best feelings ever to catch a wave and stand up and then to manage to ride it all the way to the beach! Surfing and diving are the two things that I miss most,hopefully I will be able to go again soon. Until then I will live through your pictures! =)
You are making Sri Lanka seem more and more attractive Caty! I will have to get over there sooner rather than later… maybe you can be my tour guide 🙂
Great, when should we go? =) I’d love to show you around!
I have some friends heading there next year… so hoping to make a trip at some point!
Totally the first on my list when I head to Australia! I’ve always wanted to surf and I’m hoping my background in snowboarding will help with the balance part! I wish I could have a professional photographer there – that is one of the major problems of solo travel – I don’t have many photos of me in action!
I totally feel you on that. I was at the Grand Canyon today and felt like a loser asking everyone to take my photo all day!
Think I’ll pass on the surfing and just enjoy the views. You can do anything you want.
I think I like sitting and watching real, amazing surfers just as much as I liked actually doing it so I agree… surfing is a great spectator sport!
Never tried it, never will. But, I’m glad you’re enjoying it. You look great. Gram E
Thanks Gram! Excited to see you next month.
Looks like you had a blast! Now that Tony is starting to feel a lot more comfortable in the water (all thanks to Scuba!), I think we may try surf lessons if we find ourselves in the right place at the right time. I’ve heard Indonesia and Sri Lanka are great places to learn… no hunky Hawaiian firefighter instructors there, but probably a bit more budget friendly for us considering we’re already in this part of the world! 😉
I’ve heard they can be pretty pricey in Bali, at least for Southeast Asia standards! But I’m sure you can find something cheap if you poke around…
you look so graceful even when falling! have you decided exactly where you’re going in asia?
I think I’m heading back to Koh Tao for the holidays, then onto somewhere in Indo for my Divemaster, then the Philippines for a bit of traveling!
That looks so much fun! We’re heading to Bali next August, so I definitely want to take some surfing lessons while we’re there 🙂
Oh, I wish our paths were crossing there! Sigh… I guess I have to be happy we’ve met already once 🙂
Are the pictures part of the lesson? Whichever of the firefighting surfers taking then did a great job to record your successful maiden effort. (I knew you were doing Divemaster in Bali)
There is a photographer there with Hawaiian Fire, but you have to pay separately for the photos. It was worth it for me, of course!
Haha welcome to the surfer club! I may be going to Indonesia myself soon – I miss waves and Thailand has absolutely zero.
I think that’s my excuse for why I’ve gone so long without trying! All the places I’ve spent the longest in (Koh Tao, Cayman, etc) have zero surf.
Looks like Hella fun! I’m going to try for the first time in Panama! Can’t wait!
Panama sounds like a fun place! You hear more about surfing in Costa Rica and Nicaragua but I think off the beaten path locales are always better…
Nice job…looks like you got the hang of it in the end there! I was in Hawaii and debated on taking one of these classes. Similar to a few other comments here, sharks scare me and were the primary reason I didn’t take one. However, looking back I had just watched Shark Week so maybe that contributed to my anxiety!
Believe me, I spent a large part of my life paralyzed by fear of sharks! I’m so glad that I got over it — at least for the most part.
Having surf classes during a trip is one thing that I really want to do.
I know I live by the beach, but I think I will have more fun while traveling.
I definitely plan to spend a week or two in South America hanging out on the beach and trying to surf everyday!
Great to see you surfing! Loved those pictures…especially the one in black & white. I hope my day comes soon enough!
Thanks Rekha! Sadly I haven’t been back on a board since that day. I hope to change that soon, though!