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a vacation in Hawaii

Traveling To Hawaii

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Visiting the State of Hawaii

Learn to surf Hawaii: Faith Surf School Waikiki review

was written by , 2019-06-02 14:23:34

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Catherine Best

I am a pathetic excuse for an Australian. I can’t surf and the thought of entering the swell in a skimpy string bikini is as enticing as turning up to work in my birthday suit.

But I’m in Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing and the waves of Waikiki are beckoning. I’ve arrived in Honolulu, on Hawaii’s main island of Oahu, after a punishing overnight flight to discover my luggage is MIA. Fortunately, I had the foresight to stash my (sensible) bathers in my carry-on luggage.

Within a couple of hours of disembarking, I’m face-first in the luxuriant foam of Waikiki and discover face slapping the Pacific Ocean is a surprisingly effective jet lag cure.

I anticipate spending more time in the water than on it, but my instructor, Kenny McOmber, a tanned, young Energizer bunny, who has clearly been surfing since he could walk, insists I will get up. And stay there. And, remarkably, I do.

Waikiki is not only an iconic surfing (and holiday) destination, it’s also a great break for beginners to dip their toe in. The long, fat waves roll lazily into shore over a sandy bottom, framed by a golden crescent of sand and the volcanic peaks of Diamond Head. These famous waves are where Hawaii’s most celebrated son, Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, honed his skills. The ancient Polynesians brought surfing to Hawaii but it was Duke, an Olympic swimming gold medallist, who introduced the sport to the world.

I’m worried I’ll dishonour his legacy when I arrive, bleary eyed, at Faith Surf School, on the beach outside the iconic Duke’s Waikiki bar. Kenny, broad shouldered and as bronzed as the 3m statue of Duke, a few beach umbrellas up, soon has me lying face down on a yoga mat.

There are four steps to surfing.




Waikiki Beach

The bronze Duke Kahanamoku statue on Waikiki beach.

One: put your hands parallel to your shoulders and bring your knees to the board. Two: bring the front foot forward. Three: plant the back foot on the board. Four: let go, bend the knees, extend the arms and ride the wave all the way in.

“If you make it to the beach you get your money back.” Just like that.

Kenny pushes me onto the first wave and I’m drinking sea water before both feet touch the board.

He tows me back out, big toe dug into the nose of my surfboard. This time Kenny wants me to stand with my feet together; he thinks I’ll have more control.

“I want you to pretend you’re surfing, relax,” he cajoles. I feel the propulsion of the wave behind me, flat and neat, everything I’ve learnt is instantly forgotten but I’m up, feet planted together, arms out, back rigid – definitely more Kate Winslet on the Titanic than Stephanie Gilmore winning the world championships.

Real People: Surfers

Learning to surf is simply one, two, three … and four.

I last about 10 seconds before plopping ungraciously into the water. But there’s no dumping, no washing machine churn. These are baby waves and they’re gentle and forgiving.

I paddle back out and ride another half a dozen waves. The last I manage to catch on my own; it’s relatively easy on a 12-foot longboard, and I even step forward ever so tentatively to “give it some gas”. I’m surfing.

Kenny rubs his thumb and fingers together, flashing a smile: “C’mon, let’s get your money back.”

I share my last wave with his 12-year-old protege, who has been surfing since age six. We ride it in until the wave runs out of grunt, about 25m from shore. “Has anyone ever actually made it back to the beach?” I ask Kenny. “If they get close, I take them further out,” he grins.

The writer was a guest of Norwegian Cruise Line and toured with the assistance of Hawaii Tourism Oceania.


Surfing lessons at Faith Surf School Waikiki cost US$65 for an 80-minute group session.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s 7-night Pride of America cruise departs from Honolulu every Saturday, visiting the islands of Maui, the Big Island and Kauai.

Tourist sunbathing and surfing on the Waikiki beach in Hawaii.

Waikiki’s forgiving waves are perfect for beginners.




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a visit to the state of Hawaii

Hawaii Adventure