If you’ve always wanted to ‘surf Hawaii’ and are seriously planning to actually do it this year or next, then there’s some things you need to know to ensure that you’ll have the best time surfing like a local, seeing the sights, and best of all, experiencing the big waves that Hawaii is known for.
Hawaii’s high surf season: If you expect to experience high surf in Hawaii all year long, you’ll be disappointed. Because Hawaii is such an isolated landmass in the Pacific, her waves are dependent on ocean current and wind swells coming at her from every direction on the compass. And during the months of October to April, Hawaii’s waves are at their biggest, amassing heights up to 50 feet. But during the traditional summer months of May to September, don’t expect any ocean height to ride or remember. If you come to Hawaii during those months, better be ready to try out snorkeling, swimming, and other ocean sports.
The Big Wave Events: If what you really want is to experience a Big Wave Event from the shore, then plan to be in Hawaii between mid-November to mid-December. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is a series of professional surfing contests that put an exclamation point onto the end of the ASP world tour. It is here in Hawaii that the world champions receive their crowns. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money, world class waves, and the best weather on the planet draw the mightiest surfers on the globe to Hawaii’s famed North Shore. The Reef Hawaiian Pro for men and Cholo’s Women’s Hawaiian Pro is held at Haleiwa, followed by the O’Neill World Cup for men and the Gidget Pro for women held at Sunset Beach, and completion comes at the Billabong Pipeline Masters for men (held at Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore) and the Vans Duel for the Jewel for women. Check websites for official dates this year. All events are free to spectators. Go early to find parking, pack a lunch and plenty of sunscreen, bring a camera, and don’t leave valuables in your car.
Traveling With Your Board: Baggage handlers are not always kind to surfboards, so you should think twice about bringing your board to Hawaii. Besides costing you an additional $50-$100 depending on which airline you book and how many other pieces of luggage you bring, you’ll need to pack your surfboard really well and then be prepared to see some damage when you land in the islands. Don’t forget that in the surfing capital of the world there are, literally, thousands of boards for rent and you can probably even buy one from a local for less than it would cost to rent one on the beach. But if you must bring your board, these are some things to do to give your board the best chance of surviving the trip:
- Take any wax off of your board, and if the fins are removable, take them off. If they aren’t, then put a fin box on them.
- Place your board into a sock, and then into a heavily padded bag designed for surfboards. Put extra foam rubber or bubble wrap around the nose, sides, and tail to protect against rough handling.
- Be sure to lock the zipper to safeguard your board.
- Buy a surfboard repair kit and carry it with you so that you can fix any cosmetic dings upon arrival. The kit should include some resin, fiberglass, catalyst and fine-grained sandpaper.
Inexpensive Stays: Of course if you already know someone who lives in Hawaii, you’ve got it made. You just need a way to get here, and some extra money to chip in for food and gas for the car. There are tons of hostels competing for your business. Inexpensive dorm rooms begin at $10 a night and up. Some hostels are so close to the ocean you can hear the surf roaring at night. Camping is also an inexpensive way to see the islands, but you have to be prepared to pack up your campsite every few days. There is no long term camping allowed. The State of Hawaii has a website for buying camping permits, and some good photos of the parks and the sites available. At most parks it costs $18 a night for nonresidents to pitch a tent, and some parks also have A-frame mini-houses and cabins available for rental.
Surfing the Nations Volunteers: Check out Surfing the Nations if you want to make a difference while you’re on vacation in Hawaii. In Hawaii they are known for their feeding programs for the homeless and food distribution sites. You’re bound to meet other surfers who have either been in Hawaii a long time or traveled the world surfing the best waves. And while they surf, they serve others too.
Hawaii is the home of surfing. A little attention to planning your surf vacation to Hawaii, and you can have an experience that you’ll want to repeat year after year.
Photo: Credit: Stephanie Launiu
Caption: Jun Fong, Brown’s Point, Big Island of Hawaii