Among the many exciting things to do in Maui is learning to surf. There’s really nothing quite like it as many locals will attest to. There’s a rush you feel while surfing that will continue with you for years after your first break and will make you want to return to the island waves again and again.
But if you’re a beginner surfer, you may have a slight apprehension about how riding the waves will actually happen. Don’t let this normal trepidation stop you from experiencing the thrill of surfing. Learning to surf in Maui is a very fun and rewarding experience and may not be as difficult as it initially appears. Plus, you will have our experienced surfing instructors right beside you to help you along the way. But here are some helpful surfing tips to get you started on your journey.
Choosing the right surfboard and gear. For beginners, longer surfboards are better. A longer, wider, and thicker board will be more stable and easier to paddle. In general, a longboard that is about 7 feet 8 inches or more will be a good start even for a petite surfer. A thicker and wider softboard, or foam board, will float easier, giving you a calmer ride to paddle and stand-up on.
Have a leash attached to your surfboard to prevent losing your board in crashing waves. A wet suit will act as a rash guard, protecting your skin from rubbing against the board.
Find the right surfing location. As a beginner, it’s best to stay away from the larger and rougher waves. Beaches with sandy, straight shores, nice sandbars, and the least amount of rocks and reefs are best. In these calmer areas, waves will reach about 3 feet high, which are great for beginners. The two areas we give surfing lessons at in Maui are ideal for both beginners and more advanced longboard surfers.
Lying on the surfboard. How does the board’s nose lie on the water by itself? When you lie on the board, the nose should still lie flat on the water, just slightly lower. If you lie on the board and the nose dips below the water, this is called “poking tako,” and you must slide back slowly until the board once again lies flat on the water. On the other hand, too much weight on the back of the board will cause the nose to stick out of the water, which will also prevent you from successfully catching a wave. So, you have to find a balance point or “sweet spot” on which to lie on the board. After you find this spot, notice where your chin is in relation to the board. This will serve as a good reference point of where to lie to balance your board.
Paddling for the wave. It’s best to paddle hand over hand, moving left and then right. This will allow you to keep up a consistent speed in the water, which will make it easier and less exhaustive for you to paddle to the break. While paddling, remember to keep your body rigid. This will mean keeping your head up and using your core muscles to stroke rather than just your arms. Also remember to keep both legs on the board, not dragging on the side.
Standing on the board. When first learning to stand on your board, it’s best to practice on the beach first. Lie on the board on your chest with your head up, looking forward. Place your hands on the board parallel to your chest and grab the rail of the board. Push your upper body up and at the same time, sweep your feet under you. Make sure your feet are on the stringer, or center of the board, to help keep your weight centered. When you first pop up, remember to keep your “okole” or rear end low. Continue to look forward as you begin to stand upright and get your balance. Use your arms by pointing forward or outward for balance.
Falling off the board. When you fall off your board, always protect your head. Try to stay under water for a moment longer than necessary to allow your board to land on the water’s surface and not on you. When you come up, try to face the oncoming waves and look for your board’s location immediately.
Remember proper surfing etiquette. The first standing surfer that is closest to the peak of the break has the right of way on that wave, and so anyone paddling for that wave should yield to him or her. This means that you will need to get out of the way of the surfer riding the wave whenever possible, even if you must go into a breaking wave or behind the rider.
If you are paddling out for a wave and someone is paddling out toward you, make eye contact with that person and indicate the direction you intend to go in reference to them. Always show respect for fellow surfers or stand-up paddlers.
These are just a few beginner’s surfing tips that will hopefully help you overcome any initial fear of surfing in Maui. Our professional, local Maui surfing instructors can teach you everything you need to know to successfully learn how to surf. Just keep practicing, and you’ll discover a love of surfing that only the shores of Maui can teach you.