The world discovered modern surfing through Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, a Honolulu native who became an Olympic medalist swimmer at age 21. It was 1912. Duke’s good looks, graceful style and unusual hobby of “wave sliding” attracted attention from onlookers. By his death in 1968, the Duke — Hawaii’s Official Ambassador of Aloha — won eight Olympic medals, appeared in 28 Hollywood movies and rode a monster wave in Waikiki for 1¼ miles — the longest ride ever recorded. Fast forward to today, and beginners can experience the thrill of surfing in artificial wave pools and take lessons around the world, including these five destinations where the surf’s up.
Make the pilgrimage to Waikiki Beach, where the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort towers over the land where the Duke was born. He’s featured in old photo murals near Lappert’s ice cream shop and on the hotel’s History Wall; his life-size statue on Kalakaua Avenue is one of Honolulu’s top selfie stops.
Dave Carvalho, who founded Big Wave Dave in 2010, runs one of the many recommended surf schools a few blocks from the beach breaks. “Once the fundamentals about balance and focus are revealed, surfing is a sport that takes practice and instinct because no two surf days are ever the same,he says. On flat days, try stand-up paddleboarding among sea turtles, hike Diamond Head, shop or visit Pearl Harbor. AccesSurf teaches those with disabilities adaptive surfing and swimming on the first Saturday of every month at Barbers Point Beach Park. What’s more, Waikikis affordable lodging ranges from the efficient Aqua Aston Hotels to the high-style Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, a boutique property whose Surf Concierge arranges private lessons and guides.
Santa Cruz, California
California boasts hundreds of surf breaks, many with year-round swells. Historians say the sport began in 1885, when three Hawaiian princes arrived at military academy in San Mateo, California. Recognizing rolling surf when they visited Santa Cruz, the princes made o’lo style surfboards of local redwood and hit the waves. Surfers like Daniel McGregor III, a San Francisco Uber driver whose surfboard is always strapped to the roof of his car, takes advantage of the ideal surfing conditions. “Santa Cruz has 15 world-class surf spots in one town,” he says. “You could drive 2,000 miles up the Pacific coast and never even find one spot like that,” he adds.
Adding to this upscale beach town’s allure is Jack O’Neill, a local sailor who invented the wet suit and a surf brand. Santa Cruz is also one of nine surfing reserves around the world, designated to preserve its 23 surf breaks and surrounding environmental and cultural assets. Drop by Club Ed Surf School and Camps or the Richard Schmidt Surf School for gear and lessons. Parents who check into the stylish Dream Inn Santa Cruz can watch kids learn from the Jack O’Neill Lounge terrace. On flat days, head to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, a…