The pristine sandy shores of O`ahu are the birthplace and the spiritual home of surfing. Today it is one of the most popular watersports, and each year thousands of visitors to the islands try their hand at learning the sport in the gentle waves of O`ahu’s South Shore.
Native Hawaiians have always had close ties to the ocean, and the art of he`e nalu (“wave sliding”) has been an important part of Polynesian culture for centuries. Surfing was approached with great reverence, and often with the consultation of the kahuna (priest). Popular throughout Polynesia for centuries prior to European contact, it was not until Captain James Cook’s first voyage arrived in Tahiti that the outside world saw Ko Olina surfing for the first time.
The Perfect Board
When constructing a surf board, native Hawaiians would select one of three special types of tree (koa, `ulu, or wiliwili). It was customary for the surfer to dig up the tree himself and leave an offering of fish in its place before bringing the wood to specialized craftsmen. These expert woodcarvers would hone the board into one of three shapes, akin to the short-board and long-board offerings of today. Each shape had unique advantages and unique challenges, and all required dedication and skill to master. Because of this, Ko Olina surfing was an activity primarily for the elite, and the royal ali`i were generally the best surfers.
Surfing’s modern popularity can be traced to the early 20th century when several notable Hawaiians reintroduced it to the world. One of the most famous and influential was Duke Kahanamoku, a 5-time Olympic medalist in swimming and a member of the Swimming AND Surfing Hall of Fame. Duke is credited with introducing surfing to Australia as well as the west-coast of the United States.
Oahu Surfing Today
O`ahu is the perfect place for beginners to learn the art of surfing thanks to its shallow, protected bays with south-facing shores offer small and consistent waves throughout the year. The North Shore of O`ahu is known as the 7-mile miracle, with famous breaks at Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, and Sunset Beach, which hosts the Vans Triple Crown of Surf. Professional surfers and enthusiasts alike flock here in the winter time as massive winter swells provide some of the best big-wave breaks in the world, perfect for surfing competitions.
The Art of the Ali`i and You
We encourage any of our guests with an interest in this Hawaiian art form to give it a try. Numerous Oahu surf shops and hotels, including right here at Beach Villas Hawaii’s properties at Ko Olina, offer rentals and lessons. We recommend Oahu Surf HNL which offers group, private, and exclusive lessons and tours right next door at Kalaeloa Bay. Other top surf spots include the famed North Shore and the popular year-round “approachable” breaks of the South Shore.