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Surfing Hawaii's fabled North Shore

Published May 25th, 2015

With great weather year round, surf's always up somewhere in Oahu making anytime the right time to holiday in Hawaii. As Hawaii’s most famous and iconic beach, Waikiki Beach is reputed to be one of the best places to learn to surf, thanks to the gentle rolling waves, consistent breaks and plethora of surf schools guaranteeing to help newbies stand up on the board on the first lesson. However, I decided to book my first-ever surfing sesh on Oahu’s fabled North Shore – home of the Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay and big wave pro surfing during the winter months. Yep. As you do. Here's how that went down.

 

 

Learning the basics

I rock up to the Turtle Bay Resort to find I’m the only one booked for the 9am two-hour group lesson at Hans Hedemann Surf School that day. After signing a waiver that states I’m aware there are carnivorous and poisonous animals in the water (their words, gulp!), I’m suited and booted and shown the basics on land with my instructor, Bruno. A 20-year surfing veteran, I’m in great hands as we make our way down to the bay near the resort, just across from the pools.

 

 

Safety first

Basics mastered, it’s time for me to apply these skills to the water on a longboard. After a safety drill about the reef, rocks and how to fall/avoid the reef/rocks, we paddle to the still waters near the rocks after the waves roll in. The sets are big on the day of my lesson, and another female surfer gives up after half an hour of relentless big waves. No other surfers are out today, but I’m the only one in the class and have Bruno’s undivided attention.

 

Watching the waves

In the safe zone, Bruno shows me how to read the waves and what to look for. It’s an important and intuitive skill that I really need to learn and I enjoy the stillness and rhythm of the ocean before I brace myself against the waves. Bruno tows me out with one foot and positions me, ready to catch my first wave. I paddle, I arch, I kneel, I...almost stand up – the proximity of the reef and yes, those underwater predators on my mind.

 

 

Third, fourth, fifth time’s the charm

Again and again I get back on the board, paddle out to the safe zone near the rocks, position myself in readiness for a wave and the sequence of movement on the board becomes easier and more natural, but I still find that final step – the transition from kneeling to standing – daunting. Until I just do it. And it’s awesome. Such an amazing feeling; riding the wave all the way into shore. A couple more waves and my time is up. But it won’t be my last time on a surfboard.

 

Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.