Ancient Hawaiians have surfed the gentle breaks of Waikiki for hundreds of years. Considered the birthplace of surfing; it became known as the sport of kings for it was once reserved for Hawaiian Royalty. Now visitors from all over the world flock to the rolling waves to experience the glide of surf riding.
Not only is it culturally significant that visitors learn how to surf in Waikiki; it is also the easiest place to learn in the world. With the long, soft mushy waves pushing surfers along, beginners have time to slowly stand up, adjust the stance of their footing, take a deep breath, maybe look over and check out the hotels or the volcanic crater of Diamond Head. Perhaps even flashing a shaka to their family and friends. A shaka is an iconic Hawaiian hand gesture, thumb extended, pinky extended, middle fingers tucked into a fist….the looser the shaka, the cooler you are. NO STIFF SHAKAS ALLOWED.
Millions have ridden the swell of Waikiki waves, even famous authors Mark Twain and Jack London in the mid 1800’s and early 1900’s, Elvis Presley in the 1960’s, Jack Johnson and Cameron Diaz today. Everyone loves surfing! So really….What’s your excuse?
1. Diamond Head Cliffs - As a dormant volcanic crater reaching 751 feet into the air, Diamond Head is an iconic landmark looming in the background of Waikiki. Last erupting hundreds of thousands of years ago, a tropical reef has grown off its shores and because Diamond Head is more exposed to the ocean than the rest of Waikiki, its reef absorbs much of the open ocean swells creating left and right handed breaking surf waves.
Pros: Left and Rights - More Powerful than Waikiki - Less Crowded than Waikiki
Cons: Exposed to the Wind - Strong Currents - Messy Ocean Conditions
2. Queens - Possibly the most perfect wave in Waikiki, this famous wave sits directly in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the heart of Waikiki. When standing at the Duke Kahanamoku Statue, look to your left, and you will see the perfectly peeling right hand wave. But, most likely you will see some of the best longboard nose riding (when a skilled surfer walks to the front of their 9’6” ft longboard and hangs ten toes off the nose of the board) in the world. This spot can look calm and peaceful except when the wave is “firing”, then there will be a pack of skilled men and women competitively trading waves. However, on average days it is very possible for even a humble beginner to go out and get a taste of the most classic wave in Waikiki.
Pros: Absolute Perfection - Longboard or Shortboard - Close to Hotels, Stores, Restaurants
Cons: Skilled Crowd Everyday - Difficult to find Parking in Waikiki - Small Take Off Zone (only 1 surfer per wave)
3. Canoes - If you are a beginner, this is most likely where you will get your first taste of surfing. Canoes is a huge playing field with a lot of gentle peeks peeling and rolling to the left and to the right. Located in front of the Waikiki Police Station, there is something for everyone here. You will be amongst boogie boards, stand up paddle board, surf canoes (hence the name) even commercial catamarans! The locals don’t expect much from the visiting beginners as it has become accepted that Canoes is the surf break to learn on. Because of this everyone is having fun, sharing waves, throwing shakas (see above) and spreading the Aloha Spirit.
Pros: The Best Wave to Learn to Surf - Gentle Long Rolling Waves -Friendly Vibe - Waves for Everyone!
Con: Critical Mass of Surfers - You Might get Run Over by a Canoe - Try not to Hit the Reef (Ouch!)
4. Populars - Also known as Pops for short. This wave is similar to Queens in shape but softer and gentler. It breaks into a deep channel so you have plenty of time to enjoy a long ride without having to worry about wiping out on the reef. However, this wave is an incredibly long paddle from shore, breaking a quarter of a mile out to sea in front of the Sheraton Hotel. While that may sound far, Waikiki is a giant protected bay, so even at that distance you are still in calm water. The good news, because of the distance, most visiting surfers don’t want to paddle that far. Making Pops less crowded then the other breaks mentioned.
Pros: Soft Gentle Wave to Learn - Uncrowded -Unlikely You’ll Wipeout on the Reef
Cons: Very Far Paddle - Medium Take Off Zone (2-3 surfers per wave) - Mainly a Right Hander (Short Weak Left Hander)
5. Waikiki Walls - This is a bit of a bonus round, as Waikiki Walls isn’t technically a surf spot. But it can be a very good bodyboard break. However, it breaks over very shallow and sharp reef, pushing the waves directly into a concrete break wall. It is located on the Honolulu Zoo side of Waikiki. Walk out on the Waikiki Pier and you will see the bodyboarders catching waves off the end of the pier. Also, you will most likely see some young local boys and girls jumping off the wall. It is shallow water, but the locals have the technique of jumping without penetrating too deep, therefore not hitting the reef. In conclusion, between the sharp reef and the shallow jump, Waikiki Walls is best to observe but not partake