Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Surfing

The myth is that everyone in Hawaii goes surfing, goes to the beach, and has a great tan. No it’s just not so.

“What?” you ask, eyes narrowed in disbelief.

No, not everyone knows how to surf.

Vintage photo of surfer Duke Kahanamoku from 1920. This photo is public domain, and is hosted on Wikipedia Creative Commons.

Confession: I for one, am a surfing ignoramus. It’s on my bucket list. By the way for an inspiring bucket list, visit 50 and Fabulous.

I take comfort in the fact that I am not the only surfing dunce in Hawaii. A friend on Oahu also doesn’t know how to surf. Ok, so that’s at least two people, but maybe she’s learned by now.

Hawaiians may have invented surfing, and taken it all over the world, but not everyone has the advantage or time to go to the beach.
  • A lot of people work multiple jobs in Hawaii to stay afloat.
  • Some people know how to surf, but don’t have the time.
  • Others of us had strange childhoods and never got around to learning.

What I do know about surfing is this:

1.    Surfers can be very territorial. There are certain favored surf spots and locations at those spots that surfers will stake out. Woe to newcomers! Wave space is at a premium. I’ve heard that the left side of Ho’okipa is more mellow, better for newbies, and the right side is prime surfing real estate.

Ho'okipa Beach Park on the North Shore of Maui. Where the surfer is standing is the "right side" of Ho'okipa if you're facing the water. This is prime surfing real estate.
The left side is further away, in the background of the photo. 

2.    Young surfers, i.e., children before they get too tall are called groms. That term really puzzled me for a long time. Why groms? It’s because they are short like grommets.

3.    A good surfer will not only know the waves and wind conditions, check out the weather report each day, be able to tell the direction of the wind by looking at the trees, but also will know what the sand and rocks look like underneath the water. What's under the water affects the wave. 

4.    Surfing has rituals and jargon, like names of different surf spots, types of waves and wave behavior, or the ritual waxing of the surf board.

A common sight on Maui: trucks or cars stacked with surfboards.

5.    Rashguards are these long sleeved polyester shirts that protect against sunburn and scrapes on coral or rocks.

6.    The surf spot on Maui that’s considered one of the best for beginners is Cove Park in Kihei. It’s safe, shallow, and has gentle, flat waves. I'm told even newbies can learn to surf in a few hours or a day... Yeah, that’s where I’m gonna learn to surf, even if I’m 80. I will never surf the waves at Jaws, but I can live with myself.

Aloha and mahalo (thank you) for reading!

If you are commenting from the A to Z challenge, please include a link. 
I'm doing my best to keep up with commenting, but do sometimes get behind. Mahalo for understanding!


  1. On "O", I posted a picture of me in my rash guard shirt. It does not have long sleeves but prevents sunburn and is helpful again sand burns. I did learn to surf the California beaches when I was young but that was many years ago. I love the picture of the surfers with the long boards.

  2. What a great crash course on surfing! My brother has been a lifelong surfer. It's so interesting to learn about the culture of the surfing world! Happy A to Z!

  3. I haven't been surfing yet but someday I will. Your post reminded me of the Brady Bunch episode when they visited Hawaii :)

    Keep on A to Z-ing!

  4. Hoping to try a surfing lesson or two at the beach this July - of course we don't have waves like RI (probably a good thing so I don't drown!)

  5. And I figured you were a skiing pro! I think there are thankfully, different kinds of waves. Like flat would be good for me. And there's flat skiing too, cross country!

  6. Thanks Arlee! What an extensive movie list you have!


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