It’s been nearly a decade since the first surfer took an oversized canoe paddle, stood atop the deck of a wide surfboard, and paddled his way into the launch of a new style of surfing. Within a year, the stand-up paddle boarding phenomenon was popping up along the shores of Maui, Kauai, and as far as Tahiti. In fact, this “new” kind of surfing actually revitalized a style of paddling that existed in Waikiki in the 1940s. Today, there is no better place than Hawaii to try stand-up paddle boarding (SUP).
On the beach, you can rent a paddle board by the hour; at some local shops, you can rent them by the day. Every rental should come with a leash (a tie that connects the board to your ankle via a Velcro strap) and a paddle. Ask the shop to make sure the length of the paddle is appropriate for your height. People generally start on a 10- or 11-foot board that is approximately 31 inches wide and four or five inches thick. With all the great places to learn stand-up paddle boarding, you’re likely to be able to stand and paddle within your first session. And each locale offers its own gorgeous sites to enjoy once you’ve got your balance on the board.
Ty Gurney Surf School
The Ty Gurney Surf School in Waikiki offers SUP lessons with small class sizes and a bonus—they have an on-site video team that will capture your lesson (complete with the inevitable falls and maybe even a caught wave) on camera and deliver a video file to you that day. Not only is this fun and easy sport a deceptively great core workout, it’s also a wonderful way to see the remarkable sights along the coast.
The Honolulu shop Blue Planet provides rentals and lessons—but they’re also the folks you want to see once you’ve got the hang of paddle boarding. They organize a weekly downwind group paddle, which involves paddling along the stunning Oahu coastline with a group for three to five miles. It’s a great way to make friends, and the shop arranges for board delivery and pickup, and returns you to your hotel. They also sponsor a Wednesday afternoon time trial, if you ever decide you want to test your speed skills on a two-mile course.
Hans Hedemann Surf School
Hans Hedemann, a former championship pro surfer, has shops on both the South and North Shores, offering a great SUP touring session around from his Turtle Bay Resort shop. His instructors, many of whom are former or current pros, will help you pick out the good waves and stay up on your board. Even if you’re a seasoned paddler, a lesson from a member of Hedemann’s team helps you sharpen your skills, so you can keep catching those waves.