Surfing: Experience an Ancient Hawaiian Sport


No sport is more closely identified with Hawaiian culture than surfing. Born in ancient Hawaii as a sport of kings—with the best boards and breaks reserved for Ali’i, or Hawaiian Royalty—today surfing is enjoyed throughout the Aloha State, with surfers of all calibers riding the waves. Join them on your next trip to Hawaii, and have the time of your life while connecting with centuries of history.

Island Origins

You wouldn’t be the first visitor to Hawaii to be captivated by surfing. When Captain James Cook arrived in the islands in 1778, he and his crew were the first westerners to observe the rich culture that had been in existence for generations. The Hawaiian people, like the plants and animals that thrived on this remote archipelago, had learned to use their resources with ingenuity, developing a lifestyle of abundance, spirituality, and ample leisure. To the early Hawaiians, surfing was an art with sacred cultural rituals that included surf chants, board construction rites, and special prayers to the gods for protection and good surf.

Spreading the Spirit

Today surfing has taken root in the island culture on both competitive and leisurely levels. One of Hawaii’s legendary surfers, Duke Kahanamoku, was a Waikiki Beach Boy who spread Aloha by teaching visitors to surf. Duke later became a multiple Olympic gold medal winner for swimming (1912, 1920, 1924) and went on to be known as the father of modern surfing for spreading the popularity of the sport within the U.S. and Australia. A bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku commemorates his life and welcomes visitors to Waikiki Beach.

Hit the Waves

As a first-time surfer you too can learn to ride the gentle waves of Waikiki Beach with the Hans Hedemann Surf School on a two-hour private lesson followed by lunch with the surf instructor. Or, if you’re on the island of Maui, experience a pristine west side surf site with a Rivers to the Sea professional surf instructor during a private three-hour Surf Safari. All the latest gear is provided, so you’re sure to improve your skills or stand up for the first time. When the lesson is over, you’ll enjoy cold coconut water and snacks as you relax on the beach—the perfect end to an unforgettable surf session.

Although the techniques and boards have evolved over time, surfing continues to embody the Aloha Spirit for locals and visitors alike.

  • Rivers to the Sea

    Highway 30, Honopi'ilani Highway, Mile Marker 19, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii 96761, 20.852546, -156.6636887

  • Hans Hedemann Surf School

    2586 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815, 21.272459, -157.822273

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