Surfing is a borderline religious pursuit for many of Maui’s residents—and the first time you try your hand at surfing you just might understand why. It’s bobbing on the ocean as the morning sun drapes the mountainous ridgelines in shadows, and the way that submersion in ocean water seems to neutralize stressful thoughts. It’s the perk of excitement and skip of a heartbeat when you notice a wave on the horizon, and then the paddle, the positioning, the pop-up, and the drop that must combine to tame the wave. In that instant—when you have harnessed the pulsing pocket of energy moving steadily across the ocean, and have temporarily fused yourself with this liquid force of nature—the entire world seems to stop spinning for that brief but blissful moment. Then, of course, when taking a surf lesson, you turn to the camera, throw a big a shaka, and snap a photo that will be next year’s Christmas card or hang on the refrigerator at home. To capture some of this stoke for yourself, here are some of the best spots for learning how to surf on Maui.
The northern end of Ka‘anapali Beach is all about cliff jumping and snorkeling, whereas the southern end is where surfers flock when waves are breaking on the reef. This is the easiest option for Maui visitors who are staying in Ka‘anapali, and 8am or 9am lessons are best for beating the wind.
Yes it’s shallow and yes it’s crowded, but the Lahaina Breakwall offers the most consistent surf of anywhere on Maui’s south shore. This section of Lahaina is protected from the wind and is guaranteed to have waves, but expect to be sharing the shallow waters with a flotilla of big foam longboards.
Named for the guardrail along the highway, this gentle break just south of Lahaina is the darling of private surf schools. Nearly every day has gentle surf—and without the Lahaina Breakwall crowds. It isn’t walking distance from a rental shop, however, so boards need to be strapped to a car if renting boards on your own.
Ukumehame Beach Park
Much like Guardrails, Ukumehame Beach Park is popular for private surf lessons. The long wave requires a long paddle to reach the edge of the reef, but the wide beach and expansive surf zone helps to thin the board riding crowds. SUP paddlers mingle with surfers, and since afternoons can be very windy, be sure to paddle out early.
Set smack in the middle of central Kihei, “The Cove” is the only surf spot for beginners along the Kihei/Wailea coastline. Waves are usually a bit smaller than at surf breaks near Lahaina, although the half dozen surf schools and board rental trucks make for easy beachfront access. Mornings are best to beat the wind, the waves are often biggest in summer—and expect crowds during all times of year.