Surfing in Hawaii with Kids
by Vanessa Thompson (Byron Bay Surfing Mum and Surfing Mums founder
The first thing I really needed to get my head around was that this was not a surf vacation. This was my husband, three-year-old son and my honeymoon. I had booked our holiday to Hawaii at the beginning of the surf season on the South Shore of Oahu, and for those of you that are not familiar with surf in Hawaii its not all barreling 10-foot pipeline.
Canoes, a popular spot off Waikiki
Don’t even get me started on the crystal clear warm water, but the one drawback is, of course, as we are all familiar with in any good surfing spot - the crowds. I must say I didn’t really find the crowds an issue. Much the same as my home break, Byron Bay, a large portion of the surfers were just beginning to learn to surf, therefore leaving most of the bigger waves to the rest of us. I also discovered a strange phenomenon where by surfers were happy to share a wave! Most waves were a free for all with everyone hopping on, and then happily riding behind someone else to the shoulder. I eventually plucked up the courage to paddle up to one local (who by the way were all very friendly) and ask about this strange exception to the rule of ‘dropping in’. He assured me that this was totally acceptable to share waves on the crowded breaks at Waikiki and that in fact claiming a shoulder of the waves all to yourself was a rarity to be relished as a special experience. I found that this sharing of the waves added to the sense of ‘aloha’ prevailing in the water, something that I’m sure the Hawaiian ancestral surfers would approve of!
Waikiki Beach - plenty of waves for everyone
The food is good with large portions stunning at first, then as our trip progressed we stuck to ordering two portions of food instead of three so we didn’t feel like we could actually feed a small village with our leftovers. You don’t need to worry about food poisoning in general for the kids, and of course good medical care is available if your child contracts some inevitable childhood disease. Make sure you take out good travel insurance, as American healthcare is extremely expensive. A quick visit to the doctor to determine if I had an ear infection set me back $120 US dollars!
Rental cars are easy to obtain and come fitted with a toddler car seat if requested. We had to drive on the other side of the road with the steering wheel on the other side of the car, making the toddler seat a necessity! However it meant we could visit all the iconic surfing destinations Oahu has to offer - Sunset, Pipeline and Waimea Bay to name a few. All of these are reflectively flat at this time of year (May-October), leaving the South Shore to pump glorious wave after wave through.
That brings me back to the topic of surfing and once more juggling kids and surf time. It’s a family holiday and I’m trying not to think about surfing, which was made terribly hard by the fact that I could see three world class surf breaks from our holiday rental apartment. There were some days I would resolutely pack our backpacks for the day and leave the apartment with a deep feeling of longing packed away with the kid snacks for a day of sightseeing only to return to a view of a sunset session of glassy and perfect waves dotted by a few surfers on the horizon. Enough to turn a sane mum insane!I planned morning surfs but was disrupted by the time difference that made 8am Hawaiian time 4am our time, so by the time we had all struggled out of bed it was time for more sightseeing and no surfing. There tended to be a morning and evening glassy session with trade winds kicking up during the day. But the same persistence that has kept me surfing from 5 weeks after my son’s birth made sure I was up and away for several morning surfs and several day time surfs, they might have been windy but they were still pure Hawaiian bliss.
My little boy playing in the shallow waters of Waikiki Beach
The other thing that thrilled me, was that even though we all know they are there, sharks never seem to bother anyone in Hawaii. One of the surf spots, “Pops” (or Populars), is a good half a kilometre paddle from the shore, and yet I travelled out there twice on my trip and, even though I was paddling there and back alone, I never once felt fearful. Perhaps the sounds of Hawaiian music streaming from the beach side hotels at Waikiki beach calm the sharks and infuse them with their own sense of aloha!
I would thoroughly recommend a trip to Hawaii for the family wanting to blend toddlers, husbands and surfing!
© 2007 Vanessa Thompson