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When we first got to Kaua’i I didn’t think we would spend a large part of our days out surfing, but the waves were rotating from North to South and the island was getting some pretty good swell, so we decided to give it a go.

My conservative, PA born Lancaster farm boy husband instantly turned into a gopro laden, tan surfer boy. I can’t say I was complaining. He was a hottie.

Surf shops abound around the island. Often ones that claim they are surf shops are really just $120 surf bikini tourist traps, but the North Shore has some really awesome spots and joints that the locals frequent.


Kalapaki Beach – We surfed here A TON. I loved this spot, although towards the end of the day it gets pretty packed with locals trying to catch some waves. There is a reef most of the way to the shore so watch the tides and make sure you’re not surfing close to shore as the tide is going out because you will get smashed against the reef. The waves can be strong. I got rocked and churned into the reef below and it cut up my foot pretty badly. Regardless, this was definitely our favorite place to surf. Pro tip: Do not paddle out from the shore.

Paddle out by jumping over the sea-wall near the parking area and climbing down the rocks to the water.

Kiahuna Beach – This beach has some really great surf, but you have to paddle out pretty far to take advantage of the good waves. I would surf here if you are a confident swimmer. I am. I was . D1 swimmer in college, but I still felt a little weird being so far out trying to catch the waves. There is a surf school at this beach and they tend to claim the right side of the beach where the waves are chill. The left side is where you will find the good surf.

Rock Quarry Beach – This beach is known as Kahili Beach by the locals. This beach had some ok waves when we went. We knew that the surf was shifting when we went, but it gets a nice steady set. If you visit Hanalei and there are absolutely no waves, there should be some nice waves at Kahili. Kahili is also known to have some strong rip tides so be a strong swimmer and don’t go out alone.

Hanalei – this is such a great place to learn. When the wind was blowing from the North Hanalei abounds with beginning surfers. As the wind shifted to the south side of the island Hanalei became a bay of glass — literally looked like a lake — make sure you check the surf report or call one of the local shops before making the drive out.

You can rent boards in PoiPu and Hanalei really easily, like $25/24 hours. Make sure you ask for surf wax — they should give you some for free.

Also check out this helpful surf etiquette from if you’re not familiar with surfing but want to give it a try!

Observe Right of Way

Learn who has the right of way on the wave. This is a condensed version. Top to bottom priority:

  • Furthest out: the surfer that is furthest out or that has been waiting longest

  • Furthest inside: the closest surfer to the peak of the breaking wave

  • First to feet: the first to feet or first onto the wave

  • Communication: the call of “Left!” or “Right!” if the wave is dual-peaking

Don’t Drop In

Cutting in front of other surfers who are up and riding is a quick way of getting yourself in trouble with the locals. Observe the right of way and you should be fine.

Don’t Snake

Repeatedly paddling round someone to get into the inside position on a wave is a no-no. Where would we all be if everyone did this?

Don’t Hog the Waves

Share them around. Even if you can paddle furthest outside and catch the waves first every time you reach the lineup, don’t do it. People will quickly get annoyed at this sort of behavior and will simply start dropping in at every opportunity. Again, everything descends into chaos!

Do Apologize

If you drop in on someone, run over someone, or breach the etiquette and rules in any way, just apologise. It’s just plain good manners. We’ve all done things that we shouldn’t have when out surfing, saying sorry goes some way to smoothing things over. (Obviously snaking, dropping in, hogging the waves and running everyone over will probably end in a beating, no matter whether you say sorry each time or not.)

Respect the Locals

Keep in mind that the locals surf the spot every day. Give respect and behave while visiting a spot, keep things friendly, earn some respect yourself. Don’t mob surf spots in large numbers. Don’t rush straight outside, take your time.

Learn the Right Way to Paddling Out

This includes not throwing your board or paddling into the path of other surfers

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