Beach Boys

Ever since you rocked out to the Beach Boys’ “Endless Summer” record as a kid in Cleveland you’ve dreamed of learning how to surf one day. But waves were scant few in the middle of Ohio so you put that dream on hold for a while. Hanging ten would have to wait. Learning to Surf on the South shore of Kauai is a must-do experience and you are so excited to be starting your journey.

Today you are at Koloa Landing Resort on the sunny south shore of Kauai with your family, and you are gearing up for your first-ever actual surf lesson on nearby Poipu Beach. Your 10-year-old son has agreed to join you and is just as geeked up as you are.

Poipu Beach Surf School

You research a few south shore surf schools and consider a group lesson versus private surf  lessons. You ultimately decide to get a semi-private lesson from nearby Kauai Surf School because your time is limited and you’re pretty sure you’ll need as much individualized attention as possible if you have any hope of standing up and riding an actual wave — not to mention not looking like a total spaz in front of your kid.

You slather on the sunscreen, grab a couple water bottles and towels, and take the ten-minute stroll along the beachfront road from Koloa Landing to the Kiahuna Plantation Resort — right in world-famous Poipu and one of the best places to surf in Kauai.

Beginner Butterflies When Learning to Surf on the South Shore of Kauai

You’ve read nothing but good things about this school. The place has a five-star rating on TripAdvisor and is touted as the #1 most popular activity in town. Still, you’re feeling a tad nervous as you enter the shop.

“Aloha!” your instructor says, introducing himself.

“Aloha!” you and your son say together.

“Either of you surf before?” he asks.

“Nope,” you reply. “Never. Not at all. But it’s been a lifelong dream of mine.”

“Me, too,” your son adds. You wish you were as laid back about this as your kid seems to be.

“Well it’s about time, then!” the instructor says with a grin. He and his cohort grab a couple of beginner boards and lead you out to the grass just a few yards up from the water. You notice a decent-sized wave crashing into a plume of white water just in the distance.

“This isn’t going to hurt . . . right?” you ask, half-jokingly. Why did I ever think I could actually surf? I mean . . . I’m an accountant from Ohio!

The instructor’s laugh is so deep and genuine you immediately feel calmer.

You add, “I mean, I just, you know, want to be sure . . . for my kid.”

The instructor assures you that if you listen to him carefully, surfing will be not only safe but a ton of fun. He talks to you about ocean safety and surfer etiquette, and then leads you in some dryland practice there on the grass. The instructor spends a good 20 minutes showing you how to paddle, pop up and get your feet into ready position. His explanations are clear and easy to follow. After a number of tries you finally feel like you’re getting it. He talks about how to use the leash and attach it to your ankle.

Soon, you feel like you’re actually ready, and though he looks small on the board, your son is clearly getting the hang of it, too. He flashes you an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Time to hit the water!

Making Waves

Once out on the water, it’s a little tricky getting used to managing the board against the current, but your instructor is right there with you. He helps guide your son out and you are pleased to note that the swells aren’t nearly as big as you’d envisioned. You are both paddling out now, and you feel your excitement rising as you nose your board through each approaching rush of white water. Soon you are out far enough to turn things around. Your instructor continues to stay with you and offer helpful, specific tips.

A small wave approaches from over your shoulder and you watch your son start to paddle like crazy. His little arms are working hard. The instructor helps guide him along, and suddenly he is being propelled by a small wave. You see him attempt to pop up but just as quickly topple over. You feel your heart leap but soon see him pop back up out of the water laughing and ready to try again.

Now it’s your turn. Another wave begins behind you, and you, too, start to paddle like mad. Just as you feel the swell’s momentum under you, you attempt to pop up and get your feet into position. The board flings out from under you and you take a header into the ocean. Now you’re laughing too.  You’ve done some stand up paddleboarding on a lake before but this is totally different. The surfboard feels like it has a mind of its own.

Hawaiian Style Surfing

Before you’ve even had a chance to turn around and try again, you hear a cackling, “Woohoo!!” to your right. You glance up and see your son standing up on his board! He is riding an actual wave — and on his second try! The instructor is whooping it up and clapping. Your son soon takes a header and comes up laughing again.

“DID YOU SEE THAT, DAD?” he shouts. And this during just his first surfing lesson. You are clapping for him, too.

After three more tries it all happens for you, too. You pop up and miraculously stay up. And as you glide along for that moment, sailing on the water with your legs perfectly placed, the wind on your face and the shore coming toward you, you can’t help but hear that Beach Boys song in your head: “Let’s go surfing now, everybody’s learning how, come on and safari with me!”


Ever dreamt of catching a wave? Kauai Surf School is open year round and ready to introduce you to the best place on the South Shore for group lessons or private lessons for all ages. Book your stay at Koloa Landing Resort, the best Kauai beach resort, and our concierge will be happy to set you up with one of the most memorable activities on the Garden Isle – learning to surf on the South shore of Kauai.

— Erica Karlin