When thinking of locations for taking surf lessons, Maui is usually at the top of the list.
We answered an email from Casey worth sharing:
“Hello my name is Casey and I’m from Oregon, my husband and I are surprising our son with a trip to Maui for his 7th birthday in November and I was wanting him to do something fun on his birthday so I was thinking Maui surfing lessons. I’ve looked on the Internet and have found a place called Kihei Surf Lessons, and I was wondering if you know if this is a good place to get Maui surf lessons or should we get a private surf lesson? There will be my son, two teens, and 2 to 3 adults. And where is the best surfing on Maui? Is surfing easy? And even, is Maui good for surfing? Also, what are some other places to see and do that you’d highly recommend in Maui?”
Thank you, Casey, 28
Aloha Casey, and welcome to Maui! What a great birthday present! Learning to surf is something you’ll never forget, and very well could become a new passion of yours. We’ll answer your questions as best we can!
Maui Surf Schools
There are close to a dozen surf schools around the island teaching and leading tours. Some more popular businesses offering surf lessons include Kihei Surf Lessons, Maui Surfer Girls (they don’t just teach surf girls), Hawaiian Paddle Sports, Maui Waveriders, Zack Howard, Maui Surf Lessons, Royal Lahaina Surf Academy, Goofy Foot Surf School, Waves Hawaii, Maui Surf Clinics, Soul Surfing Maui, Maui Beach Boys and Rivers to the Sea (Tide and Kiva offer a great private lesson.)
They all do a good job and get good reviews, but what you really want to do is decide between a shared surf experience or a private lesson. Private surf lessons are a bit more costly, but you get more attention from your surf instructor. Shared Maui surf lessons are less expensive, but you get less one-on-one attention. Group surf experiences can be good in that you learn by watching others in between each wave. That being said, you don’t want a huge crowd with chances of someone else’s board leaping out of the ocean.
Some more questions to ask:
- Before booking a lesson, guests should ask whether or not they take photos of you. Most surf lessons come with photography, but some will make you pay additionally for it. Getting that perfect photo to make friends at home jealous is crucial.
- Find out what ages they allow if you’ve got kids. Again, it’s hard to find a Maui surf school that doesn’t specialize in teaching students of all levels and ages.
- Does the Maui surf school guarantee you’ll stand up and ride a wave? On the big surfboards, they give you, there’s a very good chance you’ll catch many waves, but it’s always good to ask!
- How long are the lessons? Some schools will teach for an hour. Guests that opt for a private lesson may be out for a few hours.
- Ask where the surf spot is relative to your condo/hotel. Some schools only teach out of Lahaina or Kihei. You don’t want to have to drive across the island when there are waves down the street.
- If you want the group surf experience, ask how many people per instructor. Small groups are key!
- Ask them about proper surf etiquette. If you indeed get bit by the surf bug, you’ll want to know what to do and not to do when surfing on your own later.
The Best Surfing Spots on Maui
Where can you surf in Maui? It’s hard to find a Maui surf school NOT based on the south (Kihei, Wailea) or west side (Lahaina), where the waves tend to be calmer and perfect for learning. On the south side, you’ll likely be taken to Cove Park (see the video above), which has some really fun, mellow surf. On the west side, you’ll be taken to areas around Olowalu or more likely to Lahaina Harbor’s Breakwall. This spot is also pretty mellow. There are plenty of better spots to surf, but they’re for surfers with advanced skills. You don’t want to paddle out at a shallow, sharp reef break with thick, heavy waves and an unclear way to get out of the water. When it comes to surfing Maui, lessons are key to keep you safe. Your guide will also take you to the best spot for the wave conditions that day.
If you’re interested in watching advanced surfers on potentially dangerous waves, you can watch from the cliffs of Honolua Bay on the upper west side or from the lookout point at Hookipa on the North Shore past Paia. A few times per year, Peahi (AKA Jaws) will break perfectly. If you want to make the long trek to watch these waves from afar, park up top and walk it in good shoes. It’s a muddy experience, and we’ve heard of people paying thousands of dollars to get towed out of there. It’s a long walk, and you’ll still be far from the waves to view them, so it’s often best to stick to watching the big wave contests online. On that note, keep in mind that safety should be your number one concern EVEN when you’re just watching! Some visitors get a little too close to the cliffs and need rescuing. Many of these spots don’t have lifeguards either.
On some occasions, these more popular Maui surf spots will run contests, in which the level of competition can be amazing to watch! That being said, some of the contests are closed to the general public, so check before making the trek.
Is Surfing Easy?
That’s a mixed bag to answer because every person is built differently. Center of gravity, dexterity, athletic ability, level of patience, and previous surf experience are all factors on how quickly you’ll pick it. There’s also ocean conditions, wave size/shape, and how patient your surf instructor is. But really the BIGGEST factor is the size/shape of your surfboard. I know guys that have been surfing Maui for years on shortboards and just can’t get it. The guys running lessons will give you a giant, stable, soft surfboard that makes it easy to stand up. More importantly, it makes it easy to catch the wave (really the hardest part of learning to surf.) With one of these big boards, and with enough time in the water, you could be catching every wave and riding down the line within a week.
Is Maui good for surfing?
It depends on the time of year and your skill level. For a novice learning to surf, Maui is pure gold. Due to island blocking, some areas of Maui are almost always calm offering safe, easy, small waves. For beginner to intermediate surfers, it can be a challenge. Once you’ve got your legs underneath you, many new surfers think they can paddle out wherever they want. This can be dangerous. We’ve got pointy urchin, shallow-water reefs, strong currents, rapidly increasing swells, and many spots are a challenge to enter and exit safely. Without a guide, it can be a hazardous thing. For advanced surfers, we still have these dangers, but confidence can often breed even more danger. Most advanced surfers have a healthy respect for the ocean and don’t enter the water without knowing what they’re getting into. Is Maui good for advanced surfers? Yes and no. As I mentioned earlier, Maui has island blocking to the west, so most of the swell comes in on the north side. This raw energy is often accompanied by our famous Maui winds. You often get surfers joking about “Maui glass” when the wind is only offering up a little chop to the face of waves.
Other Maui activities beyond the water
Besides surfing lessons, Maui has many other great activities. Of course, the Road to Hana is legendary for a day trip (or preferably a few days.) We also like snorkeling, visiting Haleakala for sunrise, hiking to waterfalls, and just beach-going in general. Some of these things you can do on your own, others you can book online. We hope you have a great time on our island! ALOHA!
Would you like to know about more Maui surf spots? Let us know in the comments below.