Travel Blog #81 – Hawaiian Surfing Adventures, Learning To Surf

Mar 3, 2020 | Activity Information

I remember the first time I stood up on a wave. It was a sunny day at a break near Oluwalu on Maui. It was in the middle of one of the summertime adventures with my uncle Dennis that were commonplace during my childhood. I was about 5 years old and the surf was a little over waist high on me at the time. I was on an old short board that was probably about 3 inches thick so Dennis had no problem pushing me into the wave. I remember standing up and putting my arms above my head, screaming and feeling so proud of myself as I proceeded to ride the wave strait in all the way onto the shallow reef where I crashed, cutting my arm and ending my session. Too bad I did not have a nice sandy place like Hanalei Bay to learn, or I probably wouldve been able to catch more then one wave and enjoyed a much better first surfing experience (regardless of the cut, that first wave I stood up on was still amazing!).

My Girlfriend and my friend Chris (who was visiting from California) had never really surfed before, and really wanted to do a surf lesson. The waves seemed to be more active in Hanalei then down in Poipu, so we got in touch with Hawaiian Surfing Adventures and arranged for a lesson the following morning. We were told that the days lesson was going to be at the Hanalei Pier and we agreed to meet them there bright and early in the morning.

As we arrived to the Hanalei Pier, I could tell it was going to be a great day for my friends to learn. There was the remains of a large swell that was still bringing consistent (although small) surf into the bay. There was no wind, which left the surface of the ocean as smooth as a sheet of glass. We could see Mitchell Senior and Mitchell Junior unloading boards from their truck, so we made our way over to meet them.

Hawaiian Surfing Adventures is a family owned and operated business. Mitchell Alapa Senior and his son Mitchell Alapa Junior jointly own and operate the business. Mitchell Senior is a delightful older Hawaiian guy that was born and raised in Hawaii. Throughout his youth he supported his family for the most part by doing construction, and surfing on his time off. His Son, Mitchell Junior was lucky enough to grow up surfing the sandy breaks of the north shore of Kauai with his Dad and has developed quite an amazing talent on his stand up paddle board. This winter hes been busy collecting footage of himself taming some of the largest waves on Kauai with his SUP. Many years ago the father son team decided they would be able to have more time in the water by starting a surf school. Together, the Alapa’s have combined their skills, talents and passion to create one of the premiere schools on the north shore of Kauai. How they run their lessons is simple and effective.

Beginning on land, they went over the basics of surfing. They wanted to make sure that everyone had a firm understanding of exactly what they were going to be doing before they got in the water. They went over the basics of positioning yourself, paddling, standing up, steering, crashing and getting back on the board before getting into the water.

Once the land lesson was over the group got into the water and paddled out through the surf. Mitchell Junior did a great job of explaining where the rip current was and how to use it to your advantage to make padding out easier. Once everyone was positioned in the lineup (the best place to catch the waves, right where they break) he huddled everyone together and had a final discussion before he started pushing the students into waves. Mitchell Juniors experience and skill was evident in the results, all 3 of the 3 students in the class stood up and surfed all the way to the shoreline on their first attempt.
Something that I really appreciated about the Alapas operation was their commitment to educate their students enough so they could catch waves on their own. Mitchell Junior repeatedly told the class:

Mitchell achieved his goal because by the time the lesson was over I saw each student not only catch a wave, but lineup and catch a wave and ride it in completely on their own. Ever since the lesson both Simone and Chris has continued surfing and catching waves which I think had a great deal to do with the amazing introduction to the sport that the Alapa team at Hawaiian Surfing Adventures provided them with.

Thinking about my own early experiences surfing over 20 years ago, I cant help but wonder how my surfing career wouldve been like been altered, if the first time I had caught a wave had been on the soft sandbar of Hanalei Bay, instead of the sharp reefs of Oluwalu.