I only had a few goals for our trip to Maui. The number one goal was to see a sea turtle. But my second goal was to go surfing. I could just picture myself riding down the body of a wave. Feeling only the board beneath my feet and the spray from the wave around me. And just like I needed to see a sea turtle, I needed to go surfing. This was my chance. And so I decided to dedicate the morning of our second day to surfing with Maui Surfer Girls.
I like to think that in a past life, I was an amazing surfer. I’ve always loved surfing movies (I own Blue Crush, enough said) and I’m enthralled by surfing pictures, videos, and documentaries. There’s something so…awesome about surfing. And I don’t just mean “awesome” as in cool (though it is) but also like awe-inspiring. Riding a wave is…majestic. Thrilling. Breathtaking.
Usually when people use those words to describe anything, a thread of skepticism enters my mind. Really? It’s that great? I’ll have to judge for myself. (I think I’m a bit of a cynic…) But when people talk about surfing and how amazing it is, I simply nod, my eyes wide with belief. “Yep. You’re right! I can totally see that!”
Now you might think that my obsession with surfing actually means I’ve gone surfing a lot. Well, you might not know this, but West Virginia doesn’t have a lot of waves. And I never actually got up on a board till my second trip to Ireland when I was 26. Yes – my first lesson on how to surf was in Ireland. And in a wetsuit (though that’s a story for a different time).
Since then I haven’t made it back up. We had tried to go surfing in Portugal, but a delayed flight and the worst sickness I’d had in years pushed that plan aside.
So now, here we were, going to Maui – one of the best surfing spots in the world.
I had to get back up on the board.
Why Did I Pick Maui Surfer Girls?
As we were planning our trip, I debated for several days what company to go with. There are a fair number of them located around Lahaina and Kihei, so I had plenty of options. I looked at Tripadvisor reviews, other blogs, and the prices of each surf lesson itself.
Why Maui Surfer Girls? Even though they were a little pricey, they just seemed right. Maui Surfer Girls run surf camps for young girls and they specialize in teaching girls (and women) how to surf. But their site clearly states that they welcome guys in their daily lessons too. I liked that they had a speciality, a mission, and that they wanted to empower young women.
The second reason I choose them was the location. They teach their lessons on a lesser known beach south of Lahaina. From the pictures online I felt pretty confident there wouldn’t be a ton of people around. And I was right.
My last reason has to go to one of my favorite bloggers: Alex in Wanderland. Her post from several years ago not only put Maui Surfer Girls on my radar, but it tipped the odds in their favor. I couldn’t have followed a better suggestion.
My Surfing Lesson
When Monday morning dawned, I was ready. Our class was at 8am, so we had to get up, dressed, eat some breakfast, and be on the road by at least 7:30am. Maui Surfer Girls post up at Ukumehame Beach which is about halfway between Kihei and Lahaina.
Ukumehame Beach doesn’t look like a lot when you pull into the parking lot, but after spending a couple of hours there, I really started to see the beauty of it. This was a great beach for surfing and SUPing.
We were the last ones to arrive for the class, and it was a little larger than normal at just 6 students. I was thrilled though when I saw that it was all adults. Not that I’m against kids or anything, but when I was surfing in Ireland, all the other students were kids. And, in my opinion, it’s much easier to stand up on the board if you’re a kid (lighter, lower center of gravity, etc.) than if you’re an adult. I was put to shame by those kids in Ireland and I wasn’t looking forward to be so outpaced again.
Our instructors for the day were Dustin (the owner of Maui Surfer Girls) and Sharky. We were each given a rashguard and booties (and a board of course). Then we did the standard, dry land instruction. Dustin & Sharky went over the surfing basics, taught us how to get up, and explained where we should go to catch the waves. This description was so much better than the one I had heard in Ireland. Dustin and Sharky really know their stuff.
Then, before I knew it, we were paddling out.
Paddling is hard. Like really hard. On my first paddle out, I knew this was going to be tough. And the waves were miniscule that day. At first, Dustin & Sharky were worried about this. There were a lot fewer waves to catch. And we did sit out in the water quite a bit. But man, after surfing (and paddling) for 2 hours, I was glad we had bigger breaks in between each wave.
And they also said that if the wind was stronger, you’d have to continuously paddle just to stay in position. I was so glad it wasn’t windier.
After we paddled out, Sharky looked around and asked who wanted to go first. I instantly volunteered. This is what I came for.
I paddled over to Sharky and waited. As the first wave approached, my arms began to pinwheel rapidly and the board creeped forward. Then, I felt the push from Sharky, and the wave took me. Trying not to lose my balance, I focused my eyes on the tree line in front of me. I pushed up to my knees and curled my toes on the board. In one swift motion, I was up in a downward dog position. Then came the hard part. In one big step, I moved my left foot up to my hands and stood.
I couldn’t believe it, I was up.
Cheering erupted behind me. I had gotten up on my first wave. And I was surfing! In Maui!
I crouched low and spread my arms wide, trying to maintain my center of balance. Balancing is definitely the hardest part. Balancing when you’re paddling. Balancing when you’re getting up. Balancing when you are up. It all comes down to core strength and your balance.
And my balance is not that great. But I had done it. I was surfing.
But then something happened. Maybe the wave kicked up. Maybe it shifted beneath me. Maybe I just lost my balance. But I started to tilt and then…SPLAT! I hit the water.
But when I popped my head back up, there was a smile plastered on my face. I was the first one up. I had surfed in Maui. And I already knew 2 hours wasn’t going to be enough.
Paddling back out was like how I thought it would be – rough. My shoulders were burning by the time I reached the group. And I was definitely okay with the more infrequent waves. My arms already needed a rest.
And so that’s how the day we went. We cycled through the group, two people on each wave. I was able to catch almost all of mine. And I still remember one in particular. Sharky pushed me into the wave at an angle and I cruised across the face of the wave.
I was flying.
Throughout the lesson, I was always right by the instructors, right there waiting. I was ready for any wave that came up. If someone else didn’t want to take it, I would. I’d spin my arms in big circles, digging my hands into the surface of the water, waiting for the moment the wave would take me.
Though I’d always need a push to really take off. This is definitely a perk of taking a surfing lesson. Paddling is hard for beginners. To learn the motion. To have the strength. You have to be going at a pretty good clip in order for the wave to take you with it. If you’re going too slow, it’ll rise up and under you, and then leave you behind. But if you’re going fast, it’ll pick you up and carry you along. And so, for my beginner paddle arms, I needed those pushes.
In between sets, we’d lean back on our boards and let the ocean gently rock us. And then we heard it. *Poof!* Our heads whipped at that noise. I hadn’t yet heard it in Maui, but almost instinctively I knew what it was. A whale. A humpback whale.
Our eyes stayed glued to the horizon. And then we saw one, a whale spout. A column of mist against the sky.
The whales had come.
For the next hour or so, the whales played behind us. Surfacing, breathing, slapping their tails, and even breaching.
Surfing with whales. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
But (too) soon the 2 hours were over, and we had to catch one last wave back to shore. With one last push from Sharky, Ryan and I were both able to ride the same wave back.
After hitting the shore, we perused the photos the photographer had taken. And then the tough decision – should we splurge for a package? They definitely weren’t cheap. In the end, I decided I needed to have photos of myself surfing. I had stood up on nearly every wave.
Spending that morning surfing in Maui had been awesome. This must be what living in Hawaii is like. Getting up with the sun and catching some waves before starting the rest of your day. Could I come back and do this again? Or could I come back and join one of Maui Surfer Girls women’s surf camps? That would be awesome.
So hold tight (or hang ten?) Hawaii…this won’t be our only time surfing together.
Have you ever gone surfing?
Price: $85/person (plus tax) for a 2 hour class. Our final total was: $176.80
Location: You’ll meet Maui Surfer Girls at Ukumehame Beach Park which is between Lahaina and Kihei (located at mile marker 12). We met up with the group on the picnic bench on the right end (Lahaina end) of the parking lot.
Times: There are three class times (8:00am, 10:30am, & 1:00pm). The wind and waves are smaller in the morning, so I would suggest a morning time. You don’t want to be paddling against the wind for 2 hours. That would suck.
Photo Prices: These are not cheap. And you pay for your photos (not the entire group’s). So Ryan and I each had to pay if we wanted pictures of both of us. There was also a video of me that I could have gotten (for like $15 more), but it was not one of my best waves so I decided nay on the video. So how much were they? $40/person. Which was a lot of money. But I’m still happy we splurged for them.
Planning your trip to Maui?
- Here’s my one week itinerary for Maui!
- Find out how to camp on a black sand beach.
- Learn how to surf with Maui Surfer Girls.
- Find out where to snorkel with sea turtles.
- Hike down inside of Haleakala.
- See a 400 ft waterfall at the end of the Road to Hana.
- Visit the upcountry and try some vodka and cheese.
- Go on a whale watching tour and see the humpbacks.