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Family Friendly Outrigger Canoe Surfing on Waikiki Beach

June 28, 2019

Written By Joseph Mains
June 2019

The gentle sun crept over the horizon as we quietly prepared for a family outrigger surfing session.  After picking up a quick breakfast with coffee and juice at O Bar, we walked the three blocks to our outrigger canoe surfing session.  We were quickly introduced to our captain for the day, a warm, friendly man who shared tales of his own experiences with outrigger canoe surfing as he readied our canoe for the morning.  With just a few moments to spare before our ride began, we dug our toes into the still-cool sand and listened as we finished up our coffees, relishing the peace of having the beach all to ourselves.

It was time to push out.  As the boat cleared the sand we each leapt into our seat, gripping our paddles as we stared out, the early morning sun flashing off the water, the stand-up surfers carving slowly across the gentle waves.

Though our six-year-old was too small to wield a paddle on her own, she shouted gleefully along with our captain at the back of the boat as he called out our rowing orders— left, right, left, right.  As the wave approached, his words came faster, and we plunged our paddles deep into the water, each mirroring the strokes of the rower ahead of us.  Suddenly, we felt a shift underneath us and the wind began to rush by our cheeks — we’d caught our first wave.

As the sea pushed our outrigger over the water, we rested our paddles on our laps and took in a new perspective on Waikiki.  There was Diamond Head, piercing the sky like a giant shark’s fin, and there was the beach rising up in front of us, bright with white sand.  Grinning from ear to ear, we all leaned back in our seats to take in the sound of the water roiling and splashing against the sides of our canoe.


Outrigger canoe on Waikiki Beach


We imagined what Polynesian navigators must’ve felt to gaze up at Diamond Head as they approached Oahu for the first time 2,000 years ago. How each canoe would’ve been carved from a single hundred year-old tree, and sealed off with a mixture of plant material and charcoal to ensure it would stay water-tight. We couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe as we took part in this sacred and vital practice of the Hawaiian people.

As our boat slowed, we smiled and waved back at the surfers applauding our first ride of the day.  Then we lifted our paddles, dug them deep into the water, and turned again toward the horizon to catch a few more waves.  On the beach walk back to ‘Alohilani, everyone agreed this would be the perfect addition to any Hawaiian vacation packages you’re planning.

Photo Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson


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