No, not me. That's Hans Hedemann himself, riding
a big one at Turtle Bay Resort.
How to Catch a
Surfing Lessons in the Land of Aloha
by Ringo Boitano
had become one with the wave. To be honest, I couldn't quite
believe I had even made it up. But here I was, a rookie surfer, riding
the 20 ft. crest of a monster wave with the Hawaiian sun at my back.
Some of my companions at the surf school waved and shouted in encouragement,
others just laid on their boards, watching in awe. But I was not to
be distracted; I was committed to riding this baby to the end. As I
headed towards the shore, little heads peered out the water. On closer
inspections, I could see they were jagged rocks. This I was not ready
for. Should I force a fall or take my chances through the rocks? With
the adrenaline pumping, I guess I had no choice.
A deafening crash consumed my world. I jolted up in
bed. The room steward at the Turtle Bay Resort had dropped a plate outside
my room on the hallway floor. I glanced at my alarm clock. 5:05 A.M.
I had a few more hours before I was to begin my first surfing lesson
at the Hans Hedemann Surf School on the North Shore of Oahu. I wondered
if I could go back to sleep.
A surfer surveys the scene at Waimea Bay. Photo
by Deb Roskamp
Surfing has long been a central part of ancient
Polynesian culture. When Tahitians migrated to Hawai'i, they brought
with them the paipo (belly) board, which allowed them a quick way to
get ashore with their daily catch. The art of wave riding upright on
long boards was perfected in Hawai'i and is considered the true birthplace
of surfing. Hawaiian royalty were the most skilled surfers in the villages
with the best beaches reserved for them alone. The rest of the villagers
were not allowed on the same beaches, but could gain prestige among
the populace by their own mastery of wave riding.
The first account of surfing was written by English
Lieutenant James King in 1779 after observing locals on the Kona Coast
of the Big Island of Hawai'i. "On first seeing this very dangerous
diversion I did not conceive it possible but that some of them must
be dashed to mummy against the sharp rock."
The sport of surfing was popularized by Olympic
swimmer Duke Kahanamoku in the 1920s, whose statue rests on Waikiki's
waterfront. Today Hawai'i is regarded as the surfing capital of the
Han's giving pointers at his school
Hans Hedemann Surf School
When the clock struck seven, the monkey-wrench tightening
in my gut reminded me that I was to meet Hans Hedemann and staff in
an hour at his office located right at the hotel. Why was I so nervous?
Yesterday, doing a survey of the North Shore's various surf beaches
--- Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline, Waimea--- it all looked so, well,
Handshakes were exchanged between the seven rookie surfers
and surf school staff. Hans, a charmastic man who seems to make a personal
connection with each participant, immediately put everyone at ease.
Born and raised in the Hawaiian Islands, Hans spent 17 years on the
pro surfing tour circuit, winning many distinguished competitions, including
the first person to win back to back ASP World events. Interestingly,
his reason for starting the schools (he has another on Waikiki) is that
his initial introduction to surfing as a boy was an unsuccessful and
negative experience. At the end of his years on the pro tour he realized
the importance of proper surf instruction. In 1997, he launched the
schools to also enrich the authentic Hawaiian surfing experience. Beginner,
intermediate and advanced surfers of all ages are welcome to attend
Bobby Davison rides the wave that he fell in love
The group was led down to the beach where we were instructed
on proper water safety, and then given drills on the techniques that
we would later use.
Before I knew it, we were in the water. Surfing begins
with climbing on your board and paddling out to waves on the horizon.
Our instructors would maneuver us so that we were facing the shore.
Then, when the big one comes, give us a push, matching the wave's speed.
Once the wave starts to carry you and the board, you jump to your feet
and ride down the face of the wave, staying just ahead of the breaking
part "white water" in a place referred to as "the pocket."
I was textbook prepared, but quickly learned that the
surfer expressions, "cutback," "tube riding" and "hanging ten" were
not destined to be part of my own personal experience that day.
My goal: simply to stand up on my board and ride a wave.
Countless times Hans and his assistant, Bobby Davison,
would patiently push me out to the pocket, and countless times I would
fall. They were both relaxed and encouraging, diligently critiquing
my moves and giving me pointers.
In between waves, I asked Bobby, a native of Vermont,
what made him settle in Oahu? "I was visiting the North Shore," he replied.
"And I fell in love with a wave." Such is the passion of the surfer
in their quest to find the perfect wave, making surfing a major component
to today's travel industry.
The stunning setting of Turtle Bay Resort. Photo
by Deb Roskamp
Did I ever make it up? Well, yes. I did make it up once.
It was probably only for five seconds, but the memory of that sensation
that will stay with me for an eternity. I really had, at least momentarily,
become one with the wave. Perhaps it was love at first sight.