In Maui, an island with more than 30 miles of beaches, locals know the best ones for surfing, kiteboarding and windsurfing. Maui’s North Shore features two of the world’s most challenging sites-- Jaws for surfers and Ho`okipa for windsurfers—as well as Kanaha Beach, the best beach for kiteboarders.
In Maui and elsewhere in Hawaii, always make sure that the sea is safe for any water sport. Even when the ocean looks calm, the currents can be treacherous Ask locals and lifeguards about the day’s conditions before getting wet. Also, be sure to follow Maui’s beach etiquette: Surfers ride the waves from sunrise to 11:00 a.m. After 11:00a.m. kiteboarders and windsurfers take to sea.
Officially known as Pe`ahi, Jaws has twice birthed the world’s biggest waves ever recorded as surfed. When the mega-sized, 30+ foot swells roll in, pros tackle them after being towed to the wave zone by Jet Skis. Otherwise, the sheer power of the surf would push paddlers back to shore (if they’re lucky), or suck them under.
The spectacle of top surfers riding towering surf occurs only at certain times. If you’re lucky enough to be on island when conditions create monster waves, it’s worth renting a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to get to the site located off the Hana Highway, Route 36. Most of the time, the surf at Jaws remains under 15-feet high.
Expert windsurfers rule at Ho`okipa Beach Park, their red, yellow and blue sails fly across the fast-breaking waves. Easier to access than Jaws, Ho`okipa, steps downhill from Highway 36, can be found on most island maps between the reference points of Maliko Bay and Mama’s Fishhouse. Don’t even think about trying your skills here. It’s best just to watch from the rail or take in the view from green lawn uphill from the beach. Rental equipment is not available at Ho`okipa.
Also on Maui’s North Shore, kiteboarders congregate on Kanaha Beach, near Kahului Airport. To accommodate all water sports, locals follow a self-created plan that keeps windsurfers, kiteboarders and surfers playing in different beach coves. Kiteboarding, also known as kitesurfing, began, as legend has it, at Kanaha Beach in the 1990s. Kiteboarding combines a short board, similar to those strapped on by snowboarders, with a specially designed kite that harnesses the power of the wind.
Exhilarating and fast-moving, the sport does not require muscle. Instead, it takes finesse to gently maneuver the kite. Beginners, intermediates and even experts tackle the waves at Kanaha. To learn you need expert instruction, patience and good equipment. Several kiteboarding outfitters take clients, including never-evers, to Kanaha Beach. Book lessons ahead of time with a reputable outfitter.