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Beginners Guide to Surfing: Kahalu’u Bay

An arieal view of the surf break at Kahalu'u Bay

The blue area is the surf zone and the red arrows mark the channel.

Kahalu’u Bay is one of the best spots for surfing on the Kona coast in the Big Island of Hawaii. Whether you have never stepped foot on a surfboard or have been surfing your whole life, Kahalu’u Bay in Kona, Hawaii dishes up some tasty waves for every skill level. Here are a few tips when surfing Kahalu’u that will help you have fun and keep you safe.

Entering the Water

Getting in and out of the water at Kahaluu Bay in Kona is fairly easy. There is a perfect place to enter the water across the street from our shop. Be careful, the rocks can be very slippery sometimes. It’s a good idea to walk your surfboard into waste deep water before you get on so you don’t break a fin on the rocky bottom.

The Paddle Out

When paddling out to catch waves of Kona, you don’t want to get in the way of other surfers. Make sure that you paddle on the south side of the bay when heading out. The water is deeper here and the waves tend not to break in this area which makes for a smooth paddle out.

Where to Catch Waves

There are three surf breaks to choose from depending on your skill level. Advanced surfers will want to head to the farthest peak outside. The wave breaks good left and right. Warning, when the waves are big and the tide is low, the drop can be a bit tricky. If you are not confident in taking off on steep waves over shallow reef, you might want to sit on the shoulder and wait for a wave to swing wide.

Beginner surfers should not go to the outside breaking waves no matter how much fun they look. There is another reef that sits in the middle of the bay. Waves tend to reform here and provide some fun and safe surf for the less experienced surfer.

For small children and those who are not strong swimmers, we recommend staying on the inside and close to shore. Better yet, we recommend that you take a lesson with one of our knowledgeable instructors. We will keep you safe and make sure you catch plenty of waves.

Once your wave is over, you want to make sure that you paddle back into the channel on the south side of the bay as fast as possible so you don’t get ran over by other surfers coming your direction.

Dangers Below

The bottom at Kahalu’u Bay is all reef, which can be dangerous if hit with your body. Since wiping out is a part of surfing, it’s good to know how to wipe out safely. First off, NO DIVING HEAD FIRST! On average, the water is only 3 to 4 feet deep. The safest way to wipeout is to fall backwards and land on your butt. Never put your feet on the bottom here, as you may step on wana (pronounced, vana), which is a spiny sea urchin.

There are a couple areas at Kahalu’u Bay that are really shallow and should be avoided at all times. The shallowest area is directly in front of St. Peters Catholic Church. The water is less than 1 foot deep here on low tide. If you are surfing in this area, you should wipeout at least 20 feet before you get to the shoreline in order to avoid serious injury.

When the surf is big, the rip current can be very strong and pull you north into the rocky shoreline. All surfers should obey all warnings posted by the local lifeguards. Beginner surfers and those who are not strong swimmers should not surf without an instructor by their side. Novice and advanced surfers should practice strong caution and stay on the south side of the bay where the current is not as strong. Never let yourself drift north of the blue and white church on the shoreline.

Just like driving a car, surfing has its own rules of the road. Knowing proper surf etiquette helps keep you safe in the water and will make you a few friends as well. Check out our Surfing Etiquette section for a list of the unwritten rules of the road.


2 Responses to "Beginners Guide to Surfing: Kahalu’u Bay"

  1. Michelle says:

    I got caught in the rip when I was there in December. That thing is no joke

  2. Brent Musik says:

    such a fun wave!

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