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Surfer Girls: We hit the waves for a beginners lesson with Girls Who Surf



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Girls Who Surf instructors guide a beginners surfing class at Kalaeloa Beach Park, on Oahu's southwest side, before hitting the water.

It’s 10 a.m. on a sunny Saturday at Kalaeloa Beach Park. Early in the day for resident beachgoers who, on most afternoons, flock to this lovely, hidden stretch of white sand in the backyard of one of Oahu’s largest industrial parks. Not so early for overnight campers already firing up small barbecue grills and popping ice-cold Heinekens.

Beyond the campground, over a sandy hill and past a grove of ironwood trees is Kalaeloa Beach, rolling waves crashing on its still-empty dunes. Here, a couple of dozen miles west of Waikiki’s crowded beaches, is the spot that instructors of full-service Oahu surf school Girls Who Surf believe is as perfect as it gets for beginning surfers catching their first waves.

On this particular morning, the class emptying out of the Girls Who Surf van is mostly made up of men—15 of them, dressed in board shorts, bodies slathered with sunscreen, each anxious to slink into Kalaeloa’s friendly azure surf. Most admit to never surfing before today. For some, it’s their first trip to Hawaii. Everyone, however, seems to desire photographic proof for friends and family back home of riding a wave in the Islands where surfing was born.

“If you’re going to come all the way to Hawaii, I feel like you have to try surfing,” says Allison Paul, 30, of Boston. “I want to say I surfed in Hawaii.”

Despite its XX-chromosomed moniker, Girls Who Surf is actually an equal-opportunity surf instruction school for women and men. The school was founded in 2005 by Cherry Fu, a Harvard economics graduate who found herself hooked on the sport after taking a first surfing lesson. When she discovered that male instructors operated most of the surf schools here, Fu started Girls Who Surf to focus on teaching wave riding females and families. Still, the school has never limited its classes or even its pool of instructors to women.

To counter the confusion, Girls Who Surf also does business as Surf Honolulu. (Fu is still its owner, but lives in San Francisco.) Since opening, it has become one of Oahu’s top surf instruction schools for beginners, expanding its curriculum to include stand-up paddleboarding and bodyboarding. The company estimates that it guided more than 7,500 customers on the art of catching waves last year.


 
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