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

Girls Who Surf also prides itself on its safety record. Its instructors are lifeguard-, CPR- and first-aid certified and licensed by the state to offer instruction. Group classes like the one I’m in today are the most popular instruction offered. Rash guard water wear, reef walkers, sunscreen and surfboards with leashes are provided. Classes span two hours, with at least 90 minutes of actual water and wave time.

Lessons begin on the sand, where, for about a half-hour, Girls Who Surf instructors go over surfing basics—everything rom how to paddle a surfboard to how to correctly use a surfboard leash. Instruction on land is brief. The best way to learn, say instructors, not all that surprisingly, is on the water and on actual waves.

“The thing about surfing is there’s only so much you can explain,” says Skip Paul, 30, of Boston, an avid windsurfer taking Girls Who Surf’s first-timer lesson with his wife, Allison, despite already knowing how to surf. “You really just have to do it.”

Lessons continue on the surf off Kalaeloa Beach Park, with instructors paddling nearby.

For this morning’s large group, there are three Girls Who Surf instructors—two females, one male. Each instructor works with a group of five students, offering specific directions on everything from what to do on the board—how to stand up and ride waves and how to wipeout gracefully—to ocean safety and surf etiquette.

“Keep your knees slightly bent,” says Ross Ahlborg, a sandy-haired 21-year-old instructor, raised on Rhode Island surf. “If you stand like a stick figure, you’ll just blow right over.”

Ahlborg and the other instructors review all of the basics students will need for their first wave rides: where to stand on the board, how far apart to keep their feet and more.

“Where you’re looking is where you’re going,” says one instructor. Explains another, obviously, “The faster you paddle, the faster you’ll get there.”

The land-based instruction is thorough on purpose. Instructors want students’ time on the waves to be a memorable experience, albeit one that doesn’t include multiple tales of wipeouts or reef cuts.

“Safety is a big part of our briefing,” says Alison Kalange, the company’s sales and office manager. “We teach (students) how to wipeout, to cover their heads, to fall flat, stuff like that.”

Land lessons done, the students climb onto their foam surfboards and paddle out into the surf break. The day is perfect for surfing. Winds are light, keeping the ocean calm and smooth. The waves are knee high and appropriately manageable for first-timers.

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
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