Guests at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, can book off -property activities on Oahu. These handpicked excursions have the “Adventures by Disney” seal of approval, and include transportation from and back to the Aulani resort, plus much-appreciated extras like towels, snacks and bottled water, plus the knowledge of a local guide. Families can relax and simply enjoy an adventure on Oahu — whether it’s horseback riding, hiking or kayaking – and let the Disney experts work their magic and take care of all the details.
Yesterday I got to experience what I am sure is the best Adventures by Disney excursion available to Aulani guests: surf school with Hawaiian Fire. Yes, my friends: that’s learning to surf with
hot authentic, working firefighters on Oahu.
Lest you think the only reason I booked this excursion was to get in the ocean with the likes of surf instructor John above (simmer down, gals, he’s married), I must say I really appreciated that I was in unpredictable waves (attached by a leg leash to an 11-foot projectile/surf board) with first responders. These firefighters are trained in open-water rescue and can readily deal with medical emergencies. I knew that if I felt uneasy in the ocean at all — or if I swallowed too much water, or hit my head, or got especially beat up in the surf — I knew these guys would take care of me. (And, no, I did not feign drowning, just for some mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.)
Kidding aside, I wouldn’t hesitate to enroll my school-age kids in this surf school simply because the Hawaiian Fire instructors take safety so seriously. We spent a good 10 or 15 minutes of our lesson just talking about how to best fall off the board, how to avoid collision with other surfers in the water and other safety tips. We learned that Hawaiian Fire uses foam boards that are softer than traditional fiberglass boards, and that they run their lessons just off of Kalaeloa Beach on southwest Oahu (about a 15-minute drive from Aulani) because it is semi-secluded. When we were there, we only saw two other surfers in the area — fewer people to accidentally run into (unlike the waves at congested Waikiki Beach! Plus, a natural barrier reef helps create waves at a steady height (maybe 2 feet on a typical day) which is ideal for beginners.
After being outfitted with booties and a rash guard, participants of Hawaiian Fire surf school get short on-land instruction on how to paddle, turn the board and pop up to standing position.
For our group of 12, we had 4 instructors in the water with us. Once we all got into the ocean past the shore break, the instructors would tread water and hold our boards, wait for an ideal wave, and then push us off and tell us to “paddle, paddle.”
It was awesome.
Even when I biffed it.
I think I stood up on my board for six waves, but really only rode them a far distance twice. When the stars aligned, and my balance was great, and my feet were positioned correctly and I lasted upright on the board more than three seconds, it was an incredibly empowering experience. Definitely one of those “I did it!” moments.
I only surfed for about 30 minutes until I became tired from paddling; there was a strong wind that kept pushing us in one direction down the shore. The instructors were so great, though, because whenever I’d get too far from the group, I’d make my way toward them, and then they’d tow me to the ideal spot to ride the waves into the beach. They were patient, attentive, fun, friendly guys who put me at ease in the ocean.
I can’t recommend surfing with Hawaiian Fire enough. If you’re staying at Aulani, book this excursion. Even young children can get in on the action. Hawaiian Fire will take children as young as five years old, and for kids ages 5 to 10, you do need to pay a bit more because your kiddos will get a private lesson; they’ll be assigned one instructor who will stay with them the entire time they are in the water — usually a little more than an hour on the Disney excursion. (That is, if your children — or you — can handle being out in the ocean for that long; like I said, it is tiring, and you can certainly take a break on the beach whenever you want.)
Yes, surf school is not cheap. If you are an Aulani guest and booking it through the tour desk at the resort, it’ll cost $154 per adult, $184 per child, ages 5 to 10 (it is less expensive if, say, you are staying at a Waikiki hotel and call to book directly yourself). But again, like the Laniwai spa experience I wrote about yesterday, if you are at Aulani living it up on a very special family vacation, I do recommend saving your pennies and spending them on an extraordinary Adventures by Disney experience surfing with the friendly guys at Hawaiian Fire.
Photos by me, Hawaiian Fire and whoever took the great shot of me with the guys above. Surf school participants can purchase a CD of high-quality images of their lesson for $40.
Mahalo Hawaiian Fire and Disney’s Aulani for hosting me on such a fabulous excursion!