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You won't be surfing Oahu's Banzai Pipeline like the pros, but that doesn't mean you can't get your feet wet. Credit: surfglassy.

By Amy Drew Thompson

Okay, sure. It doesn’t hurt to be born and raised in Hawaii (or blessed with natural talent), but Oahu native John John Florence — at 19, the youngest-ever champion of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing — still had to practice. Where can you get your start? On a cheap Hawaii vacation, of course, learning from natives in the waves where many believe the sport was born.  You might want to avoid the monsters at Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline for now, but there are plenty of kinder, gentler beaches for beginners getting their sea legs. And it never hurts to get a lesson.

Tourist-friendly with relatively flat, easy-to-ride swells, Oahu’s Canoes Beach, near Waikiki, has long been lauded as ideal for newcomers. Coral reefs here lie offshore in deep water, making it a safe place to fall — which you most assuredly will — as you learn. Farther from the hotel zone, and far less crowded, White Plains Beach boasts consistent, beginner-level waves all year long.  Where to stay: The EWA Hotel Waikiki is a block from the beach, the zoo and offers proximity to Canoes’ gentle waves, as well. Cheap Tickets offers select guestrooms at the Ala Moana Hotel at special rates — 10 to 50 percent off official prices — for the same beautiful ocean or mountain views.

Parts of Maui are protected from those big winter waves, making the breaks sublime for noobs. Launiupoko State Wayside Park fits the bill beautifully, as an out-lying reef shreds the big’uns into ribbons most anyone can ride. Bring a mask and fins, too. Snorkeling is stellar when the ocean’s flat.  Where to stay: The Best Western Pioneer Inn, just steps from myriad water attractions, is also a registered historic landmark – built in 1901.

Kids on Kauai can grab tiny breaks close to shore on Kiahuna Beach, one of the top south shore locations for novices. The beach is adjacent to Poipu Beach Park, a popular spot for snorkeling.  Where to stay: The beautiful Nihi Kai Villas lie close to the gentle surf of Kiahuna and the myriad water activities of beautiful Poipu.

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Though a veteran Hawaii traveler, freelance travel writer Amy Drew Thompson prefers watching surfers from the relative stability of a kayak. Or maybe a beach chair. With a  Mai Tai.

Tagged: Beach, Sports

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