Waikiki has a rich history of stand up paddle boarding which goes all the way back to Duke Kahanamoku. YouTube shows a video of Duke stand up paddle boarding an Australian surf ski in the later part of the 1930s. Waikiki holds a special place as the spiritual and physical home of stand up paddle boarding.
Years ago when most of Waikiki was feral and in its natural beauty, there remained only a couple of elegantly built hotels that overlooked its lively reefs brimming with animal life above and below the waves. Today Waikiki is filled with a thriving tourism industry that is home to seemingly endless shops and restaurants. At first glance, Waikiki can seem like a concrete jungle, but if you take a really good look you can still see its beauty in the waves of the ocean.
Ala Moana Beach Park
You can find a man-made channel laying approximately 400 feet wide and 3,400 feet long at the west end of Ala Moana Beach Park marking the border between the beach and reef. The channel makes a sandy pathway that lengthens the park and makes a two-channel highway not only for swimming but also stand up paddle boarding. It’s inner channel is great for beginners, cruisers and those practicing for races. It is also divided by buoys into different lanes to keep each paddler from accidentally running into swimmers. The inner channel of Ala Moana Beach Park is just one of the treasures as there is more just beyond the reef.
The reef itself is a 1,000 feet wide and you want to be sure to paddle over it carefully. It’s shallow in certain spots and you may inadvertently surprise a sea turtle that’s cruising by. A good idea may be to wear booties if paddling this particular spot.
You can find a number of reef breaks all along Ala Moana Beach Park, however, some are off limits to SUP. Also, a few of these spots may be home to locals that have been surfing the same spot for nearly 60 years and may not take too kindly to “strangers” in their spot. Respect outranks any muscle here.
Reaching Magic Island
Whether you paddle inside or on the outside of Ala Moana, at some point you will reach Magic Island. Some feel paddling around the tip of Magic Island has a certain creepiness to it, the water is deep and clear. If there’s any wind your best bet is to play it safe and head into the Ala Wai Harbor. This narrow channel between the docks and the jetty provide a sheltered stretch of water, which can be fun to paddle through as well.
It runs along the Number 800 dock and then makes a left turn leading to a small crescent of sand known to some as Kaisers Beach or Bowls Beach. The surf here is a major attraction to water lovers, the surf breaks at several well-attended patches of coral that sits directly offshores. These breaks are best left to seasoned veterans.
Cruising Along to Diamond Head
Cruise along the quarter-mile stretch towards Diamond Head and occasionally sneak in a wave or two. This stretch of water tends to be small to head-high, just right for inexperienced SUP riders. Even on it’s worst days, it can be fun, unless you’re a pro surfer looking for the next big wave. You’ll find your turn around point once you spot the Royal Hawaiian Hotel with its infamous pink structure, making it hard to miss. Aside from the Pink Palace, you may find yourself running into an array of surfers.
One of Waikiki’s most popular surf breaks is a well-defined channel, Queens, has an amazing peak breaking left and right. This surf break once was reserved for royalty, is now very popular amongst surfers. Whether you decide to hit the waves or not, experiencing Waikiki is a must experience for all. Spend the evening talking to others or do a little stargazing under the beautiful Hawaiian sky.