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It’s been a blustery few days on Oahu. Most of us welcome the cool trade-wind weather, but there is a group of people vexed by the high winds: Hawaii surfers. The high winds wreak havoc on the waves, particularly on Oahu’s North Shore, where a riveting, high-pressure battle for the World Championship Tour World Title is hanging in the balance. The eyes of the surfing world are waiting for the right conditions to hold the remaining heats of the Billabong Pipeline Masters, which will decide the title winner. The contest has been on hold for days, with only a few days left in the official waiting period.
But there are others, even on the North Shore, who relish the windy conditions: windsurfers and kite surfers. While surfers all over Hawaii are forced to find other distractions or endure poor conditions to get their fix, windsurfers and kite surfers are lashing up their rigs and heading out to sea to be whipped about by 20mph-plus winds.
Windsurfing has been a popular pastime in Hawaii for decades, but kite boarding has really taken off in just the past ten years. There are wind surfing and kite boarding communities on all of Hawaii’s major islands, and outfitters to help visitors willing and able to give them a go.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, Waikoloa and the Kohala Coast are the ideal spots to take advantage of prevailing trade winds, though conditions are often ideal as far south as Kailua-Kona when southerly winds blow.
Maui’s Ho’okipa Beach has long been a mecca for windsurfers, and in recent years kite boarders have joined their ranks in the white-capped lineup. Kahului on Maui’s windward side is also favorable for the sports in trade-wind conditions. Lahaina and Kihei on Maui’s south side is best in Kona wind conditions.
On Oahu, there are ideal locations for windsurfing and kite boarding all along the northern and eastern shores. Indeed, at Kailua Beach on a windy day it’s not unusual to see more than a dozen kite boarders on the water.
Similarly, the northern and eastern shores of Kauai are best to take advantage of trade-wind conditions. Public beaches in Kapaa, Wailua, and Hanalei seem to have become the most popular among both windsurfers and kite boarders alike.
For visiting novices, the best way to experience windsurfing or kite boarding is to find a reputable outfitter, whichever island you’re on. The outfitter will provide the gear and instruction to get you out on the water and into the freshening breeze. And they’ll give tips on proper etiquette to make sure you get along with the locals that are already out there.
Both windsurfing and kite boarding require a lot more gear and preparation than surfing does: board, foot-straps, sail, harness and rigging, and a life vest for starters. And keep in mind that you may want a wetsuit, too, because even in Hawaiian waters, it can get pretty darn cold.