Josh Wills loves getting tubed in the surf. As a three-time U.S. bodyboarding champ, the Hawaii native has become a fixture at world-class breaks around the Islands. And even though he has traveled the world in search of perfect waves, he'd rather ride in Hawaii than anywhere else. "You've got so many different kinds of waves," Wills says. "You've got the perfect barrels at Pipeline and the heavy waves at Sandy Beach. It's like a giant amusement park for me." Wills got an early start on the surfing life. "I used to ride with my dad, and he pushed me into waves," Wills says. He has surfed at most of the serious breaks around Hawaii, from the North Shore of Kauai to clear blue barrels on Oahu's Makaha Coast, his own backyard.
"Bodyboarders have more fun," says Wills. Especially in Hawaii, which has the most consistent waves of anyplace in the Pacific. While beginner breaks for surfing are generally packed, beginner bodyboarding breaks are seldom shared by more than 10 people. A perfect wave for novices, says Wills, gently washes over either soft sand or, at the least, rounded rocks. It should break slowly to the left or the right ― surf that pounds directly onto sand can be fun when small but dangerous when bigger. "Bodyboarding here always puts a smile on my face," Wills says. "You get a feeling out in the lineup with the people and the ocean and the sky that you just don't get anywhere else."
- Wear a rash guard to protect your chest and arms. Though a bodyboard is slippery, hours of rubbing can cause rashes.
- Use short, bodyboarding swim fins to kick into waves. It's difficult to catch a ride without them.
- Practice the basics at beaches with lifeguards, who can advise on local conditions and safety.
- Before you drop in, look both ways to make sure no one else is on the wave.
Check surf shops listed for other beginner breaks.
The sandy cove in Po`ipu Beach Park has launched the bodyboarding careers of many Kauai keiki (kids). Forgiving waves wash ashore in blue mini tubes. A big south swell can jack waves up quickly; check with nearby lifeguards before paddling in.
INFO: Kauai County Parks Division (www.kauai.hawaii.gov or 808/241-6671). From Po`ipu Rd. in Po`ipu, take Hoowili Rd. to parking at Po`ipu Beach Park; Brennecke's is one block east. Rent gear at Nukumoi Surf Co. ($7.50 per day; 2100 Hoone Rd.; 808/742-8019), right across from the park.
Bellows Field Beach Park
A local favorite for family outings, Bellows is located on an Air Force base in Waimanalo. Stands of ironwoods shade the beach, and mellow rollers wash ashore on miles of soft sand.
INFO: Bellows Air Force Station (open noon Fri until sunset Sun; www.bellowsafs.com or 808/259-8080). From Kailua take Kalaniana`ole Hwy. (State 72) 4 miles southeast; turn left into base. Rent gear at Hans Hedemann Surf School in Waikiki ($20 per day; 2586 Kalakaua Ave.; 808/924-7778).
Kama`ole III Beach Park
This Kihei beach receives respectable swells during the summer months and can get rideable waves year-round.
INFO: Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation (www.co.maui.hi.us or 808/879-4364). On S. Kihei Rd. near Keonekai Rd. Rent gear at Hi-Tech Surf Sports in Kahului ($8 per day; 425 Koloa St.; 808/877-2111).
4. BIG ISLAND
Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
The most popular beach on the island has plenty of mellow waves in summer. Go early; conditions are usually better then, and parking gets tight as locals and visitors literally queue to enjoy the white sands. In winter only very experienced boarders should surf the outer reef.
INFO: Hawaii State Parks (www.hawaii.gov/dlnr). Take State 19 about 28 miles north of Kona International. Rent gear at Snorkel Bob's in Kailua/Kona ($8.50 per day; 75-5831 Kahakai St.; 808/329-0770).