Windsurfing may not have originated in Hawaii, but the sport’s capital and greatest champion both call the Islands home.
The sport was created in the mid-1960s when two friends—sailor Jim Drake and surfer Hoyle Schweitzer—got together and wondered how their favorite pastimes could be combined. An aeronautical designer by profession, Drake came up with the idea of an articulated mast. In 1968, they patented the first windsurf board.
Today, the world’s top windsurfers flock to Hookipa Beach Park on Maui, where these ocean daredevils perform amazing aerial maneuvers. Blessed with an optimal wave and wind conditions, Hookipa (located on the island’s north shore, just east of lower Paia) has been called the “Aspen of windsurfing.” In his book, Great Outdoor Adventures of Hawaii, Rick Carroll describes Hookipa Beach as “the home of the Maui Air Force,’ those high-flying aerialists who smash waves head-on to gain hang-time’ up in the air like junior birdmen and birdwomen.”
Where to Go?
Novice riders need not apply at Hookipa Beach. Instead, they should head to the safer waters off Kihei or Lahaina. Equipment can be rented from several shops in Paia. On the island of Oahu, Kailua Bay is a renowned windsurfing spot. In Waikiki, windsurfers can be seen off Diamond Head Beach and Fort DeRussy Beach. On Kauai, Anini Beach and Tunnels are considered a prime destination for windsurfers.
Windsurfing lessons are available, and the cost includes all the gear you’ll need. No experience is necessary, but you need to be able to swim.
In April 2004, the Professional Windsurfers Association held a major competition at Hookipa Beach. The PWA Hawaii Pro showcased top wave sailors from countries around the globe, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Holland, and Brazil.
The greatest windsurfer of all time, however, is Kailua’s own Robbie Naish.
Naish took up the sport at the age of 11. Just two years later, in 1974, he won the first of his 24 world titles. The gifted wave rider is credited with helping to popularize the sport internationally. In all, Naish won six world crowns, including four consecutive championships from 1976 to 1979. In 1999, Sports Illustrated listed Naish as one of Hawaii’s 50 greatest sports figures.