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By Carrie Dahle

Surrounded by the clear turquoise Pacific Ocean, I stood shaking like a leaf — not out of fear, but from the pure adrenaline surging through me as I tried to balance and keep from tipping over. Every ounce of my being was buzzing with this fusion of excitement and nervousness. Even though I was surrounded by other people enjoying the water, the only two sounds that could be heard were the waves crashing around me and my heart pounding. Peaceful yet exhilarating; it is this combination of tranquility and pure elation that makes paddleboarding a sensation in Waikiki.

Continuing to focus so as not to lose sight of the slightest movement of the board, I noticed something dark in the water beneath me, ominous and about three feet in size, swimming around and around. Unsure of what was obviously not human, I became even more determined not to fall and meet this creature eye to eye. Just as I lowered myself to my knees, up popped the sweetest face I had ever seen. “Crush!” I yelled, having watched Finding Nemo way too many times and not knowing what to say to a sea turtle. He looked up, ducked back down below the board, and continued swimming around. It was at this moment that I realized just how thrilling and unforgettable paddleboarding can be.

Paddleboarding has become a great alternative to surfing for people visiting Waikiki. For years, locals and veteran tourists alike have encouraged friends to learn to surf in these waters because the waves are smaller and they can be ridden for a longer time. The same is true for paddleboarding. The Hawaiian word for paddleboarding is ku hoe he’e nalu which literally means to stand, to paddle, to surf, a wave. And these calmer waters of Waikiki are the perfect place to stand, paddle, and surf the waves, all of which can be done for as little as $25.

Before you can paddle, let alone stand up and surf the waves, you have to get into the water, and for me this meant having my husband carry the board down to the shore. I could have done it myself and would have if I had known I would receive my next visitor’s unsolicited attention.

As I stood contemplating the best way to successfully enter the water, I was greeted by a large local man looking down at this haole girl (me) with scrutinizing eyes. He proceeded to ask me if I had ever paddleboarded before. “No, but it looks fun,” I replied. His annoyed look couldn’t have been any clearer as he shook his head and said, “OK, lady, look out there in the water. See where it is dark? STAY AWAY from there; the water is shallow and that is the reef.” He then told me that unlike surfing, I have to stand with my feet parallel on the board. Next I was instructed on how a paddle was to be used. I am sure he thought he would be out rescuing me within the hour. I listened intently, smiled, and then I was off. Using the tips he shared with me I was quickly standing on the board, paddling around, and riding waves — enjoying every moment, especially the one with Crush.

When I returned, my “instructor” had relaxed and a smile grazed his face. He laughed and said, “You did much better than the big guy,” pointing to my husband. I guess this little haole girl surprised him. For me, the experience of paddleboarding in Waikiki was unforgettable and one I would recommend to anyone traveling to Hawaii.

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