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Waikiki Surf Lessons | Oahu Surfing Capital of the world | Surfer Slang

Updated on April 3, 2012

ALOHA: The island greeting you receive when exiting the plane and entering the airport in Honolulu on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii

A fabulous place to begin a Hawaiian vacation is in Waikiki. Our driver collected us from the airport and delivered us to the Waikiki Sheraton. It was right on the beach in the basin with Diamond Head in the not too far distance. After 12 hours of travel we arrived in Paradise at last.

Beach Memories

Most of us talk about all the great memories of the beach experiences we have had, family vacations, building sand castles, that horrible burn, body surfing, finding seashells, and occasionally rolled by a breaking surf. Even as I write I have pictures popping in my head from a variety of beach days in the summer sun. Surfing was one of those items on my bucket list that I just never got an opportunity to cross off. That was until that special vacation in Hawaii where I successfully crossed a couple line items off my bucket list: I swam with wild dolphins and scheduled a surf lesson all in the same week. Shibby, as they say, dude, what better place on the planet to learn how to surf than on an island in Hawaii, the surfing Eden of the world? So that is what I did at 40- something and lived to tell about it….totally awesome and bodacious.

Surfers Vocabulary WORD KEY: For rest of the article

Hawaiian Surfer vocabulary is unique and fun. There are some common words you have likely heard, but then are those only known to the surfer dudes. Hawaiian slang is CAPITALIZED. :

AZNUTS (az-NUHTS) - That’s ridiculous; you are out of your mind

benny - tanless tourist on the beach

bitchin (also bitchen) - very good, tops, excellent; a classic beach word that dates all the way back to the 'beach blanket bingo' days. Bitchin means cool, righteous, out-of-sight, happening. If something is really bad (as in good), it's bitchin. (see boss, excellent, primo, rad)

bluebirds - huge waves that break outside of the normal breaking waves

bodacious - extremely good and/or great

BREAK - wave action

clean - good conditions, good waves, and good surfboards

cowabunga (also kowabunga) - a yell of excitement by a surfer (see banzai)

doggers - multicolored swimming trunks

dude - 1. comrade/ friend and/or name for unknown individuals 2. male surfing enthusiast (women are referred to as ‘dudettes’) 3. California slang for guy

CONFUSED YET? Just askin.

GOOD FUN - Fun is okay, but GOOD FUN is better.

hang five/ten - To place five (or ten) toes over the nose of the surfboard (see toes on the nose)

hang ten - To have all ten toes on the nose. Gotta be on a log to do this one.


Kahuna - Hawaiian god of sun, sand, and surf

kook (also kuk) - 1. a surfing beginner 2. someone who gets in the way or into trouble because of ignorance or inexperience (see dork, geek) 2. someone who pretends to be something they're not. 3. a completely awkward or bad surfer (highly derogatory)

LOLO (LOH-loh) - dumb, stupid, idiotic

MAHALO (mah-HAH-loh) - thank you

nalu - Hawaiian for wave(s)

ONOLISICIOUS (oh-noh-LIH-shee-uhs) - really delicious, really good, really great

pop-up - To get to your feet after catching the wave.

selling Buicks - To be throwing up, vomiting; the process of reversing the ingestion of the dreaded Neptune Cocktail. After selling Buicks, it was generally assumed that your day at the beach was pretty much over.

shibby - awesome, rad, totally

stoked - To be geared up, wound up, full of enthusiasm.

surf spot - a particular location that surfers like to ride

surf's up - waves are breaking and surfable; There are waves... I'm outta here!!!

WAHINE (wah-HEE-nay) - woman, female

way - very much so; This place is way cool!

WAT DOIN - What are you doing? Are you crazy?

wipe out - To fall off or be knocked off your board. (see eat it)

Zone, The - This is the place where there is no escape from the wrath of the oncoming wave. You are caught inside, too far in to catch the wave, and the wave is breaking to far out for you to paddle outside The Zone. You get pounded in The Zone.

The day I became a surfer chick or dudette not sure which

Each day on the island of Oahu is peaceful and lovely especially in the winter months after the rainy season. The sun was intense and it was the day I would attempt to learn the technique of board surfing. I knew not what to expect nor if I could stand up on the board, never trying it before. My friend and I traveled on vacation together. She stayed on shore to capture the event on camera. I am still amazed that she completed her task with the tears in her eyes from laughter. Wearing a one-piece swimsuit (so not to loose any pieces), board shorts and swim shoes, I was ready…or so I thought.

We entered the surf shop at the base of Diamond Head for instruction. A group began gathering of much younger people than I. The fellow at the counter wearing doggers just smiled when I told him I came for a lesson. After taking a moment to swallow his thoughts…he said, no problemo. When the time came to begin in Hawaiian time, the leader collected everyone for a speech about the dangers involved and that everyone was surfing at their own risk. Then he told a few stories to try to scare the bejeebies out of anyone that was really not up to the task. I could hear them thinking…AZNUTS, though I paid it no mind. I had kept myself in good physical shape. I was stoked and on a mission. I was keeping my eye on the prize, LOLO HAOLE or not; game on.

Surf Lesson


Practicing the Positions on the Beach

Before going out into the water everyone in the group had to practice the positions on the board to find their surf spot.   Everyone had to do this about 10 times.

1. Prone position - Laying flat on the board, chest in the middle, and arms over sides for paddling.

2. Push up position – Pushing up with both hands at chest level to lift your body ready for standing.

3. Pop-Up Position - First leg comes forward with bent knee, then second leg quickly behind while remaining in squatted position

4. Surfer stance - arms out-stretched from front to back to give you more ability to balance and the body ability to move quickly to correct itself as you grin from ear to ear

Looked easy enough. All the kuks were issued a longboard. I thought “ Wow, this is humongous, wonder if I can carry it all the way to the water?” Luckily all the boards were transported for us. These boards had an ankle strap attached so as not to loose it when you wipe-out. Everyone was also issued a life vest and another lecture on surfer etiquette. It appears that you get out of the way when another kuk catches a wave….easy for you to say. Oh, did I mention that the main surfing instructor was a retired Hawaiian surfing professional. He told us stories like when he would practice holding his breath underwater by carrying big rocks and running on the bottom of the ocean for minutes at a time. Yep, that is just what I wanted to hear.



It was time, everyone started to enter the ocean like newly hatched baby turtles racing for their first splash. The basin was full of clean nulas. I was told it was bitchin, a good day to learn. Linda with camera in hand was ready for some actions shots. We all started paddling.  I was paddling for about 5 minutes straight to get out far enough to be able to catch a wave and I let me tell you…it was PAU HANA (tough work). Now I usually love bluebirds, but I didn't want to see any bluebirds today.


You have to keep the board facing to the waves and ‘push-up’ to lift yourself when the wave passes under you so not to flip over as you paddle out. In preparation to catch a wave, you paddle back with one hand and up with the other hand. This will turn you around to face the shore. If you do this too slowly, you can get broadsided by a wave and knocked off your board. That being said, trying to get back onto your board is another matter altogether. Let’s just say ‘ya don’t wanna be do'in it too many times’.

Video Instruction of Catching A Wave...Excellent Dude

Trying to Catch a Wave

Finally reaching breaking waves, you turn yourself around to face the shore. Afterwards, you turn your head backwards over your shoulder to watch for a coming wave. This was the most challenging of tasks so far….I kept getting a kink in my neck. As the promising wave approaches and right before it gets under the board lifting you up… paddle…paddle…paddle and try to catch up with the momentum of the wave to catch it. It is all about timing, isn’t everything? Ok here we go ….paddle ….paddle …paddle ….missed. This goes on several times which is when I realize that I was feeling somewhat ill. Did I mention that I get extreme motion sickness when on water? Did I even give this a glimmer of a thought when I scheduled this lesson, of course not. WAT’DOIN. Trying to focus and use mind over stomach…I pressed on for the prize.

Watch Surfing Lessons and Student Surfing Results

A WAHINE Catches A Wave

After several feeble attempts to stand and immediately wiping out, I began to get the balance of it all. Like riding a bike, skating, skiing for the first time, your brain does not know how to respond to the balance of the new sport. My brain was learning fast and it had too, I was sicker by the minute bobbling around on that board. There in the distance I saw a wave that looked like it could be a good one for me, I waited patiently…preparing to paddle. Approaching …paddle …paddle …paddle …lift …push-up …bring up first leg and quick second behind…I was standing … and grinning ear to ear …AWESOME ……KOWABUNGA!!! WIPE OUT, SPLASH I went into the ocean just missing the coral underneath the rolling waves, but all the while with a smile of victory on my face.  After thinking more, it was a perilous adventure.  Hmmm… The things you do not think about when scheduling surf lessons and anxiously awaiting the moment you can strike the line on your bucket list.

Victorious Surfer Smile

Back At Shore

With sweet victory at last I paddled for shore even though my lesson had another 30 minutes to go. The energy it took for one hour was about all I had.  I was dizzy from motion sickness, had a kink in my neck from looking back over my shoulder for so long, and my arms were like lead weights as I paddled as best I could to get back to the shore. Luckily a I caught a little wave on my board to push me into shore. Linda was concerned that I may have hurt myself since I was coming in earlier than planned. She met me at shore as I crashed on the beach on my board and just laid there; but of course, with a victorious smile on my face. At least I can say I wasn’t selling Buicks. Thank the Lord. I had to lay there for about 15 minutes to get the feeling of motion sickness to subside. Linda waited patiently for my recovery. Did I mention what a great photographer my friend can be? Linda actually got off a few shots while I was on the board and actually surfing for those few brief moments. Is that a totally awesome friend or what. That was definately Onolisicious GOOD FUN . If I would have taken the time to think about the pitfalls, risks and sea sickness, I probably would not have tried to surf. I am totally glad I did.  All the other stuff I endured was all part of the journey. ALOHA.

Note to self:  Surfing is much harder than it looks, you need incredible strength to endure the force of the water for any length of time, cudos to anyone who participates in this sport.




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    • Golfgal profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Cogerson, I am so glad you liked it. I have written more serious hubs lately and wanted to write one that was more fun. Surf's Up....gotta go.

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Great old surfer who has not surfed in a long while....I appreciate the new glossary....very fun and interesting hub

    • LeisureLife profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Great Hub ! Thanks for sharing !


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