Hawaii surfing has been an ancient and well-loved past time in Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands. First documented in Hawaii in 1779, surfing or 'hee nalu' as the Hawaiians call it, is a sport that at one time was reserved only for alii or Hawaiian royalty. It is a widely held belief that this is the reason that surfing is known as the 'sport of kings'. In 1819, the kapu or Hawaiian taboo system came to an end and now all people were free to enjoy the Hawaiian surf.
From early 1900, surfing was gaining momentum, particularly on Waikiki Beach where Duke Kahanamoku grew up and began surfing the south shore. Continuing on to become a surf teacher and multiple Olympic gold-medal winner, Duke has a reputation as the 'father of surfing' and is credited for spreading the Hawaii surfing popularity to mainland USA and even as far as Australia. Today there is a bronze statue of Duke that stands in Waikiki, welcoming visitors, pro-surfers and first timers alike.
Hawaii is also credited as the big wave surfing birthplace as surfers in the 1950s started to ride powerful waves that were generated in winter in Makaha on the west shore and Waimea Bay on Oahu's north shore. From approximately November to February, big wave season hits the Hawaii surf on the north shore and a number of surfing competitions take advantage of this. One of the world's best surfing competitions, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is held in November or December on the north shore each year. Truly a sight to see, if you want to see the pros ripping it up you'll have to get there early as traffic gets really heavy.
Hawaii is also a great place to learn to surf with lessons available on every island, taking about 1 to 2 hours and guided by experienced surfers in gentle conditions.