By Dave Dondoneau
We live surrounded by one of the world's greatest playgrounds. Many Island residents take full advantage of the ocean's endless entertainment, while others want to get involved but don't know how or where to start.
For those either actively pursuing ocean activities or eager to test their sea legs, this weekend's Hawaii Ocean Expo 2010 at Blaisdell Exhibition Hall is the place to be.
Last year's inaugural event drew more than 12,000 visitors, and expo coordinators expect an even bigger turnout this year.
With ocean sports taking center stage this week, we figured it would be a good time to offer a guide to ocean fun on O'ahu, including events that showcase water activities, as well as information on how to get started.
Go watch: Sunday is the final holding day for the Ku Ikaika Big Wave Invitational, where waves must be at least 15 feet high at Mäkaha Point for it to be held. If it goes off in the morning, 30 top SUP athletes will compete, along with six wildcard invitees, for a $10,000 purse.Worth the drive to watch.
Get involved/costs: Most SUP businesses hold free demo days, where beginners can get instruction and find the best board for their needs. C4 Waterman (330 Coral St., 739-2837, C4Waterman.com) will hold a free demo at 9 a.m. tomorrow and on March 13 at Sand Island Park. Rentals at C4 Waterman are $50 for next-day returns, $30 for same-day returns and $75 for a weekend. You can also rent equipment for $30 an hour in Waikíkí (behind Outrigger Reef on the Beach). Buying your own boards and paddles typically costs $800 to $1,800. C4 applies rental fees toward purchases, so you can try multiple boards before buying.
Lessons: Paddle Core Fitness (723-5357, http://www.paddlecorefitness.com) offers individual lessons for beginners at Ala Moana Beach Park for $75 an hour (group discounts available). They also offer advanced workout classes ($15/hour, $10 if you have your own board).
Waikiki Beach Services (http://www.waikikibeachservices.com) also teaches beginner lessons behind Outrigger Reef on the Beach (352-2882), Outrigger Waikiki (542-0608) and The Royal Hawaiian (388-1510) in Waikíkí.
Tips: Start out in calm waters such as Ala Moana Beach Park, Maunalua Bay or Lanikai. Pay attention to the current and wind. Going against both can be difficult.
Go watch:The Walter J. MacFarlane Canoe regatta, held annually over the Fourth of July weekend at Waikíkí, is fun to watch because it involves outrigger canoes catching waves. Pre-season regattas start in March, mostly at Ke'ehi Lagoon.
Get involved: Beginners should visit one of the 18 outrigger canoe clubs on O'ahu and check out the regattas. Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association (hcrapaddler.com) provides a list of clubs, contacts and events.Beginners can learn the basics from club members and usually try a paddling and training session. Information is also available at http://www.ohcra.org (Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association) and http://www.y2kanu.com (Hawaii's online paddling resource).
Costs: Membership dues range from $75 for keiki to about $300 for adults per season (excluding the Outrigger Canoe Club, where dues are higher). You'll have to buy your own paddle. Paddles range from $80 to $300 and can be purchased at various stores, including Island Paddler (716 Kapahulu Ave., 737-4854, and 350 Hahani St., 262-4866).
Tip:Check out various clubs until you find one you're comfortable with.
Kayaks are the Swiss army knife of ocean equipment, good for fishing, diving or just taking a recreational cruise.
Go watch: Hui Wa'a Kaukahi, Hawaii's oldest and largest recreational kayaking club, hosts a group outing at 6 tonight. The two-mile (Nearly) Full Moon and Fireworks Paddle launches just beyond the Hilton Hawaiian Village lagoon. After the cruise, members watch the fireworks fronting the hotel. You don't have to be a member to go, but you must register either at Go Bananas Watersports or at http://www.huiwaa.org.
Get involved: If you're a beginner, it's best to rent a kayak at one of many stores specializing in ocean activities. We found good deals at Go Bananas Watersports (799 Kapahulu Ave., 737-9514; 98-390 Kamehameha Highway, 487-3400), where a one-person kayak day rental is $30, and a tandem is $45. Car racks and safety equipment are included in the price, and if you decide to buy, the store applies the rental fees toward your purchase. A kayak and paddle can cost as little as $265, but Go Banana's most popular kayak package is $1,600.
Tip: Get a tandem kayak to get keiki involved.
Go watch: The Yak Off on June 12 is a family kayak fishing tournament for keiki to learn about fishing culture. Coastal Kayak Tours (638-9100, coastalkayaktours.com) puts on the annual event and picnic at Hale'iwa harbor. Last year, a 6-year-old won the keiki division.
Get involved/cost: Windward Boats (789 Kailua Road, 263-6030) teams with Coastal Kayak Tours for monthly demo days, allowing beginners to check out kayaks. Coastal Kayak also offers eco-tours ($125-$235) and fishing tours ($245, with food and beverage provided). Groups, kamaäina and military get a 10 percent discount.
http://www.Aquahunters.com is a good place to learn about kayak fishing.The site's forum allows newbies to ask experienced kayak fishermen about tides, currents, baits and how to land fish without tipping over. AquaHunters also offers guided fishing tours ($200 for a half-day, $250 for a full day).
Tip:Always try to kayak, particularly when fishing, with a partner.
Go watch: The Ahi Fever Fishing Tournament over Father's Day weekend (June 19-20) is the state's largest fishing tournament, and the weigh-ins at Waianae Small Boat Harbor can be spectacular. Last year, 188 of the 200 boats caught 262 fish weighing a total of 37,221 pounds. The top prize: $10,000 for a 232.4-pound ahi. Marlins and other big-game fish are included.
The HawaiiFishing and Seafood Festival (Oct. 10, at Pier 38) is one of the island's premier family events for fishermen and seafood lovers. Every aspect of fishing — from picking equipment to dropping lines to cooking the catch — is featured. Last year, the event drew some 20,000 visitors.
Get involved/cost: Shoreline fishing is one of the most inexpensive and enjoyable ocean activities, and it's a perfect way to begin. A starter rod and reel and other tackle costs as little as $50. And if you don't have a fisherman to teach you, volunteer at tournaments like the Mike Sakamoto Memorial Scholarship Fishing Tournament at Lake Wilson (July 9-11) to learn more.
Tip: Mom-and-pop tackle shops like Roy's Fishing Supply (98-025 Hekaha St., 487-7690) are a great place to meet other fishers.
Go watch: On May 22, the Gene Higa Tournament at Puiki Pavilion in Waialua features 120 divers swimming out from shore to spearfish.The highlight for spectators is the "Iron Chef" competition, held after the tournament. Two chefs are given a secret ingredient (something caught during the tournament), and have an hour to prepare a dish. Last year, Kimi Werner's tako tacos helped earn her the "Iron Chef" title.
There's also a March 8 dive- from-shore tournament at Shriners Beach Park in Waimänalo, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and a picnic.
Get involved/cost Werner has three tips for those wanting to learn how to free dive and spearfish: Know the regulations, follow weather reports and always dive with a buddy. Her first free-dive purchase was a three-pronged spear for about $80, but you can get cheaper ones for about $20. Dive fins range from $100 to $600, while diver-down buoys are $120 to $130.
She also suggests visiting two dive shops: Maui Sporting Goods Spearfish (851 Kapahulu, 735-3897) and Hanapaa (1733 Dillingham Blvd., 845-1865; 98-1005 Moanalua Road, 486-5775), where the staff are eager to answer newbie questions.
Get involved/cost: Scuba diving offers an opportunity to see turtles, dolphins and even whales in their natural environment. Nearly every dive shop has a dive club that offers certification . Ocean LegendsHawaii (111 Sand Island Access Road, 852-8881), gives two introductory dives for $175 and applies that fee to your open-water certification ($395). Once certified, a day dive for kama'äina is $65 and rental gear is $25. Everything is included in the rental fees.
Go watch: The big-wave season on the North Shore may be over, but there's always surf to catch on O'ahu. Spectators should mark Aug. 22-28 for Duke's OceanFest at Waikíkí Beach (545-4880, http://www.dukefoundation.org). Held annually in honor of Duke Kahanamoku, it's one of the best ocean-spectator events, churning out numerous activities to watch and friendly surf competition. It's a great opportunity to see not only top surfers, but stand-up paddlers, swimmers, polo players and canoe paddlers.
Get involved/cost: Surfboards can be rented in Waikíkí for less than $10 an hour for kama'äina, and lessons are widely available.
Watch: Various swim events take place during the spring and summer, including the March 13 Fin Swim at Ala Moana Beach Park.
Get involved/classes: The Waikiki Swim Club (http://www.waikikiswimclub.org) offers weekend group swims and a chance to meet swim partners. Membership is $15 per family. The club also hosts social events like underwater Easter egg hunts, Christmas parties and sunset cruises.
The American Red Cross (739-8123 or 739-8132, http://www.hawaiiredcross.org) offers free summer swim classes at Ala Moana Beach Park for novice, intermediate and advanced swimmers
Go watch: Today is the last day of the holding period for the Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic, but if you can't get to the North Shore, the Waimea Bay Shorebreak Slam is March 6-7 and March 13-14.
Get involved/cost: Bellows Beach and Kailua Beach are good spots to start, because you don't have to go out too deep to catch decent, rideable waves. No equipment is needed for bodysurfing, but some prefer to use fins, which can also be used for bodyboarding. Bodyboards range from $50 to $200.
Get involved/cost: If you're looking for an adrenalin rush, wind or kite surfing may be for you. A three-hour kite lesson with a certified instructor runs $259 at Hawaiian Sports (415 Kapahulu Ave, 739-5483, 354 Hahani St., 262-5483). All equipment is included in the price, and upon completion, you receive International Kiteboarding Organization certification so you can do it anywhere.
Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks, Inc., (130 Kailua Road, 262-2555) offers windsurfing lessons from $109. Rentals are $59 for four hours. (Kama'aina get a 20 percent discount.)