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TRAVELING IN STYLE : IN HAWAII, THE SURF IS ALWAYS UP : For many, surfing is their raison d'etre. Their search for the perfect wave becomes an ongoing obsession

March 20, 1988|CAROL HOGAN | Hogan is a writer based on the Big Island of Hawaii.

In Hawaii, the undisputed surfing capital of the world, there's always a wave to ride. The daring challenge winter's awesome North Shore; others seek summer's South Shore curls, and beginners check out Waikiki. Surfers gaze seaward, scrutinizing favorite breaks with such names as Sandy's, Off-the-Wall, Gums, Back Door, Drainpipe, Banyans, Infinities and Pine Trees.

For many, surfing is their raison d'etre . Their search for the perfect wave becomes an ongoing obsession--this growing group that demands a surfing contest each weekend in Hawaii. In 1988, more than five dozen contests will take place, including amateur interscholastic events, team competition among high schools and between retail shops, pro-am meets and professional extravaganzas featuring the world's best surfers.

Buses and vans circle the island, making regular stops at contest sites where bone-white mainlanders disembark to buy souvenir posters, and bikini-clad vacationers seek out noted surfers to have them autograph beach towels and T-shirts. Tour maps and brochures list the famous beaches.

The governing body of the professional surfing circuit, the Assn. of Surfing Professionals, schedules four ASP-rated events in Hawaii each year. The "Gotcha Pro" at Sandy Beach on Oahu's South Shore (June 8-12), and on the North Shore the "Hard Rock Cafe World Cup of Surfin' " (Nov. 22-Dec. 1), the "Billabong Pro" (Dec. 2-11) and the "Maui Pipeline Masters" (Dec. 12-22), which has become the world's longest-running professional surf meet.

For years, beachboys in Hawaii taught vacationers to surf, mainly at Waikiki. But it wasn't until the 1930s that pro surfer teams began challenging the big waves at both Makaha and Sunset Beach. Twenty years later the first International Surfing Championship was held at Makaha Beach. Word spread. Surfers migrated to Hawaii from all over the world. Today, surfing--no longer dubbed a shady sub-sport practiced by beachboys--is a respectable pastime openly enjoyed by devotees from every walk of life. In Hawaii, the surf is always up.

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