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The Best Maui Surf Lessons: Zack Howard Made a Surfer Out of Me

Like you, I’m sure, I have a HUGE list of places to see and things to do before I die. And every trip, I try to cross one off my list. So when I found out that I’d be going to Maui with my husband’s family, I immediately began to research surfing lessons. For years and years I have wanted to give this sport a whirl and finally I would have my chance.

I settled on Zack Howard for our surf instructor. He came highly recommended, he’s a world-class surfer, and his prices were very fair. He immediately called me back to confirm our big appointment and soon all the details were settled. That’s just about when the panic settled in. SURFING?! Had I completely lost my mind? I had tried snowboarding and was no savant at it. Plus, there was the little matter of getting up at 7am to jump in the freezing Pacific Ocean…with sharks. Wait, you don’t think the Pacific is cold? Oh, random! Well, I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico, which is like a nice Jacuzzi in comparison so to me it’s cold.

The next morning Zack met me and my little group on a sliver of Maui shore just as the sun was rising overhead. He gave us water shirts to protect our skin from board rash and little surfing booties to save our feet from the rock and coral, and he had three giant surfboards in tow. After a five minute demonstration on the beach, we were paddling out to give it a try.

That’s when I cracked. “Zack?” I piped up from the back. “Do you ever see, uh, any sharks out here?” He laughed a little and patiently explained that in all of his professional surfing career, he’d only seen a shark twice and even then they wanted to get away from him as quickly as possible. I smiled and tried to relax.

Thirty minutes later, we had all surfed our first waves. And truthfully, it wasn’t even that hard. In fact, I would say, with the right instructor, almost anyone can pick up surfing in an hour or so. A little paddling, a little balance, a nice boost from Mother Nature, and voila!

The only tricky part is actually catching the wave–not standing up or staying up. You see, you have to paddle at the same speed as the wave to have any hope of surfing it. Only one member of my group ever pulled this off by herself but she was a natural. The rest of us needed to be physically pushed into the wave by Zack to have any hope of standing up.

Plus, and this was really surprising to me, it’s really hard to actually see the wave coming. We’d just be sitting there, hanging out, and Zack would say, “Alison, this one’s yours.” I’d turn to the horizon, but nothing would be there. And yet without fail, a minute or so later a wave would appear out of nowhere.

Everyone in my group got completely hooked and we even signed up for a second day of lessons with Zack. Here’s some video of me doing my best Blue Crush imitation.


Fine. I didn’t say I looked good doing it, but it was incredibly fun. Now, here’s a video of Zack for comparison.


Yeah, exactly. Anyway, if you’re heading to Maui and looking for the ultimate surf guru, you know who to call. And don’t be afraid to cross surfing off your list. It’s very doable and the most fun I’ve ever had on vacation.


My name: Alison Presley

Nickname: Presbo, because I'm good police.

How I earn my keep: I'm the manager of Travelocity's Travel for Good program. Visit Travel for Good to learn more about our green travel and voluntourism initiatives!

What kind of traveler am I: I'm an intrepid food explorer. I usually starve myself on the plane (not that that's too hard to do) so that the moment my toes touch foreign soil I'm ready to sample new and exciting cuisine. I like to dine everywhere from hole-in-the-wall local secrets to Michelin Guide gems. Cannel├ęs, poi, boiled peanuts, oxtail soup, poutine--there's no stopping this adventurous palate.

Greatest travel lesson I've learned: It doesn't cost a lot of money to do good. Offsetting your carbon impact only adds a few bucks to your trip, green hotels are very affordable, and volunteering locally during your vacation is a great way to give back and learn about the culture.


Camels & Chocolate

I’m still in awe of what a NATURAL you were on your first time! I definitely did not look like that while learning in Barbados!

Srinivas Rao

As an avid surfer, anytime I see somebody get a dose of the surfing bug, it makes me stoked :). Hopefully you’ve fallen victim to the addiction. Believe me, it only gets better the more you do it.


I am so proud of my bro you have came a long way and made it big .I am a very proud sister and love your site you did cograts bro u did it and i miss u terribly …. Love lain


Catching the wave is very important. It’s not that easy though.


Good job! You made it.

Quick Business Hotels

i’m going to maui in may and am wondering about what surf spots would be good for me. i’m not a beginner, i surf pretty much daily, but i’m also not a hawaiian. anybody have any recommendations on spots or where to stay that is closest to good longboarding spots (my friends don’t surf so i’ll be going solo, boo,hoo) i’d be very appreciative. also wondering how much of a factor the reefs are. i don’t really deal with them on a regular basis in california. mahalo!

Keywest Hotels

Surfing is great fun.Although it little difficult to learn but once you master it nothing can offer the same excitement.

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