Surfer turns love of sea into booming business


POSTED: Sunday, November 22, 2009

Riding his first wave off the coast of Haleiwa, the visitor from Arizona sported a smile as wide as the ocean.

“;His mother had taken him to see that famous surfing movie, 'Endless Summer,' when it was released in 1966,”; recalled Carol Philips, owner and founder of North Shore Surf Girls, which offers daily surfing lessons on Oahu. “;He was just 7 years old at the time, and it had been his dream to learn how to surf ever since.”;

Last month the man booked a lesson with Philips to celebrate his 50th birthday. “;You should've seen him when he stood on his board and rode that wave to shore,”; she said. “;He was totally stoked! Special moments like that make me really love my job.”;

Philips moved to Hawaii with her family from Los Angeles when she was 2 years old. She was raised in Kahaluu but settled on the North Shore in 1980 when she was 14. A neighbor who was an avid surfer introduced her to the sport three years later.





        Meet at: Wiki Wiki Java Coffee Shop, 66-031 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa

Available: Daily by appointment (must be booked at least a day in advance)


Time: 3 p.m. to sunset


Cost: $189 per person; includes dinner and equipment. Kamaaina receive a 10 percent discount. Two-person minimum for tour.


Phone: 637-2977


E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Web site: www.NorthShoreSurfGirls.com


Notes: Participants must be in good physical condition and know how to swim. Tours and lessons are not open to pregnant women after their first trimester. Students under 8 years old must take a private lesson. Children under 5 years old ride tandem with the instructor. Per-person prices for private lessons are $109.95 for an hour and $139.95 for two hours. One- and two-hour group lessons start at $49.95 and $74.95 per person, respectively, for a minimum of three people. A two-hour lesson is recommended for a first lesson. Transportation can be provided between Haleiwa and Waikiki. Rates start at $25 per person for groups of at least four people. North Shore Surf Girls also offers Surfing Waikiki, Sunset Surf and Picnic, and Surfing and Turtle tours.




“;I learned on little 2- to 3-foot waves, but it was so beautiful out in the ocean, it was like going to another planet,”; Philips said. “;I was hooked! The ocean doesn't care where you're from, how much money you make or what your religion or political beliefs are. When you surf, you feel completely free and in tune with nature.”;

Amazingly, within two months Philips was keeping up with veteran surfers on much bigger waves. She was the first woman to compete with men at the legendary Banzai Pipeline, and in 1990 she founded the Women's Pipeline Championships. In 1989 and 1991 she won National Championships in the women's division, and she placed second in the women's division at the 1992 World Championships. She was ranked seventh overall in bodyboard surfing for the 2000 World Surfing Games.

Landing a role in the 2002 hit movie “;Blue Crush”; was another coup. “;I got involved with it because the producers wanted to shoot scenes during the holding period of a competition I was running at Pipeline,”; she said. “;They wound up casting me as the contest director for the movie, and I was sequestered on the set for five days, eight hours each day, so I would be there when they wanted to shoot my scenes. It was crazy because I was organizing last-minute details for the real contest as they were filming scenes for the movie.”;

Inspired by that experience, Philips launched North Shore Surf Girls in 2006. “;I wanted to offer people a way to connect with the power and healing spirit of the ocean,”; she said. “;Nothing else matters when you're in the water. Your bills, job, worries, all the distractions of life on land disappear.”;

The company's five instructors are certified lifeguards with impressive credentials. Some of them are former professional surfers who've participated in competitions around the world. Others were stunt doubles for the “;Baywatch Hawaii”; TV series (1999-2001).

They begin each lesson on land with an overview on currents and waves, safety issues, paddling techniques, surfing positions and protocol in the ocean.

“;During their first lesson, 99.9 percent of our students are able to stand up on the board and ride waves,”; Philips said. “;Some of them even catch waves by themselves.”;

Although they offer lessons in Waikiki, North Shore Surf Girls prefer teaching in Haleiwa. After all, the North Shore is hailed as the surfing capital of the world.

“;In the summer the waves there are about 1 to 2 feet, perfect for beginners,”; Philips said. “;In the winter we teach in a cove that's protected from the large open-ocean swells. We evaluate the conditions every day and take students to the safest location.”;

Lessons can be packaged with an outrigger canoe ride, a traditional kava ceremony, live ukulele entertainment, a fire knife dance or a picnic. One popular option is the Sunset Barbecue Surfing Tour, which includes a two-hour afternoon lesson followed by a barbecue on the beach.

The meal typically consists of pupu, kal bi or steak and chicken grilled on site, salad topped with papaya seed dressing, brown rice, drinks and a dessert of fresh tropical fruit.

“;We use organic North Shore produce as much as possible, and we like to shop at the local farmers' markets to get it,”; Philips said. “;Surfing, ono food, relaxing on a beautiful beach with fun people, whether you're a visitor or kamaaina, it's hard to imagine a better way to spend time in Hawaii!”;

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.