Goofy Foot Surf School

We arrived just after 7:15 am (check in was at 7:30 for the 8:00 lesson) and we weren’t even the first ones there. The first thing I noticed was that everyone was happy and smiling. This seemed very odd at first being that it was so early in the morning and the coffee bar next door wasn’t open yet. And that’s when it occurred to me. The students, including my wife and I, were about to have the opportunity to experience something they have been waiting to do for a very long time and the instructors were having the opportunity to share their love of surfing. Imagine getting paid to do something you absolutely love. That can be pretty hard for some people. But not for the instructors at the Goofy Foot Surf School.

If you have never been surfing, take my advice and take a lesson. As I soon discovered, there is a lot more to surfing than just getting in the water and standing up on a board. Now, I admit there are probably a hand full of individuals who will be able to surf without any input from anyone else, but for the vast majority of us, that’s just not going to happen. And not all surf schools are the same and they don’t all share the same philosophies. The Goofy Foot Surf School has been around since 1995 and their primary focus is water safety and what they call “risk management”. Teaching the fundamentals of surfing and ocean awareness, along with safety, is what the Goofy Foot Surf School is all about.

Goofy Foot Surf School is located at 505 Front Street, a few blocks south of the Banyan Tree in Lahaina on the west side of Maui. There is plenty of parking nearby and this early in the morning it is easy to find. My wife and I had signed up for private lessons together and entered the surf school to introduce ourselves. The first person we spoke with, and yes she was smiling too, handed us a clipboard with the standard liability forms to fill out. She let us know that our instructor would be the General Manager of Goofy Foot Surf School, Tim Inskeep. He would be with us soon, he was currently in the water. I thought that to be pretty cool. Tim was about to spend the next two hours teaching us how to surf, but couldn’t wait for us to get in the water. I’m sure he must have caught a few sets before we arrived and was making sure the waves were going to be perfect for his students.

Several other students had arrived by this time and clipboards with liability forms were being passed around. We introduced ourselves to many of them. Some from Maui, others from the Mainland United States, and others from as far away as the United Kingdom. Everyone had similar stories about their desire to learn to surf. And we had all chosen Goofy Foot Surf School.

While the last of the clipboards was making it back to the Goofy Foot people, the representative from Maui Digital Images was offering everyone the opportunity to have pictures taken of their first time surfing. He reminded us that “You’ll never get a second chance to see your first time surfing.” We decided that we definitely wanted to get the photo CD. It turned out to be the right decision. (I will offer more details later.) Every one of the other students decided to get the pictures, too. And everyone was glad they did.

Rash guards and booties were passed out to all the students to protect us in the water. We were going to surf the “breakwall” near Lahaina Harbor and the bottom is very rocky. Each group of us was assigned a bin into which we could place our personal belongings. My wife and I tossed our shoes, towels, car keys, and cell phones into our bin. Tim reminded me to put my glasses inside. Wearing glasses when you’re surfing is not a good idea. What struck me at this point was the fact that Tim didn’t have to remind me to remove my glasses. I could easily have worn them to the beach, worn them for the part of the lesson that takes place on the beach, and left the glasses on the brick wall. There is a high probability that they may have gotten lost, or broken this way. I was quite impressed that Tim was already taking the necessary to steps to ensure we had a great time.

With all our belongings (and my glasses) safely stowed away. My wife and I were told to come get our boards. Completely decked out in surf booties, rash guards, board shorts, and great big grins, we watched while Tim grabbed the boards we would be using from off the Goofy Foot Surf School surfboard rack. He showed my wife how to properly balance the board on her head and sent her down to the beach so she could find the spot for our lesson. She could choose anywhere she wanted as long as it was in front of 505. Tim gave me my board and with it carefully balanced on my head, I followed along the same path to the beach.

Once on the beach, Tim had us place our boards on the sand, fin side down, so we could begin our Goofy Foot surf lesson. With over thirty-five years of surfing experience the general manager of Goofy Foot Surf School definitely knew what he was doing. And we had a lot of fun letting him do it. After determining which stance was better for us, regular or Goofy Foot (my wife is regular, I’m Goofy), we got down on our boards to learn the proper balancing point.

On every surfboard used by Goofy Foot Surf School is a “T” in thick black lines. This is the guideline used for paddling and standing up on the board. Tim instructed us to place the Goofy Foot Surf School logo of our rash guards on the top of the “T” and make sure our bodies were aligned down the middle. My wife, of course, made a joke about her “logos” and how exactly was she supposed to line them up on the “T”. We laughed and enjoyed a few moments of sarcastic banter before returning to our lesson.

Tim taught us that standing on a surfboard is performed by a series of steps. First, you raise your upper body by straitening your arms. Keeping your head up and holding firmly onto the sides of the boards, the second step is to bring your knees up towards the top of the “T”. From this position, you can ride a wave all the way into shore, maintaing good control of the surfboard and the wave. Since we wanted to stand on the surfboard while riding the wave, we needed a few more steps. The third step is to position your front foot on the place where the two lines of the “T” cross. Doing this while keeping your head up and not looking where you foot goes is a lot harder than it sounds. You also need to be careful that your foot is not parallel with the length of the surfboard. In order to be able to control the wave, your foot needs to be perpendicular with the board or just slightly angled.

The fourth step is to place your back foot on the center line of the “T” just a little more than shoulder width about from where you placed your front foot. This provides you with the balance required to stand up. The final step is to stand, keeping your head up and centered on the board so you don’t fall in the water. I can assure you, all these steps are a lot easier while the surfboard is on the sand and a lot harder when it is in the water.

We practiced the steps several times, while Tim watched and critiqued our style. There were a few corrections to be made; mostly we needed to make sure we kept our heads up and placed our feet in the proper positions so when we were on the water we wouldn’t tip the surfboard over.

When we were just about finished with this part of the lesson, Tim demonstrated a “Pro Pop” for us. From the first position, with the Goofy Foot Surf School logo of his rash guard on the top of the “T”, Tim “popped” directly to a standing position on his surfboard — all in one step. I asked him about skipping the intermediate steps and time explained that he didn’t really skip them. Instead, what happened is that through thirty-five (that’s right, THIRTY-FIVE) years of surfing, he was able to perform the steps so fast, it seemed like there weren’t performed at all.

Neither one of us wanted to try and emulate the “Pro Pop” so after practicing the beginner steps a few more times, Tim announced it was time to get in the water. We carried our surfboards into the water and climbed aboard to start paddling out towards the break wall. Both my wife and I were very excited to finally be in the water. Little did we know how hard it would be to get there. Not that there any barriers. No. It was just very hard to paddle that far when you’re not used to it. I probably should have trained before we scheduled the lesson.

We made it out to breakwall without incident and Tim instructed me to stay out of the lane while he and my wife paddled out so she could be the first one to surf. I sat up on my board to watch and Tim suggested I stand instead; the water was only a few feet deep. I watched them head towards the wave and the “surfing” experience.

From where I was watching, I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on. All I could see was the two of them positioning their surfboards on the water before the next swell blocked them from my view. The next thing I saw was my wife paddling her board to keep up with the speed of the wave and moving into position one, with her arms extending and her upper body raising up on the surfboard. She performed all the steps perfectly and she was standing on her first try. She remained standing on the board all the way until the wave stopped just short of the shore. It was my turn next and I couldn’t wait.

With a huge grin on my face, I paddled out to Tim who helped me position my surfboard in preparation for my first wave. Listening carefully to Tim, I paddled as hard as I could to keep up with the wave. I could feel Tim give the surfboard a push as he yelled for me to push up on the board. I did as I was told and then brought my knees up to the top line of the “T”. I positioned my right foot at the top of the line… and fell into the water.

Tim signaled for me to come back so I could try again. My wife was going to have to wait for her next chance to ride a wave.

I paddled back to Tim and he kindly let me know that I did not keep my head up. Instead, I was looking at my feet. He suggested I focus my attention on the four palm trees near shore or even on the beautiful West Maui mountains in the background. I guess if you have the chance to learn to surf on Maui, using the West Maui mountains as a focal point might just do the trick.

I tried the second time, this time looking at the mountains and managed to keep my head up while I positioned my foot… before falling in the water again.

Tim signaled for me to come back so I could try again.

I paddled back to Tim and he again corrected my form. I realized very quickly that this personal coaching was going to make all the difference in the world for me while learning how to surf. If I had to figure out what I was doing wrong by myself, I would have gotten discouraged and given up. But with Tim helping me, encouraging me, and pushing me to keep going, I knew I would be able to do it.

I fell off about three more waves before I finally managed to stand for a few seconds. Even after so many failed attempts, it felt really great to be able to finally stand on my surfboard. I enjoyed the challenge of keeping my balance and riding the wave — even for just a second or two. As my surfboard slowed down, I fell into the water. I was exhausted, but happy.

I rested for a while before realizing I needed to get back on the surfboard and paddle out of the lane. I could barely move my arms, but somehow managed to get to where I needed to go.

My wife’s next turn was as perfect as her first. For that matter, so were the rest of her rides. She was a natural surfer. I, on the other hand, was really good at falling off the surfboard. But you know what, we both had an equally fantastic time.

By the time our lesson was just about over, I managed to ride another wave for a few seconds and fall off a lot more than that. But like I tell my kids, the key to any success is to practice, practice, practice.

Pleased with our first surfing experience, my wife and I paddled back to shore. Tim joined us, instructed us in the proper way to rinse the boards, and helped us carry our surfboards back to the Goofy Foot Surf School. We rinsed our booties and rashguards, and found our bin with our towels and my glasses.

Once all the other students had returned their boards and gear, it was time to start the “First Time Surfin’ Slide Show”. Since everyone had purchased the photo packages from Maui Digital Images, we had the opportunity to see how everyone did on their first time surfing. This was, by far, one of the best parts of the experience. Everyone was able to share their lesson with the rest of the school. I couldn’t wait to get home and show our kids.

After viewing the slide show, we received a CD with our photos in digital format. We also received certificates signed by our instructor to commemorate the experience. We were tired and hungry, but we felt great. We can’t wait to go surfing again, and next time, we will probably bring our kids.
All images related to this review appear courtesy of Maui Digital Images.

Goofy Foot Surf School
505 Front St. #123
Lahaina, HI 96761
808.244.WAVE (9283)

Tiny Bubbles Scuba
About Maury Hoffman |Things to Do on Maui | Restaurant and Activity Reviews

Senior Editor of 808 Reviews and freelance travel writer, Maury Hoffman lives on Maui with his familiy, iPad, iPhone, and other gadgets. His writing proficiency is directly related to the quality of his morning coffee. He prefers Peet's Coffee, but also enjoys Living Java.

Tiny Bubbles Scuba