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Headed for Honolulu with Kiteboarder Nalani Oda

Nalani Oda

Girls4Sport team rider Nalani Oda kiteboarding in Hawaii

Girls4Sport Team Rider Nalani Oda, is used to seeing Honolulu. Seeing it right side up, sideways and sometimes upside down. An accomplished aerialist often found suspended between kite and ocean, Nalani has been kiteboarding in and around Honolulu since 2002. Currently living in San Francisco as she finishes dental school (her gorgeous smile is a great advertisement for that!), we caught up with Nalani to ask her some questions about all things girls-for-sporty on Oahu!

  1. Honololu area. Tell us some great beaches to go for kiteboarding.
    We don’t have that many different kiting beaches, but what we do have is quality. The #1 spot is Kailua on the east shore of Oahu. It’s a beautiful user-friendly bay, good for flat water riding and sometimes wave riding as well (mainly in the winter months). The wind usually is best first thing in the morning and right before sundown. The average kite size is 12m during the reliable summer months, and 8-10 during the feast or famine winter months. Kailua is a very popular beach and kitesurfers have to be very considerate to all beach users. If you kite at Kailua, please follow the posted guidelines and ask a local about proper protocol before launching. Help us keep Kailua beach open to kiters. The main surf spot on the island is Mokuleia, or “Mokes” as the locals call it, up on the North Shore. This shallow, reefy, wave spot is not for beginners, but experienced kiters fall in love with this right break that seems to have been designed for kiting. In the mag’s, you will often see shots of the local pros such as Felix, Reo, and Top Hat killing it on their surfboards. Windy season here is during the summer months where the thermals kick in around 11am and last until about 5pm. Average kite size is 8-10m.
  2. How about for the never-have crowd, some good places to go for rentals and lessons? Is it a kid-friendly endeavor or better for adults only?
    If you have never kited before, the first thing you need to do is take a lesson. Most places do not rent equipment because a person who doesn’t know what they are doing is a danger to themselves and to others. The best way to get lessons, gear, or advice is from Jeff Chang, local kiter, stand-up paddleboarder, surfer, and owner of Off Da Lip. Check out offdalip.com or contact him at (808) 255-6255. He can hook you up with local instructors such as the one and only Jeff Tobias, professional kiter extraordinaire. As for children, it’s probably best to leave the little ones on the beach, but older kids love kiting and often learn more quickly than adults. It is best if they are ages 10-12+ (depending on size/weight) and very comfortable in the water.
  3. Who was your kiteboarding teacher and was it hard to learn?
    My first instructor was Laural Eastman, who also became a professional kitesurfer and now owns a shop in the Dominican Republic. She was an excellent teacher—helped me learn quickly and love the experience. Kite thechnology has changed radically since I have been in the sport, and it continues to make learning a safer and easier experience. Most people get hooked as soon as they take their first lesson, but people who want to be instantly good at kiting can get frustrated when learning because it can still be a bit of a slow process in the beginning. The key is to enjoy each step of the learning process. You start off “body dragging” which means you dragged through the water without a board as you learn to control the kite. Beginners are often overly eager to get on a board, but getting dragged around by a huge kite is fun—enjoy it! If you don’t get kite control down first, you will just end up crashing your kite over and over while you fumble around getting your board on your feet. So take your time, do it right, and have fun! And one of the great things about kiting is that once you are up and riding, learing how to do tricks is easy.
  4. If you were visiting Oahu from the mainland, where would you want to stay as a home away from home? Would you pick Honolulu as a home base to range out from or would you pick another town to call home while on the island?
    Waikiki is the place to be if you want to be right in the thick of it with the night life, shopping, and all tourist activities right at your doorstep… along with a hundred thousand other tourists. If you want a more laid back authentically Hawaiian experience, I would choose a vacation rental (or hostel for the budget traveler) in Kailua Town or on the North Shore of Oahu, depending on whether Kailua Beach or Mokuleia sounds better to you. The distance between the two beaches is only about 45 minutes by car, so as long as you aren’t native to Hawaii, it’s a quick drive. (For us locals, anything longer than a 20 minutes and it qualifies as a road trip.)
  5. Best places to go AFTER kiteboarding?
    After a long day of kiting the first place we usually go is to get some food. My favorite restaurants near Waikiki are Tokkuri Tei, a great Japanese tapas-like restaurant and sake bar, or Mr. Ojisan, a small family run Japanese restaurant. My favorite places to eat on the North Shore are at any of the numerous “shrimp trucks” that line the highway.
  6. When you exit the airport in Honolulu, where’s the first place you go or would want to go?
    To the beach of course!
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