Surfing is like a fraternity on the beach, a tight-knit brotherhood of the boards. People are more apt to recognize each other by their tan lines than their faces, and by the way they shred a wave than what car they drive. Not a surprise then, that as in the case of most athletics, our collective fantasy of out ripped riders can feel like just that: Being gay in an already chauvinistic sport is trying.
"I found it impossible to meet other gay surfers anywhere else," says Thomas C. on why he founded GaySurfers.net, an online social networking site, in February of 2010. Since then the site has topped 2,700 members in 76 countries from South Africa to San Diego. And according to Thomas, if the tide is turning anywhere first, it?s Honolulu.
Rainbow over Waikiki
Hawaii, the "birthplace of surfing" and more specifically, Waikiki on the island of Oahu, is a new surfer?s best bet. It has the perfect sized waves to start you out standing on your board, and with the largest LGBT population in the islands and gay bars within walking distance from the beach, there's bound to be a fellow queer wave rider scattered among the surf.
Whether you?re a kook (surfer speak for "newbie") or have some barrels under your belt, book into Ty Gurney's Surf School (808-271-9557; $95-150), where a laid-back approach and supportive teachers will have you up on a board in no time. After a hard day at the beach, refuel atDuke's (2335 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu; 808-922-2268), where the surfers chow down on beachy staples like fried calamari. Afterwards, brush up on your surfing history -- did you know Hawaii had a florid polysexual past? -- by visiting the Honolulu Surf Museum atJimmy Buffet's Margaritaville (2300 Kalakaua Ave.; 808-791-1200) across the street. Tequila helps you handle the tackiness, while you peruse every stage of surfboards since the 1930s, including such famous boards as featured in Apocalypse Now and Gidget.
If you want a specific bar to find gay surfers, that's like asking in which forest should you look for a unicorn: They don't all congregate in one place. Bar 35 (35 N. Hotel St.; 808-537-3535) in Chinatown, is usually a good bet for a post-surf scene, especially with its outdoor and indoor patios, and their vast selection of beer and specialty cocktails.
For a low-key, totally gay option -- with maybe a brah or two -- hit up Inbetween (2155 Lau'ula St.; 808-924-2422) a campily decorated hole-in-the-wall located in an alleyway, or LoJax (2256 Kuhio Ave.; 808-926-1618), the local gay sports bar. With its daily drink specials and cute staff, it's the perfect mix of Midwest gay bar and surf recovery spot. For less sporty, but equally fun options, check out Wang Chung's (2410 Koa Ave.; 808-921-9176), a karaoke bar the size of your bedroom where the patrons are as likely to fall flat on the floor as they are on a note, and Fusion (2260 Kuhio Ave.; 808-924-2422), a gay nightclub that stays open until 4 a.m.
Hula's Catamaran tour, Saturdays
And then there's Hula's (134 Kapahulu Ave.; 808-923-0669). Big, buzzing, and right by the beach, it's the most popular gay bar in Waikiki, drawing a mix of both tourists and locals a like. It helps that the bartenders look as if they just rode a wave in to mix your drink. Grab a cocktail and flex your surf speak—"Dude, I was so aggro I missed those boggas this morning"—and see who takes the bait. Saturdays, they also host a way fun catamaran cruise where you can sip mai tais while listening to Gaga and look at the dolphins swimming alongside your boat. Meet at the bar at 2 p.m.; $20.
Bruce Irons at the Billabong Pipeline Masters
For truly righteous surfing you need to head out of "town" (as Waikiki is referred to on the island) and drive up to the "country," aka theNorth Shore, an hour or so away depending on how many stops you make to take in the views. Many consider this part of the island the worldwide capital of surfing, with more than two million people flocking here every year for the various competitions held on the beaches, like the prestigious Vans Triple Crown. Slow traffic doesn?t signal an accident as much people rubbernecking to check how the surf is that day. It?s a world unto itself, from cute shrimp trucks (try Macky?s, 66-632 Kamehameha Hwy) to quaint shops and spectacular views.
A warning though: this is the purview of pros. The North Shore may be known as the "seven-mile miracle," for its stretches of perfect surf, it can also be extremely dangerous. Most of the surfing competitions are held at theBonzai Pipeline (Kamehameha Hwy), one of the most famous surf spots in the world, where the waves are anywhere from 20 to 30 feet. In Waikiki, you're looking at five-footers.
Surfers don the apron at Foodland
So know your surfing skills, and especially their limits, before you jump on your board. If the waves do prove to be too much, it?s just as much fun to sit on the beach and watch impressive tube rides and wipeouts as surf studs flex their skills throughout the day.
Make sure you get over toFoodland (59-720 Kamehameha Hwy, 808-638-8081) as the afternoon begins to wind down around 5 p.m. A local supermarket turned meeting point, it?s almost like a clubhouse for hot surfers who are about to "don the apron" (surfer speak for surfers who need to eat after catching waves all day). Everyone from "groms" (kid surfers) to local celebrities like Jack Johnson come by to grab some snacks and talk surf with the guys who were out in the ocean all day. Try to resist gawking and who knows? You might just get lucky on the LGBT side.
Fresh produce at the Haleiwa Farmers Market
If you've swallowed too much saline, the North Shore is also a great place to dry out. There are plenty of other activities to fill your day, including farmers markets, the best one being Haleiwa Farmers Market (Kamehameha Hwy and Joseph P. Leong Bypass Rd.; 808-388-9696; Sundays 9 a.m.?1 p.m.) offering everything from delicious pulled pork sandwiches to homemade beauty products and kitschy Hawaiian accessories. Glide like a bird at Honolulu Soaring (Dillingham Airfield; 808-637-0207; 10 a.m.?5:30 p.m. daily), where you are towed up by a plane and then set free to soar high among the mountaintops and look over the eternal ocean (you may even see a humpback whale or two), or hike the Kualoa Ranch (49-560 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, 808 237-8515) where Jurassic Park and Lost were filmed.
With its stylish Jetsons-meets?beach house d?cor, the Edition is the perfect place to crash after riding the waves with your brahs all day. A highlight: the Private Sunset Beach and Bar, where you can tap your inner Christopher Atkins in your own secret "Blue Lagoon" with a circular wading pool replete with sand, lounge chairs, and hammocks, lit by candlelight. On-site Japanese restaurant Morimoto, and the new club Crazybox, prove that tropical paradise and slick city are not mutually exclusive.
Everything a couple looking for a romantic getaway could ask for, including multiple pools, a golf course, horseback riding, and a spa. If you?re single, it ain't a bad choice either (Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed here, if that tells you anything.) Finish off the day with tantalizing seafood dishes (misoyaki butterfish with grilled lobster anyone?) and a sunset at beachside restaurant Ola. The Palm Terrace?s extensive breakfast buffet and omelet bar is a must before traversing around the North Shore or hitting up one of the many hiking trails located nearby.
Board shorts and brahs does not a surfer make. Here are some quick tips so you aren?t a complete "cornstyle" (wannabe cheesy surfer) when you get out to the waves:
• Know your limits: Only try bigger waves if you?re really ready, or you?ll anger other surfers and the Conductor (he who controls the weather and waves, according to surfing lore).
• Wear a rash guard: Boards can be pretty hard on your stomach and chest, especially if you?re not used to it.
• Sunscreen the back of your legs: This may seems strange, but if you want to be able to bend your legs later that night, SPF it up. Remember you?ll be on your stomach all day.
• Don?t be scared: As long as you're in your comfort zone, relax and have fun. You?ll stand up, but you?ll also fall down. A lot. So just embrace your inner surfing self and get out there!