Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing, and it was Hawaiian legend Duke Kahanamoku – a 5-time Olympic swimming medalist – who popularized the sport beyond the islands. He brought it from Honolulu to places that would become world renowned surfing hotpots, including Southern California and Sydney, Australia.
But Hawaii remains most associated with the sport, and Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach is still regarded as one of the top places to learn for first timers, while other spots in Hawaii have far more challenging waves and host some of the biggest competitions, like famed Jaws on Maui’s north shore and the pipeline breaks of Oahu’s north shore.
Now there is an entirely new surfing hotspot coming to the 50th state in the form of a “waterfront recreation and lifestyle venue,” which among other things will house the world’s largest deep-water standing wave.
Wai Kai is the first development of its kind in Hawaii, a year-round destination surf park that includes the world’s largest deep-water standing surf wave, a 52-acre lagoon for water sports, three restaurants, a large event lawn with waterfront fire pits, beach with cabanas, boardwalk, a waterman’s club and retail shop. Overlooking the turquoise waters of the Pacific, Wai Kai is just 35-minutes from Honolulu, inside the Hoakalei Resort on Ewa Beach, a 726-acre master planned real estate community development with over 3,000 homes and a golf club.
The main attraction will be the Wai Kai Wave, powered by Citywave, a technology that recreates authentic surfing conditions with endless, adjustable waves ranging from two- to six-feet for all skill levels. Citywave is a German company that has installed its high-tech artificial standing waves for surfing around the globe from Japan to Israel and in several locations across Europe. The wave is 100-feet-wide and can be split into three sections, allowing up to three surfers at a time to ride with no danger of collisions, with another 30 waiting in the “barefoot zone,” on the dividers in between. Beginners can use a grab bar to learn more easily, and the wave can be cranked up to “big air” levels for experts. It has been designed to emulate famous natural local standing river waves like the Waimea River Sand Bar on Oahu North Shore. Oahu’s-own Shane Beschen, an X Games Gold Medalist and former World Number Two ranked pro surfer collaborated in the design of the Wai Kai Wave. In addition, Beschen and other former and current professional surfers will be available for hands-on instruction and lessons.
The big wave overlooks the Wai Kai Lagoon, a protected area for stand-up paddling, kayaking, outrigger canoeing, peddle boats and piloted electric boat cruises. There is a sandy beach near the water for lounging, with cabanas. Major surf and waterman competitions are being planned for the Wai Kai Wave and Wai Kai Lagoon.
There will be no shortage of food, with a dual-concept restaurant by Chef Todd Humphries of Kitchen Door Napa, which will include the higher-end Plaza Grill, with lanai seating and unobstructed lagoon views. The lower level will house a more casual counter-service restaurant. The standalone LookOut Bar and Restaurant will offer front-row views of the surf action, and Foam Coffee & Bar rounds out the offerings.
Wai Kai just announced a February 10, 2023 grand opening date, and if you plan to visit Hawaii this winter and want to check it out, reservations are expected to go live in November. It’s an easy day trip from Honolulu, and if you’ve never surfed before, a chance to give it a try in a controlled atmosphere, perhaps followed up by a lesson in the real surf.