With so many surf trip locations available today, it's sometimes easy to forget about the one surf trip that is arguably still required for all surfers to take: Hawaii.
Expensive, crowded and overrun with tourists, you say? Check, check and check.
But I would argue that once you've navigated the rental car counter, the crowded single-lane highways and overpriced restaurants, there are still two things that are worth the hassle: aloha and waves.
I recently took a handful of Laguna Beach high school surfers on a such a trip.
The stage was set as we drove our bright blue minivan rental, stuffed with boards and frothing teenagers, to the surf break. We were on a mission to score amazing surf, the type these groms have dreamed about and watched in countless surf videos.
Approaching a hallowed break is not that simple, however. You don't just pull up and announce your arrival, as that's a definite recipe for disaster, fraught with probable heckling and or beatings.
But being stealthy was tough (impossible) in our glistening metallic-blue jalopy so we decided to park far away in the pineapple fields.
It's bad form to bring a crowd to any break, especially a localized one, so we split into pairs, spaced out 10 minutes each, and proceeded down the cliff that eventually led to this coveted wave.
As we approached we caught the first glimpses of perfect, head-high waves peeling machine-like around the point, one after another. The dream was within reach.
Then the bottleneck happened. I was at the end of our posse and shrugged when I arrived at the spot where we were to paddle out only to find all the groms sheepishly standing there.
Granted, it wasn't the easiest place to paddle out, and although we went over the launch plan, the fears had obviously gotten the best of our young crew.
As I considered our next move, I looked up and a big Hawaiian local carrying a bright yellow board quickly approached us.
He said to us in a loud voice, "What's going on here?"
I thought about running, but knew instinctively that was a bad career move, and said, "These are my kids."
That's when the "aloha" happened.
The Hawaiian guy said with a huge smile, "Your kids need a hand getting out to the break; no problem, 'brah,' follow me."
With his help, we paddled out at just the right moment and all found a spot in the expansive lineup.
The session was filled with incredible waves as every kid surfed until their arms were noodled, and complete exhaustion had set in.
As we were leaving at sunset we looked down from the cliff high above and saw the same Hawaiian guy who helped us, stroking his yellow board into the wave of the day, getting a beautiful barrel he came flying out of with both arms raised and pointing straight up to the heavens.
Great waves, and aloha!
CHRIS WILLIAMS is a surfing coach and Laguna Beach resident, and father of four surf-crazy sons. He can be reached through his blog, souladventuresinc.blogspot.com.