Here’s the latest surf guide for the North Shore; weather you’re looking for North Shore surf shops, north shore accommodation or a general guide to surfing on the North Shore Matt’s got it covered. If you’re wondering where to spend your time on the North Shore fear not here’s our latest surf guide for Oahu’s 7 mile miracle.
The Proving Grounds. The Seven-Mile Miracle. The Country. The Mecca of Surfing. The North Shore. Whatever you call it, the stretch of coastline extending from Haleiwa to Turtle Bay is quite literally the epicenter of heavy-water performance surfing—and professional surfing in general—if not all year, then for at least six weeks every winter. Pioneered in the early ’40s and overrun by the time Beatlemania hit its fevered pitch, Oahu’s North Shore has played host to more surf-related history than any other locale on the planet, and after more than 60 years still remains the benchmark against which all other surf zones are judged.
From Butch Van Artsdalen’s groundbreaking Pipe session to the soul arches of Gerry Lopez; from the Triple Crown dominance of Sunny Garcia to the complete mastery of Kelly Slater; and from the aloha of Eddie Aikau to the brutal reputations of Da Hui and the Wolfpack: if its noteworthy and its surfing, chances are good that it happened here. Today, the North Shore sees tens of thousands of surf tourists flock to its beaches every season and hosts the final event of the WT pro tour, but crowded lineups, contest waiting periods and over-priced real estate notwithstanding, these are the waves that we grew up dreaming about, and they keep us coming back, year after year.
Breaking predominantly over sharp, shallow reef, the waves on the North Shore are not for beginners (with the exception of Chuns Reef, which is the region’s token longboarding spot). While breaks like Laniakea and Haleiwa may appeal to the intermediate crowd when the swell is on the small side, Sunset, Pipeline/Backdoor and Waimea are for pros and hell-men only, as are the half-dozen lesser known but equally dangerous thick-lipped beasts within walking distance of these marquee breaks.
Hawaii is the original tropical paradise, and it isn’t hard to see why. White sand beaches give wave to clean, crystal-clear water that averages a balmy 75 F (24 C) during the winter season, making board shorts and a 2 mm wetsuit top sufficient for most sessions.
North swells arrive in late October, as does the pro circus and thousands of frothing tourists. Try the late season—February through March—for less crowded lineups and no shortage of swell.
Hawaii is notorious for localism, and the North Shore is no exception. With crowd pressure at popular spots bringing tension to a breaking point, semi-secret “local” waves are closely guarded, and often off-limits to visitors. If you have skills and respect, you’ll get waves. If not, you’ll get pounded (either by the ocean or a jiu jitsu-wielding moke).
Things To Do:
The circus is in town for six weeks starting mid-November, with the Triple Crown and WT pro tour both culminating at the Pipeline Masters in early December. In addition, the big-wave contest at Waimea Bay has a holding period from December through February, so if carnage and conquest are your cup of tea, look no further. If you are looking for a nightlife, parties dripping with surf celebrity and beautiful people abound, although they can be as hard to access as a set wave at Pipe.
Where To Stay:
The major surf brands have bought up a fair share of the beachfront real estate and now run a series of “team houses,” but for the everyman surfer accommodation options range from 5-star hotels to dirt-bag hostels—and latecomers can always pitch a tent in the bushes.
What To Bring:
First and foremost, a step-up board and a big-wave gun—and the skills to use them. Extra leashes, warm water wax, quality sunscreen and a wetsuit top should suffice in the surf, while boardshorts and t-shirts will keep you covered on land—although a warm jacket may come in handy on cool evenings. Pack a book and hiking shoes for downtime between swells, and most importantly, bring an endless supply of patience and a humble attitude.
Hawaii has the same visa requirements as the rest of the US, so you shouldn’t run into any surprises. Honolulu International Airport is a major hub, and can be accessed from just about anywhere. Return flights from the West Coast range from $300-700 USD, depending on the season, whereas you’ll be lucky to score a ticket from Australia for under a grand.