Posts Tagged ‘North Shore’
December 20th, 2010
Head North from Haleiwa on the Kam Hwy, you’ll see the bay and the church. The parking lot is just before the bridge.
Waimea Bay: Justly famed big wave arena, ridden from 6-30ft plus. Waimea proper is a right hand parachute drop monster breaking on a 28ft deep reef ledge. Not the world’s longest wave, but perhaps the most exhilarating drop anywhere, followed by a massive wall section and probable annihilation by the foam ball.
Watch sets for at least 20 minutes before jump-off. Ask the lifeguards about the swell forecast; they will have incredibly accurate info from the wave buoy, and will be able to tell you when the swell will peak and how big that will be. There is even a pressure pad by Kaena Point, that gives a few minutes warning if a 30ft plus set is approaching. Wave size can increase from 8 to 20ft in a few hours.
Getting in: wait for a lull, then get in by running down the bank by the rocks at the Northern end and jumping / paddling like crazy. Keep right, the current will sweep you left into the channel. Too far left and you could be in the horrid dumpers at the South end.
Getting out: get a wave, then try to ride the foam ball back into the North end to beat the sweep and hug the rocks. This is your best bet at escaping the shore break, which is at its most spine-snapping in the middle of the bay. Watch the approaching shore break and try to get in on the back of the last wave of the set.
Crowds. Drop-ins. Experts only. If in any doubt, stay on the beach. On smaller days, Pinballs is an option on the inside. Shore break is notorious and menacing, although occasionally surfable.
December 13th, 2010
Home of the Pipe Masters since 1971 (won by Wavefinder editor in chief Larry Blair in 1978 & 1979) and possibly one of the most photographed surf spots on the planet, Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore is regarded as the world’s deadliest wave. At the Southern end of Ehukai Beach Park, going north from Waimea about 2 miles, down a small alley on the left before Sunset Beach Elementary.
Pipeline: Probably the squarest barrel on earth, when it’s on. Pipe needs trades, and the right swell (W to NW at 4-25ft) to work properly. Take one of these away and you can have a shapeless, punishing mess. The rule of thumb is; the more west the swell, the heavier and hollower the wave.
Pipeline is a series of 3 reefs working from the inside to the outside as the swell increases. First Reef: At 4ft you can have the most perfect barrels followed by a short whack-able section here. The crowds at this size will frustrate, and the dropping in is blatant. The wave is so close to the beach that spectators can get closer to the action than any other surf spot. At 6-8ft the peak appears close to dry sucking off the reef and the drop is free fall. A mistake could see you jammed into a crack in the lava reef, but successful riders will make the bottom turn and stand tall in a super-wide almond shaped barrel. Then it’s a speed race out onto the shoulder, which eventually tapers into a sandy channel.
Second Reef: From 10-12ft plus, another crop of lava pushes up bombs another 100 yards out to sea. These can be mountainous jacking peaks which reform on first reef giving 2 rides in 1. Take-offs here are more critical than any wave anywhere. Timing, commitment and a heavy board are essential to manoeuvre into the elusive time-space window between being pushed over the back by the gusty winds funnelling up the face, and too-late drops straight to the bottom. The entire length of the wave is a full-power situation, with the lip ready to cut a surfer down at any moment, and even the latter half of the ride can produce truck-sized barrels. There’s an occasional Third Reef too, for monsters up to a much contested 30 feet. Now a tow-in domain and quite rare to see it perfect.
Paddle out fast, West of Backdoor. Current will sweep you East of the peak into the channel. Crowds to the extreme. Drop-ins are the rule not the exception. Frustrated caged battery-chicken surfing. Experts only.
Backdoor: The right off the same peak as first reef, is an equally if not more heavy tube machine, with even more shallow reef and rocks to contend with. Backdoor tubes often end in shut-down or dry-suck and the successful surfer will make speed his friend. No time for turns here. Works on similar swells, although likes more North than Pipe itself. Too much West in the swell, or too much size and it will be a dangerous close-out. From 3-10ft. Crowded to the extreme. Drop-ins from body boarders and surfers better than you! Shallow reef with deep cracks to get stuck in. Current, thick guillotine lips.
Both these waves have claimed lives, and may be best experienced vicariously. Try to catch them early if late season or you may not get a single wave.
For a view from inside the barrel, checkout this clip featuring Anthony Walsh
November 25th, 2010
Sunset: Set of reefs dealing with swells from North through West. Northerly swells break the wave up into different peaks and make the place a little more sharing as a result. On a classic big west swell with trades, Sunset is a heavy, jacking peak that develops into a hollow, sucky, thick lipped beast. These swells catch the trades side off-shore, and the result means heavy longboards and serious intent are required to get you into the wave. 4-15ft. Major rips, crowds, experts only.
Sunset Point: Further inside is a quality right breaking at 3-6ft on NW-W swells. It can lose shape on north swells. Crowds, intermediate.
Just East is Backyards: fickle, often shifty proposition that goes left and right, and works from 4-12ft. Currents and unpredictable peaks absorb surfers well. Experts or tow-in.
Finally, Outside Sunset: Huge right tow-in spot when Sunset is closed out. Can work all the way through Outside Backyards, which is a right / left outer monster too, with a shallow reef under the end sections. Hell men only!
November 11th, 2010
Haleiwa: Head north up the Kam Hwy to Haleiwa. Left turn into town towards the harbour. When it’s on, it is one of the heaviest, fastest, hollowest rights imaginable. The main peak is about 300m out to sea, and the wave forms heavy sections all the way across to a shallow close-out spot (Toilet Bowl). Best at 6-8ft with prevailing Northeast trades and Northwest to West swell. When bigger, can get very rippy and bumpy, but quality is possible up to 10-20ft plus. Watch locals paddle out to gauge current and best route. Flirt into the zone to get your wave, then hang wide between sets. Beginners can check the inside shore break. Crowds, crazy in winter. Experts only, unless small.
Avalanche: is a big wave arena several hundred yards further out. Lefts up to 30ft plus are not uncommon in winter. Tow-in spot except Dec-May (Whale season). Unreliable end section means that floggings are common, even if you make the intial drop. Moving peak means contant paddling to re-position, and outside bombs are a constant risk (an Avalanche of water on your head). Experts only.
November 8th, 2010
Few places on earth qualify for the term extreme, but this stretch of coast most definitely does. Extremely big waves, extremely shallow reef, extremely wide barrels, extremely crowded, extremely seasonal, extremely good surfers.
When to go:
The North Shore’s best conditions coincide with the winter season. Northeast trade winds combine with winter West to North swells to create perfect and often massive conditions between October and March. The closer you are to the middle of this window, the more chance you have of big perfect surf … and crowds. Bear in mind that, as an island in the middle of the largest ocean, Oahu is rarely flat, and it may pay to check it early or late season. Kona (Southwest) winds can also hit at any time or season, sometimes for a week of more, making most of this coastline on-shore. Equally, glassy mornings can occur at any time, making unusual spots perfect. Summer is traditionally small or flat, but mother nature can offer unexpected treats.
Big waves, heavy surfer population, reef cuts, occasional sharks, jellyfish, sea-urchins, currents, some theft, expensive beer.