…and by great experience I not only mean a literally great experience, in terms of waves. But also a great experience in terms of personal growth, life changing acknowledgements, cultural differences, diverse personalities and environmental aspects. When I say, it hasn´t been all that great, I actually mean, it was nothing of an easy experience! It was very challenging. Every single day of it. If you talked to me while I was there, you know how much I did not like about Oahu. How frustrated and sad I often was during the two months spent on the North Shore of Oahu. And if you now read on you will, on the one hand understand the reason for my emotions and on the other hand learn, why I would still go back there.
First of all: Why I wanted to go to Hawaii
Maybe this is against your expectations, but I did not want to go to Hawaii to surf ‚Pipeline‘ in the first place. I love surfing and everything that has to do with it. It´s not just a passion of mine to surf waves. I also enjoy engaging with the sport, it´s lifestyle and origin, it´s characters, the history of the sport, the news, the WSL and it´s brands. All of this, along with all the beautiful cultures you get to experience surfing in different countries and learning about different surfnations around the world, to me, that makes it the best sport ever. It teaches you and sometimes you don´t even realize your being thought. But in the end, you always learn your lesson.
A few years back at school, we had to write an essay about a self-chosen topic. I chose the „history of surfing“ as mine because I thought it would be easier to write about something I like. I perfectly remember how I then struggled to write about it. I hadn´t been to Hawaii nor many other Surf nations yet and therefore, no idea where and how it all begun. Neither had I experienced, nor talked about sufficiently about surfings history with people who actually had profound knowledge about the sport and it´s culture. As a prospective journalist I did not enjoy writing about something I had only researched online and not properly, on-site investigated myself. The essay I wrote was marked with a 4 (equals D) and consequently just enough to pass the task. As a result, I knew I had some work to.
So since Hawaii is the so called ‚capital of surfing‘, the question only really was when, but never if I was going to rock up on the islands.
Six years, and around about 40 trips to different surf destinations all across the globe, countless hours of watching, covering and following the WSL´s tour, 4 seasons spent in Indonesia, a year of work and surf in Western Australia, numerous chats and interviews with more experienced and professional surfers and finally a few little barrels and turns later, I felt ready, to visit the notorious North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
What you hear about the North Shore and what I´ve experienced
There is no stretch of coastline quite as notorious and feared as Oahu´s North Shore. That is for sure. And in my point of view, there is no stretch of coastline that is quite as overrated in terms of wave-quality than that same stretch. The waves on the North Shore are nowhere near perfect.
By that I mean the Surf on the North Shore is nothing near Indonesian perfection. And except for pipeline, it is nothing near world class in my opinion. I was so disappointed. From Hale’iwa to Turtle bay no spot came even close to what I had imagined to find on the North Shore.
What I found was imperfection and a whole lot of raw, powerful waves that didn´t often peel of like you would have want them to. Nearly every break required you to paddle out through a heavy shore break or make out a channel without currents to nowhere-land, walk across sharp reef, or time it well and jump of a rock. The currents sometimes were like streams. Sometimes, you couldn´t even see them, because they happened under the surface, pulling you right into the impact zone or dragging you out to sea.
In Hawaii, during an incoming swell is when you don´t want to be out in the water. You know that from other countries you might think. But in Hawaii this is different. Wave height can jump from 2 foot playful waves, up to 8 foot faces in almost no time or earlier than forecasted. Sounds dramatic huh?! I know, and it was!
Most times the waves were bigger than what I felt comfortable surfing, with the occasional freak set every now and then. The paddle out often took a long time and was exhausting, not to mention the paddle back out after a wipeout. So I suggest you´re aware of the forecast and know what you´re getting yourself into before you go. But to really be safe, you´re better of being prepared for anything.
What quiver do you need to surf in Hawaii?
My advice to efficiently surf on the North Shore of Oahu would be:
More board underneath you than you are used to!
As a mere mortal, non local to Hawaii you´re going to need some volume underneath you to actually catch waves. For Hawaii you will need a different quiver than you use anywhere else. Believe or not, but that is the only truth!
I am 1.60m tall by 53 kg of weight – For the guys, take this in consideration. I know my boards are small, I am too 😉
In Indo, where I spent most time of the year, I surf a Chili ‚oh One’, 5.6 /18,5 / 2,1/8 with 22,4 liters and I love it.
In Hawaii these dimensions equal surfing on a sheet of paper, while in Indo it´s super fun!
The Chili ‚faded’ that I use as a Step up for the bigger days in Indo and elsewhere in the world has the following dimensions: 5.7 1/2 /18,5 / 2 3/16 and 23,4 liters.
In Hawaii these dimensions for a step up are a joke, while in Indo it works perfect!
Don´t get me wrong, my boards are A M A Z I N G! I love them and they are the best for me. Just, for Hawaii the dimensions I normally surf were not accurate. I still surfed both of them and had heaps of fun, mostly on the ‚Faded‘ but it was hard work and a lot of commitment. I often had to take off late and sit mega deep. It was challenging and also dangerous at times with crowds and bigger surf.
To be honest, I just did not think that I would need to change my quiver for Hawaii. I thought getting a bigger board to surf on the islands would be over marketed and kind of a thing most people just do, to show off. Well, yeah there are a lot of them. But you actually need quiver that fits the waves in Hawaii, because they are so different. Different from pretty much anywhere you´ve surfed before. You´re dealing with a lot of water that comes moving with a lot of energy and from deep seas, suddenly arriving at shallower coastlines. This causes the waves to be very powerful, often heavy, pretty unpredictable and also difficult to get onto.
If I were to name a surf destination that compares to Hawaii, I would say it´s Western Australia. West Oz is the only place I have experienced the ocean and it´s waves as raw and powerful as they were in Hawaii.
But back to the quiver question:
The best thing to do is not even bothering bringing your own equipment and just either get a custom made board from a local shaper or buy a decent second hand one of craigslist. There are as many good boards in Hawaii as there’s sand on the beaches – You will definitely be able to find something. You can actually get pretty good deals with second hand boards. Nonetheless I would always recommend talking to a professional, local guy, that knows the line ups. Getting it custom made and adjusted to your body type is probably the best option. If you do want to bring your own equipment make sure you are not under gunned.
(no sponsored links here, just an advice!)
I personally was pretty impressed by Pyzel, his boards and philosophy. He shapes for a lot of girls and really knows what we require from a board.
Read on the next Page: My experience with localism and crowds on the North Shore of Oahu