Riding the Waves: Catch a World Famous North Shore Surf Competition
By Joseph Mains
Love surfing, but not quite ready to ride those 40 foot waves that made Oahu’s North Shore the most iconic big wave surfing spot in the world? Every winter between November and March, the North Shore swells draw pro surfers to compete on some of the fiercest rides nature can provide.
There’s always tons to do on the North Shore, but if you’re visiting during this season, don’t miss the chance to cheer on the pros as they work the water and attempt to join the titans of history. After checking out these competitions for inspiration you can head back to ‘Alohilani and surf Waikiki, where the waves are calm, consistent and manageable for any experience level (not to mention the birthplace of modern surfing). Here’s the rundown:
Pipe Masters (December 8–20)
In December 1961, legendary surfer and filmmaker Bruce Brown was heading up the North Shore with friends when they stopped at Ehukai Beach Park to catch a few waves. Naming it The Pipeline after some construction going on in the area at the time, the spot has become synonymous with massive waves and tube rides that have become the stuff of legend.
Pipe Masters is the final event of surfing’s Triple Crown as well as the WSL’s World Tour. The scene celebratory and also high-stakes—in addition to being an iconic culminating event for the sport, The Pipeline breaks in shallow water over three sets of coral reefs, making it one of the most dangerous rides in the world.
The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, or “The Eddie” (December 15–February 28)
Named after native Hawaiian star, renowned surfing champion and the North Shore’s first lifeguard, Eddie Aikau, and launched in 1984, The Eddie is a one-day event that can happen any time during the winter. Each year at Waimea Bay, the first day of the watching period starts off with an unforgettable opening ceremony and with fingers crossed and all eyes on the ocean.
In order for the event to take place, wave faces must be at least 40–50 feet high. This invite-only competition brings together the world’s very best surfers for an event that continues to be deeply tied to Eddie Aikau’s family and honoring the life and heroism of a shining light in the history and culture of Hawaii and its people.
Volcom Pipe Pro (January 29–February 10)
The Volcom Pipe Pro is another chance to visit the beach that started it all—and helped define surf rock along the way—The Pipeline at Banzai Beach. If you’re looking to see all the world’s top surfers without all the crowds, the Pipe Pro is your time. It has all the big waves and big stars going all-out, but it is technically the beginning of a new season, the big media blitz and accompanying crowds have left with the final Championship Tour events in the weeks before. This leaves the Pipe Pro with a more low-key feel on the beach, with all of the excitement and drama out on the waves.