O’ahu is way more than the home of Pipe

Credit Photo: Elijah Aiona aka @jaheli_

Surfing is more and more popular. Can you believe that now, people are aware of it even though they are living in smaller cities where the ocean is only a pure fantasy? I believe we should thank the technology. We may dream of Australia and Indonesia when we are talking about it, but the first time the art of surfing has been described was in 1779 while James Cook (the first European that discovered Hawaii) was trying to understand the locals. Even though he died after a fight with the community, he described the chief as one of the best wave riders. The boards were made from trees and let me tell you that it wasn’t as easy as now.
Hawaii is more than just surfing though. The World War II started in Hawaii, Mrs. Cook died there and an immense earthquake touched the state and left lots of damage.

Hawaii is more than just surfing, ok, but I can’t lie: when your lips are moving to pronounce the word Hawaii (you got to say it correctly - hə-wy-(y)ee), I can only think about one thing. Surfing. Damn you, surfer mindset!

That state always been a place of wonders where the tourists will enjoy their vacation or even their honeymoon. The turquoise water, the volcanoes, the nature, the friendly locals and the histories.

Credit: Frankie Harrer by Morgan Maassen

It has always been a land of dreams for surfers, but the story is a little bit more complicated. When you are out there, it seems risky if you are not a local. The waves are big and especially during the winter, waves are pumping way too hard for our beginner level. Even if you are good, forget your title – you don’t have a title in Hawaii. You are a beginner in one of the most dreamed place of the world. You have to follow an order while you are in the water, you have the reefs to be aware of and you have to learn the way the ocean work in that state, which is completely different from California. People will tell you that waves are two feet, but they will actually be eight feet. Surf spots are crowded and secret spots are worst. They are not packed, but they are secrets, plus, you are not welcome. Of course, if someone local invited you, this is way different. Risks are big when you are in the water because nothing else matter. If you are there, it’s because you are supposed to know the rules and you should follow them.  

To help you achieve that fantasy of yours that is Hawaii, I will guide you through the best surf spots around O’ahu. Well, maybe they aren’t the bests because I can’t reveal the spots or it will be a tragedy. What’s the point of dreaming of secret spots if we break the mystery, right? So, I sat with a Hawaiian that is now living in California, drank a coffee and talked for hours about O’ahu. And here’s what I learned.

First, starting from the south shore, we’ll have Queens, which is in the heart of Waikiki. All the old timers grew up there while teaching people how to surf. This is now a famous beach break. If you don’t want to mix yourself up with the tourists, don’t go there.  

Credit: Elijah Aiona aka @jaheli_

If you skip The Walls (mostly kids playing in the water), you will head over to Publics, a notorious place. Publics breaks way outside and a lot of time this left would come in – a pure perfection. A 100 yards waves that can be up to 6-7 feet in Hawaiian level so around 14 ft. It gets big and you must be careful about the coral heads that will pop out on the inside. In Hawaii, you have to know the ocean to be safe with the spot you pick. Back in the days, it used to be a notorious place for the older guys that were heavy, guys that were in the ‘’Da Hui’’. You don’t want Publics to be the spot where you are learning!

After Publics, you can go to Diamond Head where it’s a right hand break. Most of the time it’s really windy, so you would have to follow the wind direction – usually, morning and evenings are good.
Afterwards, you have Kailua, an expensive residential area. There’s lots of secret spots there that you will probably never find (me neither) even though you would search for hours. It gets really big breaks on a certain swell direction and all the regulars would go. You will probably be welcome, but the waves are steeper. Just always make sure to have someone that can watch you.

Sandy Beach is a famous body-surfing spot (if you’re into that kind of thing), but what you are really looking for is Half Point. It’s similar to a north shore wave on a big day. You need to be careful there, as reef heads are on the inside. You need to catch a wave outside the point and pump enough to get around it, where a lot of people fail. Along Sandy Beach, Makapuu is a white sands / crystal blue kind of beach. It’s mostly body surfers as you are not supposed to surf there, but some days get so good so you can wait until the lifeguard leave at 5 pm and go surf! A lot of time it’s closing out, it’s a beach break, but sometimes, you need to be there.

Joel Tudor, Pipeline, Hawaii. By Morgan Maassen

Further East, there is Bellows and Kane’ohe. You can surf in Bellows when you are young, but you can’t really surf in Kane’ohe. You can swim and enjoy the sea though, plus you got to see Coconut Island, a place where they used to train the dolphin during World War II. They were training them to put explosives on submarines and go. You can go to the little beach if you paddle to it, but you aren’t really supposed to.

Finally comes the North Shore. There is a seven mile stretch where all the surf spots are. Valzyland, Pipelines, Sunset, Waimea… So popular and acknowledge around the world for surfing. You can swim to these spots, but you should avoid it during the winter time because when the swells hit the north shore, that’s a winner location for surfers, dangerous for swimmers. Pipe is an intense wave where all the pros get together later on this year on December 8th for the Billabong Pipe Masters. It’s a huge peaking orders and you can easily be hundred in the water sometimes. Pipe is not a wave you can mess around with, it’s steep and hollow, you could get hurt. The North Shore has different crews then the South and you may have a hard time if you are Hawli (white) and not from Hawaii. Be humble and respect people that lives there – this is a requirement.


There is a ton of surf spots on the West Coast. There is Yokohama at the far end of the west side, then Makaha, Maili Point, Tracks and Barbers Point. The West Coast is similar to the North Shore, it gets heavy. Makaha is a famous Longboard spot while Barbers Point has been the training ground for a lot of pros. If you surfed there, you could surf almost anything.

To the South Side, you get Point Panics (body boarding breaks that only allow body surfer and boogie boarder), but when waves are good, you know what to do! It’s a super fun wave, it just perfectly peels all the way to the channel. Kelawos has big rights where anyone can surf there.

Everyone has their favourite option about surf spots, no matter where you are in the world, but usually you just go surf close to your home. You wake up in the morning, check the swells and go to a spot not too far from where you are. What’s good about Hawaiian waves is that they are steeper, which mean that there is more power into them. Be careful, respect the locals and the sea, you should be fine. Go in the water, try to get a wave by following the picking order and if you can’t, it’s okay. Don’t force things – don’t ruin the vibe. You can always try again tomorrow, no? Be patient and Hawaii will welcome you with a rad wave.