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Surfing in Hawaii

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Surfing in Hawaii

Modern Hawaii's beauty is rivailed only by its massive crowds.

Nishimura/Stringer
Hawaii is the Mecca of surfing, the hallowed center of the wave riding world. Besides being universally recognized as the motherland of our sport, Hawaii has served for decades as the ultimate proving ground for advanced surfers. With over 800 miles of coastline along its four largest islands (Hawaii, Kauai, Oahu, and Maui) and a temperate climate all year round, it's an obvious attraction for beachgoers, but add massive swells from the North Pacific that arrive right on schedule each winter and clean South Pacific waves that glide in each summer, you've got the center of the surfing universe.

Through Captain Cook's 1778 journal entries, we glimpse the birth of surfing on the beaches of Hawaii and now witness thousands who flock annually like suicidal ducks to challenge its treacherous reef breaks.

Surfing in Hawaii: the north shore

Oahu is by far the state's most populated, but each island in the chain shares the same surf related characteristics. The Hawaiian islands boast waves on all sides with the north shores garnering the lion's share of the power and consistency driven by powerful Alaskan low pressures that churn due north. Being the most isolated land mass on the planet, Hawaii sits as a bull's eye for the world's heaviest waves, but far enough from the storms to allow the swells to become well groomed and spread out, which makes for optimal surfing.

Surfing in Hawaii: the other shores

The west facing beaches take the brunt of the more western swells and receive some wrap around from north swells as well. The west sides can also pull in energy from the south. Hawaii's south shores normally come alive in the summer time with less powerful but perfectly formed swells pushing in from the southern hemisphere. The east facing shores of the Hawaiian islands are less desirable in terms of form but very consistent due to almost constant east trade winds that push on shore and drive shifting, short period swells year round.

Hawaii: the bottom line

The Hawaiian islands are geological newborns with unworn lava rock waiting below most surf spots. The vast majority of Hawaii's waves are not for beginners. Some of the most notable waves in Hawaii include the Bonzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, Waimea, Honolua Bay, Jaws, Hanalei Bay, Makaha, Waikiki Beach, and countless others.

Famous surfers from Hawaii include Duke Kahanamoku, Wally Froiseth, Eddie Aikau, Gerry Lopez, Fred Hemmings, Dane Kealoha, Margo Oberg, The Ho brothers, Lynne Boyer, Sunny Garcia, among a multitude of others. Sadly, I've had to leave out about a thousand world class wave riders.

Hawaii is geographically blessed for optimal surf potential and spiritually linked to the history and essence of surfing. Without argument, Hawaii is the center of the surfing universe.

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