Oahu - "Hanging Ten" on the North Shore
Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
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Oahu - "Hanging Ten" on the North Shore
That's not me "hanging ten" on the North Shore
My knowledge of surfing, up to this point, is zero. So should I venture into the waters (figuratively speaking) and even write about it? Why not, this is blogging, not nuclear science. After all, the worst I can do is "wipe out"!
The Association of Surfing Professionals has an annual ASP World Tour. This tour is held at some of the world's best surfing locations including the Gold Coast and Bells Beach in Australia, Teahoopu in Tahiti, Tavaru in Fiji, Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, Trestles in California (50 miles north of San Diego), the south-west coast of France, Mundaka-Euskadi (Basque region of Spain), Santa Caterina, Brazil and Hawaii.
To most North Americans, surfing means two things - California and Hawaii. I thought surfing in California was mostly hype created by the Beach Boys. Until I read about Mavericks at Half Moon Bay in Northern California, I was under the impression that the only real surfing was in Hawaii.
Before going to Hawaii, I also believed that all parts of Hawaii shared equally in this bonanza of huge waves which make it a paradise for surfing
How could it be otherwise when Hawaii's global position puts it almost into the middle of the massive Pacific Ocean being lapped at from all sides by huge waves?
The longer and stronger the winds blow, the greater the waves.
The oceans however have currents and storms which move in certain prevailing directions and even these directions have seasonal variations.
This leads me to the north coast of Oahu which is our next destination on today's trip.
The North Coast is on the windward side of the island which means that it takes the brunt of the huge winter storms which churn the Pacific Ocean. These storms, at this time of year, create the biggest waves on the north coast of Oahu. It is for this reason that the "Billabong Pipeline Masters" is held here from December 8 through to the 20th of each year as part of the ASP World Tour.
Within 5 miles of the Polynesian Center we had rounded the northern tip of Oahu. Driving along Kamehameha Highway No. 83, named after the firs king of Hawaii, we passed the renowned Turtle Bay Hilton and Golf Course. Later in our stay in Hawaii, I read that the resort had gone into receivership.
Two miles further, we stopped at Ehukai Beach County Park on Sunset Beach. How could we not stop here? This was our first view of golden stretches of sandy beaches and azure blue waters with large waves and an abundance of surfers.
Unbeknownst to us, we had stumbled upon the Holy Grail of Hawaiian surfing. It is here that the word "pipeline" is king, and I am not talking about oil.
Next to Ehukai Beach Park, towards Kaena Point, is the world famous "Pipeline Reef". This is where the giant winter waves create the best surfing in Hawaii.
"Pipeline" has the hollow, tunnel-like, big barrel waves which expert surfers, cinematographers and anyone else for that matter, love
Could there be a more intense feeling of excitement than being enveloped in a giant curling wave, "hanging ten" (both feet planted firmly at the front of a long board) and trying to survive under tons and tons of water. Maybe any extreme sport engenders the same response but I have difficulty believing that.
Officially, the tubular, barrel-like wave is described as the "Banzai Pipeline". "Banzai" comes from the traditional Japanese battle cry used to lead the last military charge and "pipeline" comes from the form of the curling wave.
As for Ehukai Beach Park itself, it has a sandbar which when properly formed, also produces the legendary barrel or tunnel waves.
Needless to say, in the winter season, this is a dangerous place which abounds with warning signs - Danger High Surf
Ehukai Beach Park is just north of Waimea Bay. The bay also has outstanding surfing at Waimea Bay Beach County Park. The Banzai Pipeline and the "Waimea Bay wave" are two of the most famous waves in the world.
So did we see these giant tunnel waves at Ehukai Beach Park? The short answer is - no. It makes me think of what is apparently the most common phrase in surf talk -"you should have been here yesterday:"
Looking at my photos, it was not a complete shut out. Some of the photos show some pretty impressive wave action and in one there may even have been some tunnel formation. Even at about three hundred meters from shore, it is obvious that the waves were far from the 30-40 foot adrenaline pumping, testosterone charged variety which pound these reefs and sandbars at the best of times.
I also question whether it is possible to peek into a Banzai Pipeline from shore. I would assume that the real great "barrel" photos are taken by fellow surfers who are in the thick of the action.
The word is out this year that cold water currents along the equator caused by a "La Nina" pattern are keeping the lid on the really big waves.
Nevertheless, let it be said, that apparently no place breaks like the Pipeline Reef and Waimea Bay. "Big Wave Surfing" is the norm here as the "swell lines" generated by far off winds pound the Hawaiian coast.
Surfing of course can be seen in most parts of Hawaii including right off Waikiki Beach. Suffice it to say that wherever there are beaches, there is likely to be someone trying his/her hand at bodysurfing (lying on a board) or surfing.
It may not be as good as the North Shore but then not everyone is an expert surfer and not everyone is into big board surfing.
To feed this demand for surfing, almost every town near the coast has its surf shops selling all the required gear and clothing.
Billabong is the biggest commercial name in surfing, or is it Rip Curl or maybe Quik Silver?
Quiksilver, a California based company, has an ad campaign which features eight-time world champion surfer, Kelly Slater. From looking at the ad showing Slater in the middle of a giant tunnel, it is hard to believe that the man is only 36 years old.
Billabong is a huge name in surfing apparel and equipment. It is a public company traded on the Australian Stock Exchange where it is known simply as Billa.
Rip Curl describes itself as the ultimate surfing company. It is a private Australian company that specializes in surf wear.
Getting back to Ehukai Beach, it proved to be the highlight of our visit to the North Coast
As I mentioned in the previous blog, I tend to compare any beach that I see to the beaches at Port Franks or at Pinery Provincial Park located near our cottage, 60 km north of Sarnia, Ontario, along Lake Huron.
Ehukai Beach was finally a beach that surpassed the former beaches by a long shot.
I have never seen beach sand so golden in colour, voluminous in texture and rich to the feel. It sets a high standard for all sandy beaches.
Coupled with the azure blue water and brilliant blue sky, Ehukai Beach felt just right. Like children, we reveled in delight in our new found discovery as we shed our shoes (unfortunately not our clothing) and walked without a care along the beautiful beach. This was the Hawaii that we had expected to find. That was reflected in my impulsive action of writing the word "Hawaii" in the sand.
We stopped at aforementioned Waimea Bay Beach County Park.
It was regrettable to leave without having a closer look. However, time was of the essence, as It was getting late in the afternoon. We still had plans to see one more major sightseeing destination on the way back to Waikiki. That would use up the last three hours of remaining daylight in this glorious day. It does, unfortunately, get dark in Hawaii at 18:10. Being in this glorious summer-like paradise, we tend to forget that it is the middle of the winter. Surprisingly, in the summer, the sun sets as early as 19:30.
Up to now we were having a "swell time" on the North Coast. Our next and last stop along the coast was the village of Haleiwa (population 300)..
First Some Shave Ice, then the Dole Plantation