Planning on surfing on the North Shore of Oahu? We asked surf journalist Craig Jarvis to give us the scoop on everything visitors need to know about this famous Oahu surfing spot.
This Oahu surfing on the North Shore post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Written by Craig Jarvis
Seven Mile Miracle: The Pinnacle Of The Sport Of Surfing
Every year the best surfers in the world gather on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, to battle it out amongst the biggest and most extreme waves in the world. These professional surfers have one goal – to be the world champion.
The Final event of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) is the Pipeline Masters, a surf event that takes place at the notorious Banzai Pipeline, the world’s most dangerous surf break.
There are other events in Hawaii at the same time however, including competitions at Sunset Beach, as well as at Haleiwa, and combined with the Pipe event they make up what is known as the Triple Crown.
Winning the World Title is the most prestigious victory in the sport of surfing, but winning a Triple Crown is a close second, and it is for these very reasons that the North Shore of Oahu is the most important venue in the sport of professional surfing.
Oahu Surfing: Competitions on the North Shore
Professional surfing is broken down into two main tours, an elite tour known as the Championship Tour, and a qualifying tour known as the Qualifying Series (QS).
There are three main events on the North Shore beaches during winter.
This is a QS event, and takes place at the awesome wave called Haleiwa on the North Shore. It is an exciting QS event and has up to 144 of the best surfers in the world competing for valuable points and prize money.
Haleiwa is one of the North Shore surf spots that garners respect from the people who surf out there because it gets big and scary, and is always a challenge to surf, even on the smaller days.
This event is one of the most well-known surf competitions taking place on the North Shore because it takes place at possibly the most famous North Shore wave in Sunset Beach.
This beach and wave has forever been the staple destination for visiting surfers and locals alike, and apart from the incredible wave that breaks there it is also one of the most beautiful of all the North Shore, Oahu’s beaches.
A final event at the Banzai Pipeline is the most thrilling way to finish the tour and crown the World Champion as it is the most dangerous wave on the North Shore and in the world of surfing.
It gets the rating for being the most dangerous by the simple ratings factor of having had the most deaths while surfing out there.
It is a relatively small reef, and it occupies just a short stretch of beach out of the seven miles of the North Shore so it does form any danger to tourists and visitors, only to those surfers brave enough to venture out there.
Oahu Surfing: the Best North Shore Waves
There are so many excellent waves rammed into the seven miles, including the top three already mentioned, being Haleiwa, Sunset Beach and Pipeline.
To the east of Sunset Beach is Velzeyland, a small wave spot that breaks perfectly over a shallow reef, providing incredible barrels for those surfers who manage to get a few.
It is one of the most crowded surf spots on the North Shore however, and local surfers tend to get more waves than visitors out there.
This is a high-performance wave, situated just west of Sunset Beach that breaks both left and right over a combination of sand and coral bottom.
It gets really good, with solid barrels on the right-handers on a north swell, and perfect peeling lefts on the slightly higher tide.
A dangerous and fast right-hand wave that breaks over extremely shallow coral, and is notorious for injuring surfers and breaking boards.
It is generally only surfed by the best surfers, those who have absolute faith in their capabilities.
A slightly nondescript wave that is frequented by the North Shore local surfers, and that breaks in front of a log cabin on the shoreline.
It gets very good and is generally less crowded than most other spots due to its more removed location.
The most famous big wave sport on the North Shore, Waimea Bay is home to the Eddie Aikau Invitational, a specialty invite-only big wave surfing tournament dedicated to a Waimea lifeguard Eddie Aikau who lost his life at sea.
The competition is only called on when the waves get to a certain size and height – generally over thirty-foot on the face of the waves – so it doesn’t happen every year.
When it does, it is probably the most watched surf contest in the world, with spectators the world over dialing in to the live webcast to watch the big wave gladiators compete among these giant moving mountains of water.
This wave, situated just off the Kam Highway, is one of the jewels of the North Shore surf spots, providing long and fast walls for brave and adventurous surfers.
It has an easy paddle out that brings surfers behind the peak, and with easy access to some of the best and fastest waves on the whole of the seven mile stretch.
It’s also a great place to see Hawaiian Sea Turtles!
Oahu Surfing: Surfboards On The North Shore
Due to the policies of the airlines servicing Oahu, there are sometimes exorbitant fees for transporting surfboard to the North Shore. There are many ways around this.
Borrow a Surfing Board
There are so many boards on the North Shore, after years and years of locals and visitors free surfing, as well as the fifty years of surf competitions. Many of these surfboards are still on the North Shore, usually left under people’s houses.
There is a good chance that wherever you stay there will be a board there for you to use, or someone nearby who will be happy to lend you a board. It is a bit of a chance, but you’re likely of a good outcome.
Rent a Surfing Board
This is guaranteed method of getting the exact equipment that you want, although it might be a little bit dated and yellowed.
The best location for board hiring is all around the little village of Haleiwa, with Go Nuts the best such place for rentals. They offer shortboard, longboard, soft-tops and SUPs for rent, so you will find what you’re looking for.
Buy a Surfing Board
Although there are a number of board makers who reside and work on the North Shore of Oahu, they are all too busy over the winter season to be able to make you a board on order.
It is their busiest season, making boards for the traveling professionals, as well as fixing their boards as they get damaged on the coral or by the waves.
However, there are always a number of surfboard garage sales in and around the North Shore, normally on the westerly stretch between Waimea and Haleiwa.
These sales always have some absolute gems for sale, at very reasonable prices, with owners usually wanting to get rid of them to make some space in their homes as opposed to making money off visiting surfers.
You can really score on a North Shore garage sale.
Oahu Surfing: North Shore Surf Lessons
If you are a beginner surfer, it’s probably a good idea to get some instruction from a professional surfer. Thankfully, there are a few places for surf lessons on Oahu.
Surf Lessons on the North Shore of Oahu
Book this North Shore surf lesson
Private Family Surfing Lesson
Book this private North Shore surfing lesson
North Shore Beginner Surf Lesson
Book this North Shore Beginner Surf Lesson
Accommodation on the North Shore for the Best Oahu Surfing Experience
The North Shore is littered with accommodation options, from renting bungalows, to Airbnb options, to renting a house with friends and all the way to the top-end Turtle Bay Resort.
This rustic North Shore bed and breakfast accommodates up to 3 people and is perfect for budget travelers. You’ll be offered food and coffee each morning, and you’ll be able to pick your own fruit from the orchard when they’re in season.
The hut comes with a yoga deck, outdoor kitchen, and a private outdoor shower. If you’re looking to take a digital detox in an off-the-grid accommodation, this is the place for you!
This Airbnb host offers surfing lessons and surfboard rentals, if you ask for them.
Check rates and availability
This Marriott hotel in Laie is near several legendary North Shore surf spots like Sunset, Pipeline, and Waimea. Plus, it’s close to the Polynesian Cultural Center and Kaukana Point.
Enjoy the on-site restaurant, outdoor pool, and activity center (where you can book surf lessons and rent surfboards) at your 3-star accommodation.
Check rates and availability
This upscale resort is set on 850 hectares, and is on the beach. It has its own golf course as well as a number of excellent restaurants and the famous Surfer Bar.
Many of the top surfers who are traveling with their families opt for the Turtle Bay Resort for convenience and incredible amenities.
It’s also situated a few miles east of Sunset beach and thus is away from the general hubbub that is the surfing epicenter of the North Shore during season.
The accommodation options vary from rooms in the hotel, to bungalows situated around the golf course edges, and it is highly recommended.
Check rates and availability
Read more about where to stay on the North Shore
Travel Tips For The North Shore of Oahu
There is a chance that at some point, someone might welcome you to Hawaii by giving you a Hawaiian lei. If this happens, it is considered rude to not accept the lei, and it is also considered rude to take it off in front of the person who gave it to you.
Don’t Bring Plastic Bags
It is considered rude to walk into any house with your shoes on, Shoes are removed at the door. There is usually a specific area for the shoes to be placed when you arrive at a house.
North Shore Oahu Resources
Find out everything you need to know in this Ultimate Guide to North Shore Oahu. You can also read posts about the coolest things to do in Haleiwa, awesome Oahu snorkeling spots, epic North Shore hikes, and more!
About the Author
Craig Jarvis is a former surf magazine editor and is currently a freelance surf journalist. He has been to the North Shore of Oahu many times to cover the surf contests, and he usually finds time to get a few surf sessions when traveling to Hawaii.