Riding (or maybe just watching) mountains on Oahu’s North Shore

Posted on February 5th, 2016 by Aloha

Surf on Oahu’s north shore regularly tops 20 feet in the winter. Image from surfhawaii4u.com.

The meaning of “winter” in Hawai’i is very different than in the continental U.S. Most non-natives laugh at the premise of seasons in paradise, where temperatures rarely deviate too far from 80 degrees. However, between November and February, there is a distinct winter weather pattern that has both tourists and professionals flocking to the beaches.

Storms originating in the Aleutians that dump snow on the Rockies, freeze the midwest, and snow in the Eastern seaboard are the same storms that send powerful surges to the north and west shores of the Hawaiian islands. As the surges approach, the rapidly changing depth of the seafloor forces waves to erupt from the sea.


Surfers jockey for position at Waimea Bay. Image from nipunscorp.com.

While most people do not associate “beach” with “winter,” this is an annual tradition in the islands. For three months, the top surfers in the world flock to events held on the North Shore, and especially at Pipeline, where 20-30 foot swells break over a shallow reef, sometimes hidden beneath less than a foot of water. It is a spectacle of man-versus-nature — with mortal consequences — that is conveniently watched from some of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the world.

If you are traveling to Hawai’i in the winter, a trip to the North Shore is mandatory. Traffic there is terrible, and parking at the beaches is nearly non-existent, but it is completely worth it. There is nothing in the world that can compare.

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