The winter waves on Oahu’s North Shore are a thing of legend, towering swells that are ridden only by the brave and the highly skilled. In addition to the thrills of watching pro surfers ride the biggest waves, this time of year is a great opportunity to experience the bustling North Shore surf community at its most active, with surf legends in town from every Hawaiian Island and several countries around the globe, waiting for the perfect wave day.
Here are a few contests that you can still catch this week, or, in the case of the Eddie, that might happen as late as February. Don’t forget your binoculars!
The 32nd Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau
Waimea Bay, North Shore, Oahu
TBA Dec. 1–Feb. 28
Conditions have to be just right for this famous tribute event to Hawaii’s legendary waterman, Eddie Aikau, now in its 32nd year. The swells at Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore have to consistently reach 20 feet on the Hawaiian scale (40-feet faces) for the Eddie to go, some of the strictest criteria of any surfing competition. Yet, although it has only been held nine times since the event started in 1984, the Eddie is the world’s longest-running and most prestigious big wave invitational, attracting champion surfers from around the globe. Case in point: the hysteria and Hawaii pride that ensued when last year's event ran.
This year, the 28 invitees include 2016 Eddie champion John John Florence (Oahu, HI), along with international surfing giants Kelly Slater (USA), Ross Clarke-Jones (Australia), Jamie Mitchell (CA, USA) and Shane Dorian (Oahu, HI). The holding period for this year’s Eddie is December 1, 2016 through February 28, 2017. Now is the time to keep our fingers crossed for those big waves!
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing: Billabong Pipe Masters
Banzai Pipeline, Oahu, North Shore
All day, Dec. 8-20
Wrapping up with the Billabong Pipe Masters competition this week is the huge 34nd annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the surf world’s most prestigious annual contest series for both men and women. Aside from capturing a world title, a Triple Crown win is considered the most coveted achievement in surfing. Not bad for a competition that started in 1971 with six dedicated surfers, some folding chairs, a card table and a $1,000 prize. Braving the powerful swells at Pipeline this year for glory, honor and now a much higher $525,000 prize are surf masters Kelly Slater, reigning champion Julian Wilson (Australia), current Triple Crown leader Frederico Morais (Portugal) and Mick Fanning (Australia). Just be prepared before you make the trek to the North Shore and you won't regret seeing these athletes in their element.
47th Annual Surf N Sea Haleiwa International Open
Haleiwa Alii Beach Park, North Shore, Oahu
Dec 22-Jan 3
The longest-running amateur event in the world, the Haleiwa International Open was originally started by the “Queen of Makaha,” world surfing champion Rell Sunn, and Earl Dahlin as a goodwill event for visiting Japanese surfers. Over the years, more international surfers have entered the event, attracted by the chance to prove themselves and gain valuable experience in the Hawaiian-sized 4- to 10-foot surf at Alii Beach Park.
This contest consists of shortboard and longboard categories for boys, junior men (ages 16-20), women (all ages), men (all ages) and seniors (ages 51-59, grandmasters (ages 60 and over), plus a Japan men’s category. The entry fee is $40 per division, with beach entries for $50 accepted only on a space-available basis. Proceeds from the event go to the Haleiwa Surf Center and the local community.
Please be aware that all surf contests are subject to the whims of nature, and, if surf conditions are unfavorable, any of these events may be put on hold. If you are planning to travel to the North Shore of Oahu to see the massive surf for yourself, you’ll want to allow at least two to three hours of travel time from Waikiki and Honolulu. Roads may also be closed to traffic if the waves are too large. You can check road status by calling the Hawaii Department of Transportation at (808) 587-2160.