Ezekiel Lau threads his way through a thick Sunset Beach barrel. 

Photo: © WSL / Heff

Your 2018 guide to the North Shore's surf contests

From Pipeline to Waimea Bay, Oahu's North Shore holds some of the biggest surf competitions in the world.

For decades, the North Shore has been the proving ground for surfers to test their mettle in powerful Hawaiian surf as well as their competitive prowess amongst their peers. Competitions only take two to four days—but Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate, so each contest has a built-in waiting period, spanning from four days to two weeks to two months depending on the event. Typically, all surf contests on the North Shore run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but some professional contests will run a half day of competition. Check local forecasting website surfnewsnetwork.com or call (808) 596-7873 to see if a contest is running on a particular day.

Red Bull Queen of the Bay

Holding period: Oct. 1–Nov. 21

Location: Waimea Bay (61-31 Kamehameha Hwy.)

Looking to run its first year of competition in 2018, the Red Bull Queen of the Bay is an all-wahine big-wave event, with a single day of competition when surf reaches the necessary 35- to 40-foot range. When this event runs, it will be a historic day full of heroines riding monster surf and slaying chauvinistic egos.

Hawaiian Pro

Holding period: Nov. 12–24

Location: Alii Beach Park (66-167 Hale‘iwa Rd.)

The first jewel of the Vans Triple Crown and a men’s WSL QS 10,000 event, it’s the penultimate contest of the QS, so the stakes are high and competition is fierce. Haleiwa is a great venue to watch a professional surf contest because it’s close to town and you will see a mix of power and high performance surfing. 

John John Florence, who was born and raised on the North Shore, is the two-time men’s World Surf League champion. 
Photo: © WSL / Cestari

Vans World Cup of Surfing

Holding period: Nov. 25–Dec. 6

Location: Sunset Beach Park (59-104 Kamehameha Hwy.)

The final event of the QS series, this surf contest helps decide the rookie class and who will requalify for the 2019 men’s championship tour. Emotions run high at the second jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing so look forward to a lot of drama in heats with multiple competitive scenarios playing out all at once. Sunset Beach is a point break that demands power surfing and the action happens 200-plus yards offshore, so bring binoculars to catch all of the action.

Billabong Pipe Masters

Holding period: Dec. 8–20

Location: Ehukai Beach Park (59-337 Ke Nui Rd.)

This is the third jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and the final event of the men’s championship tour. If you’re on the North Shore when the Pipe Masters is running, prepare for traffic on Kamehameha Highway, but you have to get to Ehukai Beach Park to see the surfers ride the infamous Banzai Pipeline. You won’t be disappointed!

The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational

Holding period: Dec. 15–Feb. 28

Location: Waimea Bay (61-31 Kamehameha Hwy.)

As of press time, contest organizers of The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational (“The Eddie”) have secured a permit to run the iconic single-day big-wave event, but not a title sponsor. The Eddie first ran in 1984 to pay tribute to legendary lifeguard Eddie Aikau, the first water safety official to be stationed at Waimea. Aikau was one of the most prolific Waimea Bay surfers and was lost at sea while attempting to paddle for help when the Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Hokulea, capsized off of Oahu. Wave heights must reach 35 to 40 feet for the event to go off—and that’s only happened nine times in the past 30-plus years. North Shore’s John John Florence was the last surfer to win The Eddie, in 2016.