Hawaii North Shore surfing competitions are world-famous. In this guide, we’ll explain each one and how to see it for yourself.
In this guide, we’re going to dive deep into the world of North Shore Surf Competitions.
Understanding North Shore Surfing competitions
The North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, is renowned worldwide for its epic waves, pristine beaches, and warm, tropical climate.
This stretch of coastline is a vibrant destination that embodies the spirit of Aloha, attracting surfers and tourists alike from around the globe.
The North Shore is a mecca for professional surfers, and every year, it hosts numerous world-class North Shore Surf Competitions that are an absolute spectacle to witness.
From the charming town of Haleiwa, through to the surf spots at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and the world-famous Banzai Pipeline, the North Shore is undeniably the surf capital of the world.
Surfing in Hawaii is more than just a sport; it’s a lifestyle, a culture, and for many, it’s an entire philosophy of life. This strong surfing culture shapes the entire community, influencing everything from local businesses to social gatherings.
The North Shore Surf Competitions represent the pinnacle of this culture.
These competitions are the ultimate test of skill, agility, and fearlessness, where the best surfers in the world compete against each other and the powerful Pacific Ocean.
During these events, the entire North Shore community (and indeed, the whole surfing world) comes together to celebrate, appreciate, and honor the sport of surfing.
North Shore Surfing Competitions Revolve Around Two Seasons
The surf season in North Shore is usually divided into two: the summer season and the winter season.
During the summer months (May to September), the ocean tends to be calmer, and the waves are smaller and more manageable.
This season is perfect for beginners or those looking to enjoy a relaxed surf.
But it’s during the winter season (October to April) when the North Shore truly comes to life.
The winter swells bring in massive, powerful waves – some that can reach up to 50 feet in height! This is when the North Shore Surf Competitions kick off, with numerous events taking place throughout these months.
Main Surf Competitions on the North Shore
When it comes to North Shore Surf Competitions, there are six that stand out due to their history, prestige, and the challenging conditions they present.
These competitions truly capture the spirit of North Shore’s surfing culture.
1. Haleiwa Challenger
The Haleiwa Challenger is the first event in the famous Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Held at Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park, known for its powerful and unpredictable waves, this competition is a true test of a surfer’s skill and agility.
Over the years, it has become a stepping stone for surfers aiming to make their mark in professional surfing.
Typically, the Haleiwa Challenger takes place in November, aligning with the start of the winter surf season when the North Shore’s waves are at their most powerful.
2. Billabong Pro Pipeline
The Billabong Pro Pipeline is one of the most prestigious surf competitions globally.
Held at the Banzai Pipeline, a notorious surf break with some of the heaviest waves in the world, this event is both a favorite among spectators and a challenge for competitors.
The Billabong Pro Pipeline usually takes place in December, offering a thrilling finale to the year’s professional surfing circuit.
3. Da Hui Backdoor Shootout
The Da Hui Backdoor Shootout is a unique event in the North Shore Surf Competitions calendar.
Organized by the Da Hui, a local surf club, this event champions the spirit of Hawaiian surfing and is recognized for its non-traditional format where surfers ride without jerseys, making it feel like a high-stakes surf session with friends.
The Shootout is usually held in January when the winter swells are in full force, providing perfect conditions for spectacular surfing.
4. Hurley Pro Sunset Beach
The Hurley Pro Sunset Beach is another esteemed event in the Triple Crown series.
Sunset Beach is known for its large, powerful waves and long rides, and the competition here offers some of the most dramatic and high-stakes surfing in the world.
The Hurley Pro Sunset Beach usually unfolds in December, following the Haleiwa Challenger in the Triple Crown series.
5. The Eddie Big Wave Invitational
“The Eddie” is the most anticipated big wave invitational in the world, held in memory of Eddie Aikau, a legendary Hawaiian surfer and lifeguard.
This competition only takes place when the waves in Waimea Bay reach a minimum of 20 feet (6.1 m), staying true to its motto: “The Eddie will go when the bay calls the day.”
“The Eddie” doesn’t have a fixed schedule. Instead, it’s held only in years when the conditions meet the requirement, typically between December and February.
6. Vans Triple Crown of Surfing
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is a prestigious championship consisting of three events: Haleiwa Challenger, Hurley Pro Sunset Beach, and Billabong Pro Pipeline.
Winning the Triple Crown is a coveted achievement in professional surfing, marking a surfer’s prowess, versatility, and consistency across different surf breaks.
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing typically runs from November to December, offering a month-long surf spectacle where the world’s top surfers put their skills to the test. It’s held during the peak of the North Shore surf season, making it a must-see for any surf enthusiast.
This timeline may vary slightly depending on the year and the conditions, so it’s always best to check the official schedule when planning to attend.
Preparing for a North Shore Surf Competition
Attending any of the North Shore Surf Competitions is not only a thrill, but it also requires some preparation.
From packing the right essentials to knowing the unspoken rules and even capturing the action on camera, here’s everything you need to know!
What to Bring to a Surf Competition on the North Shore
If you’re planning to enjoy the surf action on the North Shore, you’ll want to pack smart. Remember, you’ll be outdoors for several hours, so think comfort, protection, and convenience!
- Sun protection: Bring a hat, sunglasses, and a generous supply of sunscreen. Protecting your skin from the intense tropical sun is crucial.
- Comfortable clothing: Lightweight, comfortable clothing is your best bet. Layering is key as the weather can change throughout the day.
- Portable seating: Lightweight folding chairs or a large beach blanket are great for setting up a comfortable spot on the beach.
- Hydration and snacks: Bring plenty of water and some snacks. While there are often food vendors at the competitions, it’s always good to have your own supply.
- Binoculars: To get a closer look at the action out on the water, binoculars can be very handy!
- Waterproof bag or case: Keep your belongings safe from the sand and water with a waterproof bag or case.
Etiquette and Rules for Spectators
Observing proper etiquette ensures a pleasant experience for everyone at the North Shore Surf Competitions.
Here are some key points to remember:
- Respect the designated areas: Stick to the spectators’ area and avoid entering restricted zones intended for competitors and officials.
- Leave no trace: Always clean up after yourself. Respect the beautiful beaches of North Shore by leaving nothing but footprints behind.
- Be considerate: Avoid blocking the view of other spectators. Everyone is there to enjoy the action, so be mindful of where you set up your spot.
- Cheer respectfully: Encouragement and applause are part of the event’s fun, but make sure to respect all competitors and avoid negative or disrespectful comments.
Tips for Photographing Surf Competitions
Capturing the magic of the North Shore Surf Competitions on camera can be a rewarding experience.
Here are a few tips for getting those stunning shots:
- Use a telephoto lens: To capture the surfers up close from the beach, you’ll need a lens with a long focal length.
- Fast shutter speed: Surfing is a fast-paced sport, so use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and capture sharp images.
- Multiple shots: Use your camera’s burst mode to take a series of shots at once. This increases your chances of getting a perfectly timed photo.
- Mind the light: Shooting early in the morning or late in the afternoon can provide beautiful lighting. However, ensure your subject is well-lit and not in shadow.
- Experiment with angles: Don’t just stick to eye-level shots. Try different angles and perspectives for unique and interesting photos.
Traveling to the North Shore for Surf Competitions
Making the journey to witness the North Shore Surf Competitions is a thrilling experience that every surf enthusiast should consider.
From deciding the best times to visit to finding accommodations, let’s navigate your journey to the world’s surfing capital.
Best Times to Visit Oahu for Surf Competitions
The surf season on the North Shore usually kicks off in November and lasts through February.
The largest and most prestigious North Shore Surf Competitions, including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, typically occur during this period. The winter months bring in massive swells from storms in the North Pacific, resulting in world-class waves that surfers from around the globe travel to ride.
However, do keep in mind that these months are also the busiest tourist season for the North Shore. This can mean larger crowds and higher prices for accommodation.
But the vibrant energy and excitement around the surf competitions make it well worth the visit during this period.
How to Get to North Shore, Oahu
The North Shore is located on the northern coast of Oahu, one of the islands of Hawaii.
Traveling to the North Shore usually involves flying into Honolulu International Airport (HNL). From the airport, it’s about an hour’s drive to reach the heart of the North Shore.
Several rental car companies operate out of HNL, making it convenient to rent a vehicle for your stay. Alternatively, you can opt for public transportation (TheBus) or a taxi service.
If you plan to explore the island extensively or attend multiple surf competitions, a rental car might be the most convenient option.
Where to Stay in North Shore, Oahu
The North Shore offers a range of accommodations to suit different travel styles and budgets.
From luxury beachfront rentals to cozy bed and breakfasts and budget-friendly hostels, you can find something that suits your needs.
Haleiwa, the main town on the North Shore, offers a variety of lodgings. It’s a great base for attending North Shore Surf Competitions as it is in close proximity to many of the famous surfing spots.
Turtle Bay Resort is another popular choice, offering upscale accommodations with an on-site golf course and spa.
Other Activities in North Shore
While the North Shore Surf Competitions are undoubtedly the main attraction, the North Shore of Oahu is rich with other enjoyable activities and sights.
From scenic beaches and tantalizing local cuisine to cultural experiences, let’s explore some of the best things to do when you’re not watching the surf competitions.
Other Notable Beaches
The North Shore is home to miles of pristine beaches, each with its own unique charm.
If you’re looking for a respite from the surf competitions, you’ll find it on these idyllic shores.
Waimea Bay is a popular spot known for its massive winter waves and calm summer waters, making it a favorite amongst both surfers and swimmers.
For a more tranquil beach experience, head to the Sunset Beach, where you can enjoy stunning sunset views and great snorkeling opportunities in the summer.
Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, is a must-visit. It’s famous for its frequent sightings of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles basking in the sun.
Local Dining and Shopping Options near the North Shore
The North Shore is also a paradise for foodies.
From food trucks serving up garlic shrimp plates to charming cafes offering acai bowls, there’s something for every palate. Make sure to try Matsumoto’s Shave Ice in Haleiwa for a refreshing local treat.
When it comes to shopping, Haleiwa is the place to be. The town is packed with boutique shops where you can find unique souvenirs, locally-made crafts, and beachwear.
If you’re interested in surf culture, there are several surf shops where you can browse boards and gear, or even pick up a memento from the North Shore Surf Competitions.
Outdoor and Cultural Activities
There’s more to the North Shore than just its beaches.
For nature lovers, there are beautiful hiking trails such as the Ehukai Pillbox Hike, which offers panoramic views of the North Shore and the ocean.
Culturally, you can visit the Polynesian Cultural Center for a deeper understanding of Hawaiian and Polynesian history and culture. It offers captivating performances, exhibits, and traditional luau dinners.
If you’re interested in history, a visit to the Waimea Valley is a must. Here, you can explore lush botanical gardens and historical sites, and even take a dip in a waterfall swimming hole.
Where are the North Shore surfing competitions?
The North Shore Surf Competitions are held on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. This region is renowned for its incredible waves and beautiful beaches, making it the perfect stage for these thrilling competitions. The main events are typically held at different spots along the coast, including Haleiwa, Sunset Beach, and the Banzai Pipeline, which are all iconic surf breaks recognized worldwide.
What is the most prestigious surfing competition?
On the North Shore, the most prestigious surf competition is widely considered to be the Billabong Pro Pipeline. This event is held at the Banzai Pipeline, one of the most dangerous and iconic surf spots in the world. Winning this event is a major achievement in a surfer’s career. Globally, the World Surf League’s Championship Tour is the pinnacle of professional surfing, where the world’s top surfers compete for the world champion title.
What time of year is best to surf North Shore?
The best time of year to surf the North Shore is during the winter months, from November to February. This is when the Pacific Ocean generates powerful swells that hit the North Shore, creating some of the largest and most consistent waves you’ll find anywhere in the world. It’s also the time of year when most of the North Shore Surf Competitions are held.
Where is the surf competition in Hawaii?
There are many surf competitions in Hawaii due to its consistent waves and beautiful locations. The most famous surf competitions are held on the North Shore of Oahu. This includes events like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the Billabong Pro Pipeline, and The Eddie Big Wave Invitational, among others. However, surf competitions also take place in other parts of Hawaii, such as Maui and the Big Island.