Winter Surf in Hawaii: Wild and Wonderful

While pounding thirty-foot waves closed North Shore beaches, children played in gentle waves in Kailua. Both areas are on the same island and not far apart, yet the water could not have been more different.

The first major swell of the season brought huge winter waves to the North Shore yesterday. People were advised to stay out of the water due to the hazardous conditions, but many lined the highways to watch the waves and the experienced surfers attempting to ride them. This is exactly the spectacle that most people expect when they hear the term “North Shore,” and it is true on the other Hawaiian islands as well as Oahu. Although the swell peaked yesterday, a high surf warning or high surf advisory is still in effect today for the north and west shores of all the islands. Forecasters warn that life-threatening waves will continue through today before declining tomorrow.

And yet, just 40 miles across this small island, young children safely played in the water at Kailua Beach Park. There seemed to be twice as many young children as adults yesterday, perhaps because schools were closed for the state Election Day holiday. This area of the island is not affected as directly by winter waves, and this beach is sheltered by coral reefs in the water and land outcroppings such as the Mokapu peninsula. Often, winds are high enough for kite surfing but not so h3 that they make it hazardous. Yesterday, the breezes were so light in Kailua there were no kite surfers even waiting to see if they could take flight.

The beaches in Honolulu (Waikiki Beach and Ala Moana Beach) also have more gentle waves than the North Shore during winter. But they face the open ocean rather than a protected bay like Kailua, Lanikai and Waimanalo beaches. Last weekend, they were experiencing the monthly box jellyfish influx so there were warnings of a different sort.

If you want to experience the big waves of Hawaii winter, head for the North Shore and hope for favorable conditions. But it is easy enough to have a more peaceful experience by choosing a different beach.

Posted by: Bruce Fisher