The most famous coastline for big wave surfing in the world is the 7 mile stretch of beaches and intermittent rocky shore known as the "North Shore" of Oahu. One of the most famous beaches along this shore is Sunset Beach. This long beach is the widest beach on Oahu spanning a full 200' during the summer months. When the big waves come in the winter the sand retreats to the sea but the beach still remains wide by normal beach standards.
Sunset Beach is known for its enormous wintertime surf which can range in the twenty-foot plus range. Of all the waves along this shoreline the waves at Sunset Beach are best known for maintaining their amazing hollow-wall shape even when other North Shore locations have closed out. The perfect shape and immense size of these waves have made it famous the world over and it is usually the site of one of the three major prongs of the triad of events known world over as the Triple Crown of Surfing. Though the dates can vary, the Sunset Beach portion of the competition is usually held somewhere between late November to early December.
The powerful waves found at Sunset Beach in the winter-time are spread over three separate break locations. The first two are powerful right breaks known as the "Point" and "The Main Reef" and Sunset Beach also provides a left break at "Backyards". The perfect barrels that can be seen here are amazing to watch but are so dangerous that only professional surfers should be out in these waters at this time of the year. The power of the waves is obvious but what might not be as obvious are the shallow reefs that prop the wave up and are mostly responsible for their shape. Injuries are commonplace here but the adrenaline level and risk tolerance of these amazing athletes keeps them coming back year after year to immerse themselves in the thrill that is Sunset Beach. The fact that people compete here on this level is even more remarkable given that these waves are so large and powerful that they weren't even considered ride able (at least for the record) until the mid 1950's. The full scope of the deadliness of waves of this size was driven home to the Oahu populous in 1943 when two well known surfers went out to brave Sunset Beach during a big swell and the waves were so large that they could not make it back in. They paddled the three mile distance over to Waimea Bay hoping for an easier exit but only one of the two managed to make it to shore. The other was never found.
Oddly, Sunset Beach does a complete flip in the summer months and creates a bathers paradise. The summers on Sunset Beach can be completely flat at times and are suitable for swimming and ocean sports (even in the summer time there is something referred to by the lifeguards as the Sunset Riptide which is very strong so all would be advised to speak to the lifeguards even during the summer before entering the water to make certain the conditions are safe at the time). The fact that the beach provides two-miles of luscious, wide and uninterrupted sand makes it all the more attractive. There are probably very few beaches in the world that rival the beauty and appeal of Sunset Beach in the summer months. Even when it is busy there always seems to be enough room for more to come and enjoy. Parking can of course become a problem but the sheer length of the beach allows for more opportunities to find a space along the side of the road than other North Shore beaches like Waimea Bay. Regarding parking however, all bets are off on days when there are big swells or competitions during the winter and on these days you would be well advised to drive up to the beach before the break of dawn because the traffic jams found at these times become quite literally "grid lock".
Please be advised that all beaches and ocean locations in Hawaii can be potentially dangerous including this location. Be completely aware of the ocean conditions prior to entering the water and of course, never turn your back on the ocean when you are on the shoreline. It should also be noted that all shorelines and beaches in Hawaii, including this one, can be frequented by sharks, jellyfish and other sea creatures which can provide potential harm to people entering the water.
One of the few beaches that has the look and feel of old Oahu is Kahana Beach on Oahu's windward coastline. The fact that this beach is located in a section of the island that is normally simply a gateway for island visitors to pass by on their way to visit what are presumably more spectacular attractions is the saving grace of Kahana Beach Park.
Shark's Cove on the North Shore of Oahu is not really a beach, but rather a snorkel and diving spot; and what a snorkel spot it is! This small cove is ringed in rocks and coral providing very little in the way of sand to lay out on, but if you are looking for a great place to snorkel, Shark's Cove is, at many times of the year, an excellent option.
A listing of all Oahu Beaches can be found on these pages. Check for the Oahu Beach that will be perfect for you!
It's a good thing you're going to the beach on Oahu! Not only does Oahu have some of the most beautiful beaches in the state, have some of the best snorkeling to be seen in the state, have some of the best surfing, kayaking and stand-up paddling locations in the state and some of the largest waves for you to watch in the state, but Oahu beaches have more lifeguard locations and more lifeguards all toll than any other island in the State of Hawaii.
User Comments are a new feature: Be the first to submit a Comment!