Waimea Bay on Oahu's famed North Shore is home, in the winter time, to a wave that is so large that no one had successfully surfed it until the late 1950's. Capable of reaching wave faces of between 30' to 40' this is still considered one of the largest and most powerful waves in the world. Rolling in during the winter time produced from storms in the North Pacific these waves are now a coveted enticement for the skilled watermen and current echelon of the "big wave" surfing elite. Though bigger waves can now be surfed in areas such as "Jaws" on Maui due to the implementation of powerful tow-in jet-skis that propel the surfer on his board into the wall of the wave at a speed necessary to keep up with the super speeds of these freight-train like behemoths, the Waimea Bay wave is arguably still the largest surf able wave that can be paddled into and ridden with the speed solely provided by the paddling of the surfer alone on his board.
Each year the waves at Waimea Bay are featured, if they are large enough, in the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau. Eddie Aikau was an amazing surfer who surfed full days at a time at Waimea Bay. He was also the first official lifeguard at Waimea Bay and was responsible for saving many lives. Eddie faced an untimely death in 1978 of unknown fate while trying to rescue the Hawaiian outrigger canoe "Hokule'a" which sprung a leak and swamped in the waters off Molokai. He attempted to paddle his surfboard 19 miles to get help. In his honor the invitational was then created. This prestigious surfing event only occurs when the waves at Waimea Bay are consistently above 20' (measured from the back of the wave). Since 1978 they have only occurred eight times as to this writing in 2011. It would have occurred nine times but in January of 98 the waves came in so large that they were deemed impossible to ride.
Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the difference between Waimea Bay in the winter and Waimea Bay in the summer can be like night and day. In the days of summer the bay can often be flat and provide a great opportunity for regular bathers and ocean swimmers to enjoy the waters here. Though there can still be dangers on various days of the summer, particularly from rip currents that funnel right out through the middle of the bay, most days can be ideal for a family outing. Because of the precarious nature of the waters here it would always be advisable to ask one of the extremely competent lifeguards found at Waimea Bay if in their opinion it would be a good day for you to venture out into the ocean and if so, the specific areas you should not go beyond or avoid. Generally speaking though, the days of summer at Waimea Bay will provide some of the best ocean experiences many people have ever had. The sand here is soft and deep and the expanses of sand are large. There is plenty of room to lay out and enjoy the sun. Volley ball games are often held near the grass entry to the beach and a popular, yet dangerous, sport of cliff jumping is a source of continuous enjoyment by the local daredevils who, wisely or not, climb a rock protrusion in the bay suitably called "da rock" and dive into the ocean below from heights of about twenty-five feet or so.
The one major drawback about Waimea Bay no matter the time of year is the parking. Although the parking lot may seem large enough at first glimpse it generally is full by about 8:30am and your best alternative at that point is to park on the highway which can require a walk of perhaps a half a mile or so depending on the day. Other than that Waimea Bay has full amenities including restrooms, showers, volleyball court, and lifeguards.
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.
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