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Guide to North Shore’s Surf Competitions

  • Post category:Hawaii

The North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, is renowned for its massive waves and vibrant surf culture. Each winter, the world’s top surfers flock to this iconic coastline to compete in some of the most prestigious surf competitions. This guide delves into the rich history, major events, and insider tips for experiencing North Shore surf competitions.

Key Takeaways

  • The North Shore has a deep-rooted history in surf competitions, significantly influencing global surf culture.
  • Major surf competitions such as the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, The Eddie Big Wave Invitational, and Billabong Pipe Masters are held annually on the North Shore.
  • Surf competitions are judged based on criteria like wave selection, maneuvers, and overall performance, with weather and wave conditions playing a crucial role.
  • For the best experience, spectators should know the best viewing spots, what to bring, and local etiquette.
  • The North Shore offers more than just surf competitions, including surf schools, local dining, shopping, and outdoor adventures.

History of North Shore Surf Competitions

Origins and Evolution

North Shore surfing is steeped in tradition, history, and respect for the ocean. The origins of surf competitions on the North Shore can be traced back to the early 20th century when local surfers began to organize informal contests. Over the decades, these events evolved into highly organized and prestigious competitions, attracting surfers from around the world. The allure of North Shore Hawaii surfing has only grown, making it a central hub for the sport.

Notable Past Competitions

Prior to Covid, the schedule for North Shore surf competitions had been roughly the same for a long time – with the same legacy events happening around the same dates year after year. Legendary events like the Vans Triple Crown series and Billabong Pipe Masters were consistently slotted for the same dates every year. These events are a testament to the allure of North Shore Hawaii surfing. This big wave North Shore surf competition has been around for over 30 years but has only run a total of 10 times since 1984 because the waves need to be huge for the contest to run. The competition is held at Waimea Bay – a legendary and challenging big-wave spot with a lot of history.

Impact on Surf Culture

The impact of North Shore surf competitions on surf culture is profound. These events have not only elevated the status of the North Shore as a premier surfing destination but have also influenced surf culture globally. The competitions have fostered a sense of community among surfers and have been instrumental in the development of modern surfing techniques and styles. Explore diverse surf experiences in French Polynesia, from Tahiti’s famous breaks to hidden gems like Moorea and Huahine.

Major Surf Competitions on the North Shore

coconut tree near body of water

The North Shore of Oahu is renowned for hosting some of the most prestigious surf competitions in the world. These events are a testament to the allure of North Shore Hawaii surfing and attract the best surfers globally. The winter months between November and March bring huge swells, creating the perfect stage for these thrilling competitions.

How Surf Competitions Work

surfer surfing on tidal wave

Judging Criteria

In surf competitions, the judging criteria are crucial for determining the winners. Judges evaluate surfers based on several factors, including the difficulty of maneuvers, wave selection, and overall style. Each wave is scored on a scale from 1 to 10, with the highest and lowest scores typically being discarded to ensure fairness. The remaining scores are averaged to give a final score for each wave.

Competition Format

Surf competitions work a bit differently than your typical sporting event because organizers are at the mercy of the waves. The competition format often includes multiple rounds, starting with preliminary heats and culminating in the finals. Surfers compete in heats of 20-30 minutes, during which they aim to catch the best waves possible. The top-scoring surfers from each heat advance to the next round until a winner is determined.

Role of Weather and Waves

The role of weather and waves cannot be overstated in surf competitions. Ideal conditions include consistent, high-quality waves and favorable weather. Organizers often have a waiting period, sometimes spanning weeks, to ensure the best possible conditions for the event. This makes surf competitions unique, as they are highly dependent on natural elements.

The only thing you need to know about surfing in the Cook Islands is that it’s a surfing paradise with pristine waters and a vibrant local surf culture.

Tips for Attending Surf Competitions

men's black pullover hoodie and red shorts reaching white metal frame beside sea during daytime

Best Viewing Spots

To get the most out of your experience, head to the competitions early. The beaches can get packed quickly, and arriving early ensures you get a prime spot. The closer you are to the staging area, the better your view, but be cautious of sitting too close to the water as there’s a high chance you’ll get washed out by the waves.

What to Bring

Packing the right items can make or break your day at the beach. Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Sunscreen (SPF 50 recommended)
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Comfortable clothing and a sweatshirt
  • Reef shoes or sandals
  • A towel and a change of clothes
  • Snacks and plenty of water
  • A camera or smartphone for photos

Local Etiquette

Respecting local customs and the environment is crucial. Always clean up after yourself and avoid stepping on the reef. Remember, the whole reason you are there is to enjoy the surf competition. Don’t miss it by constantly being on your phone or worrying about other things. Sit back, relax, and soak in the excitement of the event.

Profiles of Top Surfers

Legendary Surfers

The North Shore has been graced by the presence of many legendary surfers who have left an indelible mark on the sport. Eddie Aikau, for instance, is not just a name but a legacy. Known for his bravery and skill, Eddie’s contributions to surfing are celebrated annually through the Eddie Big Wave Invitational. Another iconic figure is Duke Kahanamoku, often referred to as the father of modern surfing. His influence extends beyond the waves, as he played a crucial role in popularizing surfing worldwide.

Rising Stars

The future of surfing looks bright with a new generation of rising stars making their mark on the North Shore. John John Florence, a local prodigy, has already clinched multiple world titles and continues to push the boundaries of the sport. Another name to watch is Carissa Moore, whose dynamic style and competitive spirit have earned her numerous accolades, including multiple world championships.

Local Heroes

Local heroes are the backbone of the North Shore surfing community. Surfers like Mason Ho and Coco Ho, who come from a family deeply rooted in surfing, have become household names. Their contributions go beyond competitions, as they actively engage in community events and mentor young surfers. These local legends embody the essence of North Shore surfing, blending skill with a deep respect for the ocean and its culture.

The North Shore is not just a place; it’s a proving ground where legends are born and the future of surfing is shaped.

Other Activities on the North Shore

a group of surfers riding a wave in the ocean

Surf Schools and Lessons

For those looking to catch their first wave or improve their skills, the North Shore offers a variety of surf schools and lessons. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, there’s something for everyone. Professional instructors provide personalized coaching to ensure you get the most out of your surfing experience.

Local Dining and Shopping

The North Shore is home to a vibrant culinary scene and unique shopping experiences. From food trucks serving up local delicacies to boutique shops offering handmade crafts, there’s plenty to explore. Don’t miss out on the chance to taste some of the freshest seafood and traditional Hawaiian dishes.

Outdoor Adventures

Beyond the waves, the North Shore is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Enjoy hiking trails that offer breathtaking views, or explore the underwater world through snorkeling and diving. For a more relaxed experience, consider a leisurely bike ride along the coast or a visit to one of the north shore’s hidden beaches: a local’s guide. Discover secluded spots and family-friendly coves along Hawaii’s stunning coastline. Must-visit beaches include Kahuku Golf Course Beach, Shark’s Cove, and Three Tables.

The North Shore is not just about surfing; it’s a destination that offers a diverse range of activities for everyone to enjoy.

Discover a variety of exciting activities on the North Shore, from breathtaking hikes to serene beach outings. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or looking for a relaxing escape, the North Shore has something for everyone. For more details on planning your perfect getaway, visit our website.


The North Shore’s surf competitions are a testament to the power and beauty of the ocean, drawing surfers and spectators from around the globe. From the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing to the awe-inspiring Eddie Big Wave Invitational, these events showcase the pinnacle of surfing talent and the unique culture of the North Shore. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a curious onlooker, experiencing a surf competition on the North Shore is an unforgettable adventure. So pack your sunscreen, grab a comfortable spot on the beach, and get ready to witness some of the most thrilling moments in the world of surfing.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to attend a surf competition on the North Shore?

The best time to attend a surf competition on the North Shore is during the winter months, particularly from November to January, when the major competitions like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and the Eddie Big Wave Invitational take place.

What should I bring to a surf competition?

It’s recommended to bring sunscreen, a hat, comfortable clothing, swimwear, a towel, a spare change of clothes, and a waterproof camera. Also, consider bringing a reusable water bottle and some snacks.

Are there any age restrictions for attending surf competitions?

There are generally no age restrictions for attending surf competitions. However, it’s important to supervise young children closely due to the large crowds and ocean proximity.

Where are the best viewing spots for surf competitions on the North Shore?

Some of the best viewing spots include Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, and Sunset Beach. Arriving early can help you secure a good spot, especially during major competitions.

How do surf competitions get judged?

Surf competitions are judged based on criteria such as the difficulty of maneuvers, the size of the waves ridden, the surfer’s style and execution, and the overall impression of the performance. Judges use a point system to score each ride.

Is there any local etiquette I should be aware of when attending a surf competition?

Yes, it’s important to respect the local culture and environment. This includes not leaving trash behind, being mindful of personal space, and respecting the surfers and other spectators. Following these guidelines helps ensure a positive experience for everyone.