The benchmark, big-wave forum of Hawaii’s North Shore. Although somewhat eclipsed by outer reef tow-in breaks, mere mortals will find the 20-25ft (6-8m) swells that Waimea can provide more than enough of a challenge. Deep water swells arrive suddenly, tripping on a lava shelf sitting a good 100m+ out from the northern headland. This creates a wave that lurches violently up, then out, resulting in the famous Waimea air drop take-off, followed by an endless plunge over boils, chops and gutters to the trough, then a race to the channel, chased by hundreds of tons of water. Strong trades, funneling down Waimea Valley are far from ideal, getting under the nose of your gun and holding you in a lip that’s renowned for thick, high psi power, so light ESE wind is best, mid tide and a long period NW swell. On smaller days below 15ft (5m), when The Bay proper isn't working, a sandbar and boulder section called Pinballs can reel off some juicy little pockets right along the lava rock point. Waimea's shorebreak is a gnarly mix of crashing lips and powerful pockets; once avoided, today it's packed with suicidal bodyboarders and even a few stand-up surfers. Getting in and out of the water requires timing through the shorebreak in the northern corner, while the overpowering current drags victims down to the jump rock. Crowds are thick, especially at the starting size around 15ft and sharing a set is common practice although flying boards and bodies heighten the risks. Specialist equipment, big wave experience and total commitment required.
Parking is a nightmare when the swell jumps with the Kam choked by stationary cars looking for somewhere to stop and watch the show from. Walk in from further afield.