Cover shot by Brent Weldon
There are all sorts of waves out there for all sorts of surfers—point breaks for logging, beach breaks for airs, slabs for hellmen, and big wave bombies for super hellmen—but perhaps no wave is as simple and yet simultaneously dangerous as the shorebreak.
The domain of masochistic eccentrics who prioritise thick lips over lengthy rides and aren’t afraid to get sand in every orifice, shorebreaks are straight, shallow, and pretty silly, but they are also a helluva lot of fun. And despite the fact that they are usually just savage closeouts, they actually take a lot of skill—not just to avoid a broken neck, but also to ride properly. For many of us, they are our first experience with the barrel, and that right there is enough to endear them to us for life. But they are also the cheapest, most accessible form of surfing out there—all you need is a pair of fins, and even those aren’t mandatory. Just make sure you start small, because inexperienced bodywhompers are more likely to end up in the hospital than they are in the green room.
For those who love nothing more than a fleeting glimpse of the barrel and a subsequent ass-kicking from the sandy chiropractor, here’s a list of some of the world’s best shorebreaks.
The ultimate shorebreak? Most agree that this is the case. Ke Iki is arguably the thickest, gnarliest wave on the planet, a backless behemoth breaking in inches of water, with more lip than barrel. This wave made Clark Little into a world-famous photographer (both in the surf industry and pop culture in general), has featured heavily in JOB’s various online antics, and is the ultimate proving ground for psychotic bodyboarders and bodysurfers.
Looking for a guide to the region of this terrifying proving ground? Say no more: Hawaii
A mile down the road from Ke Iki, the shorebreak at Waimea Bay might technically be a little less gnarly, but it’s still one of the most mutant barrels you are likely to see. Endless fun for the whompers out there, Waimea shorebreak is a nightmare for the big wave crew who get caught by closeout sets on the biggest days at Waimea and find themselves dragged into the death zone.
Are you looking to put yourself inside one of these mutants? ...Really? Okay then: Waimea Bay.
One of the most dangerous beaches in the world, based on the annual number of spinal injuries, Sandy Beach on Oahu’s southeast corner is a crystal-clear, sapphire-blue shore pound that’s deceptively approachable for unaware tourists. But don’t let the appealing barrels and local frothers fool you—this is a legit shorebreak with legit consequences.
Want to get sand in places there shouldn't be sand, at Sandy's? We got you: Sandy Beach.
What was once Southern California’s ultimate novelty sideshow—and one of its biggest waves—has turned into the main event over the past few years. These days, the circus descends every time a large, long-period south swell pours into Newport Beach, with everything from bodywhompers and bodyboarders to soft tops and surfers competing for a chance to get annihilated. Meanwhile, the scene on shore is just as insane, with the news media and half of Orange County coming down to watch the carnage.
Welcome to the circus: The Wedge.
Tucked just behind Snapper Rocks, Froggies is a semi-closed out beachy/shorey in a town full of world-class point breaks—which is to say, there’s no real reason to surf it. But insane crowds drive people to do insane things, so if the speed bumps at the Super Bank are starting to get to you, you can always walk 50 yards south and pull into closeouts by yourself. Froggies is also just about the last surf spot on the Queensland coast before you cross the border into New South Wales, so wear your favourite maroon shirt while you whomp there and wave to the Cockroaches just down the beach.
If you're done pretending you're going to surf Ke Iki, we'll leave this here: Snapper Rocks.