Surf Trip to Oahu Hawaii – From Waikiki to the North Shore

North Shore surf trip to Billabong Pipemasters

It was always a goal of mine to see Kelly Slater surf in the Pipeline Masters. I had heard the WSL messed up with the permitting for the 2019 event, where they were trying to move the Pipemasters to January vs. December and it wasn’t accepted, and therefore there would be no Pipe in 2019, Since I heard that, I figured I better get myself out to the 2018 December Billabong Pipeline masters to see Kelly surf there for potentially the last time while he’s formally on tour since it’s rumored that next year will be his last year. As of my trip I learned the original December 2019 timing for the event was still on now though!

Therefore the main goal of my trip was to see Kelly Slater surf in the Pipeline masters event and surf somewhere on the north shore, however I couldn’t ignore the friendly surfing waves of Waikiki on my trip, even though December is not the best season for surfing there.  So this blog of mine I just wanted to post some of the highlights of planning such a trip covering both shores and give some suggestions for anyone planning to do the same!

It was always a goal of mine to see Kelly Slater surf in the Pipeline Masters.  I had heard the WSL messed up with the permitting for the 2019 event, where they were trying to move the Pipemasters to January vs. December and it wasn’t accepted, and therefore there would be no Pipe in 2019, Since I heard that, I figured I better get myself out to the 2018 December Billabong Pipeline masters to see Kelly surf there for potentially the last time while he’s formally on tour since it’s rumored that next year will be his last year. As of my trip I learned the original December 2019 timing for the event was still on now though! 

Therefore the main goal of my trip was to see Kelly Slater surf in the Pipeline masters event and surf somewhere on the north shore, however I couldn’t ignore the friendly surfing waves of Waikiki on my trip, even though December is not the best season for surfing there.  So this blog of mine I just wanted to post some of the highlights of planning such a trip covering both shores and give some suggestions for anyone planning to do the same!

Waikiki portion of the surf trip

Beach side view of waikiki and threes surf spot from Outrigger Reef

I stayed at the Outrigger Reef, which was a great choice in the end from a location perspective and overall vibe.  It’s right outside in front of some less crowded surf spots vs. the crowds of Canoes – but just has a much longer paddle out.  It’s also in between the infamous Canoes surf spot and the local spot of Ala Moana Bowls

From the Outrigger Reef, you really can’t walk down the beach to Canoes as the sand area is broken up by sea walls in front of a few of the hotels, but you could paddle down there if you wanted or just take a walk to the Outrigger Waikiki via the street path like I did and then walk on down to Canoes and rent a board for a couple hours (or bring your own and use the rail grabber for easy carrying of the long massive boards that are best suited for Waikiki waves). 

I didn’t surf Aloa Moana Bowls, as I really just ran out of time. I only had two full days there and I took an Uber to Diamond Head to explore the Cliffs surf spot one of the full days which took a bit of time, which is why I ended up just surfing Canoes for a couple hours one day after that journey.

the path down to the Cliffs surf spot in Diamond Head Waikiki
On my way down to the Cliffs surf spot at Diamond Head
campers at Cliffs surf spot in Diamond Head
Great hideaway for these surf campers at the Cliffs surf spot in Diamond Head.

However the Aloa Moana Bowls local surf spot is only about a 15 minute walk from the Outrigger and it’s a definite regional classic spot with super long waves that is still not checked off my sand bucket list – however next time I go to Waikiki I’ll probably find some local to accompany me there.  I just felt a bit intimidated knowing it’s such a local spot and it’s always helpful to have a local guide to give you inside tips on certain spots, etc.

Ala Moana Bowls true local Waikiki surf spot
Checking out the true local Waikiki Ala Moana Bowls surf spot

The main thing I would do differently next surf trip to Waikiki would be to stay longer there, go in the summer at prime surf time, and rent my surfboards from Hawaii Surfboard Rentals.  I would have rented from them for this trip (as I did my last visit there) but since I was only staying in Waikiki for 2 days and then up to the North Shore when I didn’t know when the contest would be called on and therefore what other days I could surf up there, it didn’t seem like the right option for this trip, as you need to rent their boards for a week at a time. 

The great thing about using them, is that they deliver your surfboards to you, the boards are of much better quality than the huge clunky boats of a surfboard that are rented right on the beach, and much more efficiently priced – around $90/week vs. $50/day!  The Outrigger Reef also offers board storage so you wouldn’t even need to store your rental board in your room. 

However, since my time in Waikiki was short, I just opted for ultimate convenience of the boards available right on the beach.  They had more than foamers at the beach rentals, which was great, as I have just found for myself foamers are much harder to balance and manage than hard boards.  However the hard boards they had just seemed way to thick for my preference and were just much more difficult to get turned around fast in the water when a wave would start approaching.

I usually like to try filming at least a wave or two at new spots I surf on vacation but forgetful me forgot a key attachment to my 360fly 360 action cam and I forgot my tripod for my Soloshot, so the next best thing I tried to do was buy one of those water proof camera holders and at least try and get a picture of me out on a surfboard at Waikiki.  It had a convenient neck strap and I really thought there would be no concern for me losing my phone in that case as the waves were so tiny and chill – but never underestimate any Hawaii waves – even the gentle sloping Waikiki kind.

At Populars surf spot in Waikiki
Got a photo or two with my water proof phone case out at Populars Surf Spot in Waikiki – great view of Diamond Head too!

I caught this one wave and I think I just hopped off of it and then another wave came over me and then I just got back on my surfboard and didn’t think anything of it.  I saw this black thing floating in the water which I wasn’t sure what it was, perhaps a coral reef sticking out of the water, I wasn’t sure, I kept trying to get close to it but then waves kept coming by pushing me away from it.  Just then I also saw my RipCurl Search GPS slip off my wrist and start falling into the ocean. 

You don’t know how many times I’ve lost things to the ocean and I thought it was a goner – it was like it was falling into the ocean in slow motion though and I went after that thing like my life depended on it and actually managed to grab it before it fell to the ocean floor never to be seen again. 

With that relief I thought things were all good, but then I noticed my phone was no longer hanging on my neck and was like crap this stinks! It wouldn’t have upset me as much losing my phone as my watch. It was really about time I replaced my iPhone anyways and there was an Apple store nearby. I was hoping that the pics I had taken at that point were all backed up on the cloud, but it would have been a major inconvenience.  However, as luck would have it, that thing that I previously saw floating in the water that was black was my iPhone and its waterproof and YES, actually floatable case!!!

It was like I scored twice in a row and really lucked out – so after that scare I was just like, i’ts not worth it to take this thing out and risk it anymore, I’ll just have to take pics of Hawaii and get pics of me surfing here on my next trip when I’m more prepared with my tech stuff – ha.

I liked the overall casual vibe of the Outrigger Reef as well, as the Reef Restaurant sits smack dab on the sandy beach and is a great place to just chill and grab a bite to eat/drink after a full surf session day.  The pool isn’t the best as it’s mainly shaded by the 2 buildings, but I don’t come to Hawaii to sit at a pool, I come here for its beautiful sparkling blue ocean and amazing waves – and Hawaii vibes.

There was live music playing at night on the weekend when I was there which was also another thing I liked about this hotel.  I had thought about staying at the Hilton Village as it was closer to Aloa Moana Bowls, but I like how the Outrigger Reef is a bit more in center of everything.  The beach isn’t the most expansive, but it does have sand in front of it and a wider sandier beach just to the right of it, so you’re covered there. Roy’s Hawaiian restaurant is also right across the street which was another great thing about it as you just have to try Roy’s butter fish and Hawaiian Martini when you get a chance to go there – those two items are just simply the best!!!

North Shore Surf Trip – Getting Around, Exploring Surf Spots and Surf Contest Viewing

From Waikiki I took a rental car – or should you say full sized pick up truck to the North Shore.  I actually took an Uber from Waikiki to the Alamo rental parking lot next to the airport as the car rental deals are so much cheaper there, vs. renting directly from the car rental place at the Outrigger Reef. Even factoring in a separate Uber trip, there was still a huge cost savings.

I rented a truck as well because not only was it the most efficiently priced rental vehicle on Priceline that I saw, and I figured it would be easier to just throw a rental board in it and check out a few of the easier north shore spots that I’ve researched in da Surf Engine app.  However, the rental truck turned out way bigger than it looked and parking is super tight on the north shore so I would not recommend doing that again – unless you enjoy trying to fit into tight spaces, ha.

From Waikiki I took a side trip out to White Plains/Ewa Beach to check out that surf spot.  The boards for rent at that surf spot were for military only and it seemed like a pretty windy blown out day so I didn’t get a chance to check that spot off of my sand bucket list, but it seemed like a cool spot, and it’s always good to have another reason to come back to Hawaii.  I wanted to then go and check out Makaha beach on the west side but it was getting a bit later and I wanted to make sure I made it up to the north shore before sunset so I could park my monster truck in full daylight!

Whiate Plains beach surf spot
Checking out the surf at White Plains Beach surf spot – kind of windy and blown out that day!

On my way up to the north shore, I stopped by the Dole Pineapple Plantation, as I didn’t get a chance to stop by there last time I visited Hawaii since I was driving up to the north shore for just a day or two and it was dark at the time.  It was a super cool place, I took a little tour of the grounds on their Pineapple Express and it’s a beautiful place and I realized they farm much more than pineapples there, everything from Cacao/chocolate to coconuts, bananas, and much more!

When I arrived at my AirbnB in Haleiwa town I was excited I had a dedicated parking spot underneath a roof that I could pull into.  It still was a bit tight and tricky, but at least I didn’t have to find some parallel spot on a side street there.  The AirbnB I stayed at was perfect!  It was a super cool place on the 2nd floor smack dab on the beach with a big window view right out in front of the beach/ocean.

Haleiwa AirBnB
The awesome beach front AirBnB I stayed at near Halewia town for my first leg of the North Shore surf trip.

When I got there I immediately took a walk to the shops/restaurants in Haleiwa town which was only a 20 minute walk away, and then realized the bus system works pretty good up there on the north shore.  There’s a website that gives you the approximate times that a bus comes by any particular bus stop number and then you can kind of plan when you need to be at the bus stop to catch it and take it up and down the north shore – all the way to Turtle Bay too!  I decided to ride the bus a lot while I was up there as I wanted to avoid getting out of and into my parking spot as much as possible and avoid the extra crowded parking due to the contest.

The first two days I was at my AirbnB in Haleiwa was the first 2 days of the Pipeline surf contest.  Therefore I didn’t get a chance to spend much time at the beach area right by the house as I was taking the bus up to the surf contest. 

The 1st day was the trials and the 2nd day was the 1st round.  It was kind of hard to plan my days as I wasn’t sure if the contest was being called on or not until 7:30am.  On day 1 of the first official round of the contest, Kelly Slater was in the first heat.  He’s not even at all morning surfer, and neither am I, and I wasn’t even able to see him surf in that round because as soon as the event was confirmed on at 7:30, by the time I walked to the bus stop and took the bus up to the event, his heat was over – urgh. 

The waves on the first day of the trials weren’t the best conditions and neither were the waves on the 2nd day/1st round, but that 2nd day, the waves were HUGE.  Just looking at them from the beach, I was in awe of truly how big they really look in real life and the tower of white wash that accompanies them when they break and close out.  I think Off the Wall (to the left of Pipe when looking from the beach) had the biggest waves I’ve ever seen in real life (not online) – it’s truly amazing how surfers can actually surf these things!

HUGE waves at Off the Wall, to the left of Pipeline on trials day for the Pipeline Masters
HUGE waves at Off the Wall, to the left of Pipeline on trials day for the Pipeline Masters

On the 1st day of the contest, the trials, I wore my official da Surf Engine Stoked Pro mock pro surfer rash guard contest jersey.  I had to rep my app at the event, and my future rash guard line on da Surf Shop and Seashine Surf co. on the new site – ha.  So far for this surf trip it had rained every day and when it rains it just rains for about 10 minutes and gets sunny again so I figured a rash guard is the perfect outfit for someone to wear in Hawaii, as it dries quick and you don’t have to worry about getting rained on, it’s surfleisure, ha.

da Stoked Pro da Surf Engine Rash Guard
Repping da Surf Engine at the Billabong Pipemasters!

Rainbows are of a daily variety there due to the mix of rain and sun, I saw a rainbow every day of my trip except the last two which were 100% sunny.

Rainbows at Pipeline surf spot
Rainbows appeared daily on my surf trip to the north shore Hawaii!

During the 1st round of the official Billabong Pipe Masters, I was sporting my official WSL Kelly Slater rash guard jersey.  I also managed to get up close to Gabriel Medina and Julian Wilson and got a good pick of the 2 world title contenders at the time, who both went on to the finals in the Billabong Pipemasters event!  I kinda had a feeling after the 1st day that I’d be seeing them both in the finals, which is why I took the pic of both of them and posted it on my insta!

Gabriel Medina and Julian Wilson facing off at the Pipeline Masters
Gabriel Medina and Julian Wilson facing off at the Pipeline Masters

Seeing Gabe Medina just bust out airs and get barreled on these massive Pipeline waves is just something awe inspiring that you have to see live at least once in your life.  I know the first surf contest I ever went to was just the Huntington Surf Open where Kelly Slater was surfing that year and that was the first time I had ever seen someone bust an aerial that high and that was exactly what got me hooked on professional contest surfing. 

You could also see that Julian Wilson was super determined to win this event with how he was able to navigate and carve those Pipeline waves in any conditions! I had to stop by Foodland on my way back to Haleiwa after the event to have some of their classic Hawaiian Poke – soooo good! The day prior I had dinner after the contest at Haleiwa Joe’s which is the closest restaurant to where I was staying – a definite north shore classic spot and it was just great to get inside that day as it was one of the wetter/rainier ones!

They called the contest off on my 3rd day up at the north shore so I was able to paddle out for a bit in front of my beach side AirbnB.  I didn’t surf any however, as the surfboard at the place I was staying at didn’t have a leash and I just didn’t want to chance losing a board in the wild currents of the north shore, even though the spot I was in front of (well if you walked down the beach a bit) was pretty calm with manageable waves. 

It was fun though to at least to paddle out for a bit and say I was out at the Haleiwa surf spot area.  After that I had to check out and head on up to Velzyland to my VRBO I booked there just to be a bit closer to the surf contest action. 

I couldn’t check in until 3pm though so I scoped out a few surf spots I wanted to try and decided that I would surf Puaena Point on the next surf contest lay day, as I realized it had a great parking spot for a big truck like the one I had, and even if I didn’t drive my truck to the spot, I could easily rent a board at Surf n Sea and walk on over to to Pua ‘ena Point, which is only about a 10 minute walk away – which is what I ended up doing as I didn’t want to move my truck once I parked it in the lot down a dead end street in Velzyland.

Puena Point surf spot
On the way to check out what I now call my favorite surf spot on the North Shore – Puena Point!

I still had some time to kill after checking out the nearby Haleiwa surf spots so I ventured up to Turtle Bay Resort – as I knew they had a huge parking lot I would be able to find a manageable place to park my massive truck and grab an early dinner/late lunch until I could check into my VRBO.  I didn’t realize that the Turtle Bay Resort had a Roy’s restaurant right on the beach, had I not just eaten there a day or two ago, I would have eaten there, but I will be back there sometime too next trip up. 

I ended up grabbing a bite at the Turtle Bay restaurant/bar and watching the surfers surf out at the spot in front of the area (Turtle Bay West) vs the other side of the hotel (Turtle Bay East).  After that I tried to find a beach access point for where surfers can launch their boards out at that spot, but was unsuccessful, I guess you just have to get into the spot from the side there, right by the restaurant.  They have a surfboard rental place right by there so I’m sure they can tell you the easiest way to get into that surf spot, as the rocks around the area freak me out a bit though!

As soon as I could check into my VRBO I did and it managed to have another decent spot to park my truck – although the backing out was a bit tricky, but doable!  I basically just unloaded my stuff there and went right out on a walk back down to Pipeline from there – to see how long the walk was and be outside for as long as possible until it got dark at 6:30pm.  It took a bit of time to get back down to Pipeline but I just wanted to see the place on a non-competition day and check out surf spots like Pupukea and Kammie Land on the way down (known to be a bit mellower spots for the north shore, on some days).

Chickens at the Pipeline surf spot
Chickens hanging out at the PIpeline and Pupukea surf spot – on the north shore, I saw chickens and rainbows daily – ha.
Kammieland surf spot
Kammieland surf spot area – this is another surf spot I found in da Surf Engine app and also read more about it via the app – that is more surfer friendly for the north shore north shore as north of Waimea) during the summertime or smaller wave days mainly!

I saw Connor Coffin biking it back to wherever he was staying on my walk down and I saw Ryan Calinan walking to Pipe on my way back up to Velzyland. I thought I’d run into some food trucks too on the way down to Pipeline, but none were around, so I stopped by Ted’s Bakery on the way back and had a proper Hawaiian plate meal! I also stopped by Sunset Beach on the way back and took in the amazing sunset views from that spot.

Sunset at Sunset Beach
Sunset at Sunset Beach

They called the contest off again on my 4th day on the north shore so I decided to do some surfing for myself that day and took the bus back down to where I had been staying in Haleiwa and rented a board from Surf n Sea (the classic Haleiwa surf shop) and walked on down to Puaena Point. 

I simply love Puaena Point! The waves were up to 5 foot that day which is really the high end for me, especially here in SD. However, with the way the Hawaii waves break in certain areas around a reef (vs. beach break walls), even though they break further out, it’s fairly easy to get out on a somewhat bigger day (not huge but just somewhat bigger) and the waves break in a sloping fashion and are easy to catch. 

Perhaps it’s the warm water of Hawaii, but these 5 foot waves (5 ft Hawaii style too) seemed gentler to me than some of the 3 foot waves that are much colder in the winter time in San Diego!  The surf spot is definitely crowded but it breaks in so many places that the crowd is really manageable. 

There are all kinds of surfers here too – from complete novices from all the surf schools in the area, to SUP’s, Foil Boards, and even canoers paddling around – but everyone seems to get along and the vibes are definitely good here at this spot. 

At first I was staying on the inside as it was just a new spot I was getting used too, but then I kept paddling further out as the waves just seemed to get better out there and I definitely caught a lot of fun rides out there. 

The surfboard I had rented from Surf n Sea was also a great rental board as well.  It was on the smaller side for me, maybe a tad smaller than 7 ft. but since the waves were bigger that day I didn’t want a huge log, plus it was easier to carry to the beach.  Even being able to use my rail grabber for these long clunky boards, it just feels so great to be able to tuck a board under your arm that’s lightweight and skip off to the beach.  It was a bit narrower than I’m used to but was super easy to turn around quickly on and actually even easier to stand up and balance on than the bigger rental boards I rented in Waikiki. 

I’m thinking it could be that since the board is narrower, for me, it’s just easier to then know where my feet need to be to be on the center of the board – there’s less room for error I guess, than a wider board, where there’s so much extra space you can put a foot that gets you off balance.

Puena Point Surf Spot
The waves outside at Puena Point surf spot – so much fun!

I wish I could have also checked out Chun’s Reef and Lanikai surf spot near Haleiwa, it’s just I didn’t want to deal with parking off the side of the road at those spots with my big massive truck.  I would have loved to just have a surfboard concierge service or something to meet me at a certain time and drop me off at surf spots throughout the day. 

I don’t need surf lessons, not that I don’t need improvement – of course I do, but sometimes, I just want to surf and just enjoy it without needing a lesson, which is where I think the majority of surf shop businesses cater to. 

There were places that said they could deliver a surfboard to you or take you on a Surfari, but when you call them up last minute as there is a lay day from the contest, they don’t have time to deal with your request, even though they may advertise it!! 

I think the surf market needs to expand their focus from just targeting newbie surfers, I have so many ideas for new surf businesses I just have to contain myself – but for whoever is out there that wants to start up something – here’s an idea for you.  How about a site where the surfers list the kind of experience they want to have and those that host “surf experiences” such as done on sites like AirbnB, etc. can then approach you and work out what they can offer you based on what you want.  Basically it would be to flip the surf “experience” around and make it kind of Uberish – an on demand place where surfers can list what they want to do instead of only being able to choose from what is being offered – ha!

On my way back up to Velzyland I hopped on the wrong bus outside the Beach House – the 52, which was at first was headed the right direction but then veered off in the opposite direction back to the Pineapple Plantation.  I got off at that stop and had to catch the bus heading back up and got dropped off in Haleiwa at a spot that the 55 north shore bound stopped at so I could get back to Velzyland.  By the time I got back, it was too late for another sunset view at Sunset Beach, but oh well, you live you learn – it’s not the destination, but the journey right? Ha!

Day 5 on the north shore was my last day and the contest was called on.  I got to the the surf event super early so I could pay for a wide open spot I could pull out forward from and head off right to the airport.  I grabbed an Acai bowl from the Crispy Grindz food truck outside the event on the parking lot side of the street and headed on down to the beach to catch the action on this huge wave day at Pipeline!

I was only able to see a few hours of the contest but I finally got to see Kelly Slater surf PROPER PIPE – as in BIG PIPE in GOOD CONDITIONS!!  I only got to see him in round 3, before he pulled out his magic trick against Filipe Toledo in a later round, as I had to get to the airport, but I accomplished my mission – I saw Kelly Slater surf Pipeline and I surfed a bit on the north shore myself!!

Kelly Slater surfing Pipeline Masters
Kelly Slater after winning his 3rd round heat at the Pipeline Masters!

Conditions were perfect that day and I was so glad I got to see some epic Pipeline surf and got a bit of footage of some amazing surfing from a lot of the surfers, including local Seth Moniz!

Kelly Slater at Pipeline surf spot
Kelly Slater about to go surf out for his 3rd round heat at the Pipeline masters – look at the height of the waves compared to him – massive!!!

I stopped by the Crispy Grindz truck on my way back to the parking lot as I was headed to the airport and picked up some Brazilian treats I wanted to check out – I remember the pizza pastel was amazing!!  Anyways, I got my massive rental truck back to the rental spot with no issues and got to the airport in plenty of time for my flight. 

One note though, when leaving Oahu on a Sunday, leave ample time to get to the airport.  I had plenty of time but the line to check your luggage took forever and the security line was quite a bit too.  I had 15 minutes once past security that I could squeeze a chair massage session into – which was much needed before a long 5-6 hour flight, and then they announced my zone for airport boarding and therefore concludes this blog.

Hope this is helpful for whoever is reading it!  I definitely recommend staying at the Outrigger Reef in Waikiki, the bus for getting around on the north shore, checking out the Haleiwa shops/restaurants, and just exploring as many surf spots as you can in Oahu, while checking out the surf contest action.  I’d love to spend an entire winter on the north shore and a few proper weeks in the summer in Waikiki – perhaps someday, someday when alI my little surf business ideas finally grow into something sustainable 🙂  Aloha peeps, until my next blog!

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Surf Competition, Surf Spots, Surf Travel

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