SURFER SPOTS: ALA MOANA
Ala Moana Beach Park
A mile of reefs that work on any size summer swell.
Waves of every shape and ability level are located
within the confines of this popular public park.
Intense local crowds from sunup to sundown. The
reefs are a long distance from shore across a
plateau-like barrier reef that must be partially
walked at low tide. Local surfers often congregate
in the 76-acre park to surf, talk story, BBQ and
show off custom cars and island-style trucks.
Several of these breaks are named after prominent
land-based lineup markers on the beach (Courts,
Concessions, etc.). Depending on conditions, quality ranges from moderate to insane perfection.
Heavy local population of shortboarders and local
pro longboarders. Park along the main park road or
at Magic Island and walk along the beach until you
choose a spot to paddle out to. Expect crowds,
vibes and lots of snakes. Showers, restrooms and
food concessions are nearby. In an extreme pinch,
additional parking is available across Ala Moana
Boulevard at Ala Moana Shopping Center, Hawaii’s
biggest mall. Avoid parking here if you can, always
Ala Moana Bowls
Easily the biggest and most muscular break on
the South Shore when there’s a solid swell run-
ning. Both the main outside peak and the famous
pitching bowl section grind their way into the man-made fresh water drainage channel at the Ala Wai
Harbor entrance marked by the red-right-returning
pole set into the reef.
Park directly in front of the
boat slips across the channel at the Magic Island
lot in Ala Moana Park. Always crowded. Still, it’s a
great left and the fastest, juiciest wall on the South
Shore. Its interesting to note that the Waikk construction boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s
created the Alamo bowl section just as the perfect,
hollow peak at Garbage Hole was destroyed by
the parking lot now known as Magic Island.
O‘ahu is surrounded by waves. There are more
accessible waves per mile than almost any other
travel destination.Most surf spots are reef breaks with
little offshore continental shelf to dissipate wave energy. Due to O‘ahu’s ideal mid-ocean position, it picks
up almost any well aimed North or South.
O‘ahu’s surf can be divided into four principal
regions: North Shore, Wai‘anae Coast, South
Shore and Windward Coast. The North Shore
extends from Ka‘ena Point to Kahuku Point. The
area from Ka‘ena Point to Mokul‘ia faces almost
due north, but it’s easily blown out by prevailing
northeast trades. This section of the North Shore
has many shallow reefs. It’s best on medium-sized
swells with southerly Kona winds.
Shore’s premier breaks are concentrated in a
seven-mile strip from Hale‘iwa to Velzyland. The
area’s swell window extends from 270 degrees
clockwise through 40 degrees. Primary swell
sources are intense higher-latitude storms that
track eastward across the North Pacific Ocean
south of the Aleutian Islands. The area from
Hale‘iwa to Kahuku usually sees early morning
side/offshore winds. Later in the day the winds
tend to turn side shore or side/onshore.
The Wai‘anae Coast, or the West Side, extends
from Barber’s Point Naval Air Station northwest to
Ka‘ena Point. This region’s swell window extends
from 160 degrees clockwise to 340 degrees. Most
beaches face west/southwest, allowing the region
to pick up both winter waves from the North Pacific
and some Southern Hemisphere swells. A winter
northwest swell could produce 15-foot surf at
Mkaha, but the same swell may fade to only two
to four feet by the time it wraps into Kalaeloa.
normal east/northeast trades are directly offshore
along the Wai‘anae Coast. Afternoon sea breezes
sometimes create choppy conditions. Daylong
onshore winds are possible during winter storms,
producing clean conditions on the normally wind-
blown eastern coast.
The South Shore extends from the southwest of
Makapu‘u westward to Kalaeloa at Barber’s Point.
Most of the coast faces due south, but there are
significant local variations. The winds are frequently side/offshore from Waikk to Ala Moana,
often producing clean surf. The frequency of chop-
py surf increases closer to Kalaeloa.
Shore swell window extends from 90 degrees to
270 degrees, but the Outer Islands from Moloka‘i
to the Big Island block some east to east/south-
east swells. Primary swell sources are powerful
mid-latitude South Pacific storms. Occasionally,
hurricanes passing to the south produce
groundswells as well.
The Windward Coast extends from Kahuku Point to
Makapu‘u Point. Most of this coast faces
east/northeast, although there are a few local variations. This region faces directly into prevailing
trade winds, causing frequently blown-out conditions. The abundant offshore reefs on this coast
may fire with south to southwest winds and a bit of
swell. The overall swell window stretches from 330
degrees clockwise to 150 degrees. Shadowing
effects from Moloka‘i, Maui and the Big Island
reduce incoming east/southeast swells. The best
overall swell set-up is a large, slow moving winter
storm to the north or northeast of O‘ahu.