Originally published in Bodyboarder International Magazine, Vol 2, #4
Web space generously provided by John Pescador at Cyber Wave Inc..
Shorebreaks offer moments of intense thrill: vertical takeoffs, thick tubes and spectacular wipeouts. If you're good, you may be able to get one maneuver in. If you're lucky, you may even make the wave. But don't count on it--taking dirty lickings comes with the territory.
Bodyboarders who exclusively ride shorebreaks are a different animal, a breed apart. You have to be both macho and masochistic to do it repeatedly. Shorebreak riding is definitely not for the faint of heart or inexperienced.
Hawaii has been blessed with many good shorebreaks scattered throughout the island chain. If there isn't a good open ocean swell sweeping through the islands, the trades can be counted on to produce a wind swell on the eastern shores. Oahu has the most consistent, and the most crowded shorebreaks of all the islands, with the infamous Sandy Beach leading the pack in both categories.
Many separate breaks surround the beach, but the major shorebreak waves include: Pipe Littles, Cobbles, Middles and Gas Chambers. Each spot has its own crowd and idiosyncrasies.
Taking off on a wave at Sandy's requires the ultimate in commitment. First you have to deal with the ever-present crowd. Giving respect to others is important for a successful session, because the local boys can get easily pissed-off. Once you get a decent section (rarely do you get the whole wave to yourself), you have to push yourself over the edge as the wave jacks to twice its size. After clawing down the face, you're faced with a slalom course of bobbing heads and drop-ins. For most people, the goal is to pull in and go as far as you can. Inevitably, the wave will shut down and explode like a depth charge with you at ground zero.
I have fond memories of getting pitched at Middles, pinned on the sand by the lip, then having water and sand blasted through my nasal passages and into my inner ear: instant nausea and inevitable post-nasal drip.
Unfortunately, Sandy Beach Park has become one giant SCENE where people go to scam, or be scammed. It's like a circus sideshow, with car drive-thru's, bikers, g-strings, kites, and all sorts of other types of "diversions." These are not necessarily bad--they are just more things that bodyboarders have to wade through. The personalities and attitudes on the beach may change, but the waves will always remains the same--awesome.
[Note: Sandy Beach has the highest incidence of neck and back injuries in the islands, and probably the nation!]
The wave works almost all year round, and is much more forgiving than Sandy's. However, Makapuu can still spank you if you aren't careful. Approach it with respect, and you may come away unscathed with just some sand and "limu" in your shorts. Surfboards are not allowed, but watch out for the renegade resin-riders who charge when the lifeguards aren't around.
This wave is totally intimidating. Being a North Shore break, it really only fires on the biggest of northwest swells. Some waves have triple-ledges and tubes forming within tubes. The lip sometimes pitches so far out, that you can take off straight, and still get fully barrelled. Pulling in is the only sanctuary--actually, there are few other options.
In mid-January (92), Waimea Bay was pushing 20 feet, so all the Aikau hopefuls and wannabees were at the point. The attention, however, was diverted to the shorebreak where Mike Stewart and others were nabbing some ridiculous barrels. It looked like they all had death wishes, throwing themselves into spitting caverns with no chance of escape.
Once again, this wave is for experts only. The only reason why there aren't more injuries here is because it is a fickle break, and the volume of bodywhompers going into the Waimea Bay shorebreak is nominal.
Other good shorebreaks on Oahu include Ke Ikis on the North Shore and Pounders on the East Side. I've never been, so I can't give details, but I've heard they are both primo spots.
The main thing to remember is always respect the ocean. Flashing ambulances in the Sandys parking lot are an all-too common sight. Work your way into it and learn how to wipeout properly. Then, you too may enjoy the pleasures and pain of riding shorebreaks.