Surfing on the North Shore of Oahu

Surfing was invented in Hawaii hundreds of years ago by the native Hawaiians, and popularized around the world by Hawaiian Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku, who gave surfing demonstrations around the world, from Australia to New York city.   We can safely say that surfing took off in Australia, but somehow New York never quite got into it.   There's a statue of Kahanamoku at Waikiki, which famously has him with his back turned to the ocean, something his many admirers say he would never do.

Hawaii is still the mecca of world surfing, mostly because of the extraordinary surf conditions which occur on Oahu's North Shore during the winter months.   Ocean swells build up terrific energy as they cross unimpeded over thousands of miles of ocean from Alaska and Japan, before finally hitting shore here.   Winter waves can reach as high as 50 feet, and were considered totally unsurfable until an individual by the name of Phil Edwards proved them wrong in the mid 1960s.   Still, a lot of people have been killed since then by the big waves.   The sheer weight of water crashing down on a person is enough to do serious damage, and there's a jagged coral reef just below the surface which has caused its own share of casualties.

Surfing's one of those naturally photogenic sports which makes for interesting photos, even if you've never surfed yourself and have no intention of ever starting.   Because it's so interesting, I've photographed surfing in New Zealand, San Diego and now Hawaii.   In each of these places, you find that some of the surfers are consistently better than others, and these are the ones you need to follow!  You'll notice that if you look at the surfing pages linked below.

Sadly, I wasn't there during winter, so I didn't see waves of this size, but that doesn't mean that all the waves were small - the surfing here can be very good even when it isn't winter.   On one of the two days I was there surfers were doing some classic moves on big waves (including riding in the tube) at the Banzai Pipeline, which is perhaps the single most famous surfing spot on the planet.   In addition, I got some nice shots of guys (yeah, that's right, guys - this is still an almost totally male dominated field!) doing entertaining things on the waves, including some nice cutbacks and top turns and even doing aerials (which is as exciting as the name suggests).   And it's not just surfers doing the tricks here - in fact there were more boogie boarders doing tricks on big waves than surfers proper.

It's an ironic fact that the surfing lifestyle, which is said to be all about the special spiritual feeling from being out on the waves and at one with nature, has spawned its own extensive jargon of surfing terms and has also given birth to an entire industry whose function is to make surfers feel independent at the same time as dressing them all up in similar outfits.   But then, I'm just a bitter and twisted old hodad who only ever body surfed, and a nice young grommet like you could be forgiven for just easing back and enjoying some nice mood shots as the sun sinks slowly below the horizon and the surfers sit on their boards waiting for "just one more wave".