When the surf is up, the North Shore of Oahu is STILL the world’s proving ground & here’s why…

Surfer Mag’s Justin Housman:

If you think about it in the proper headspace (let’s say three beers in), the relationship that mainland surfing has had with Oahu’s North Shore for the past seven decades or so looks an awful lot like a youthful, hot-blooded love affair—one that burns brightly at first, grows cool after time and familiarity, and then, with a quiet flicker and a wisp of smoke, extinguishes. Except, after all these years, we’ve kept our flame alive.

Here, I’ll lay it out for you.

When we first really fell head over heels for the place back in the ’50s (seems like just yesterday!), it was like nowhere else we’d ever surfed. Blissfully warm waters, perfect tropical climate, everything smelling of plumeria, with turquoise waves spilling over sugar-sand beaches. Right away, like a bunch of horny teenaged boys, we were infatuated. But, also like horny teenaged boys, we were hopelessly intimidated. The waves were tall, beautiful, and way, way out of our league. But eventually we ginned up our courage, made a few awkward passes, and, slowly but surely, a relationship bloomed. Sunset, Pipeline, Rocky Point, V-Land—we were smitten, and as we grew older, our love affair matured, strengthened, and became a crucial part of who we were as surfers and as a surf culture.

But eventually our eye started wandering. In the ’50s, the North Shore was kind of all we knew. It was our first crush. But as we gained experience and confidence, suddenly we had the swagger to strut around and find potential love connections everywhere. It started innocently enough, with flirtatious glances at the girl next door, Mexico. Then there was Bali. Next we started going steady with Java. Really, it was Indonesia that showed us the ropes and turned us on to gorgeous surf zones seemingly all over the world: Europe, Japan, Africa, and even some stone-cold beautiful spots in Iceland and Canada. There were so many wonderful places out there, and none of them seemed nearly as moody and short-tempered as the North Shore.

So why, then (taking into account the unassailable logic of this North-Shore-as-love-affair analogy), with an entire globe of tantalizing lineups to fall in love with, many of which boast finer, more refined waves than the North Shore, does our gaze longingly return to the Seven Mile Miracle each and every winter? The North Shore should be yesterday’s news, pitched callously aside for whatever bright, shiny new wave zone we’ve most recently discovered. But it isn’t. Somehow, the North Shore is still the most relevant stretch of surf on the planet.
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