The North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii is a crowded place. Being one of the best surf destinations in the world, home to a handful of world champions, and venue for a list of Championship Tour and Qualifying Series events, it's going to be packed out.
Hawaii is seasonal though, and it's the wintertime of November – January that sees the visitors pour through the Honolulu airport and head through the pineapple fields for the North Shore.
It is always packed, every day, along the entire 7-mile stretch, but there are a few ways to get a couple of waves on a day-to-day basis and beat the crowds.
Firstly, you can hit the Dawn Patrols in the hope of getting a few before the masses arrive. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but as long as you don't choose the highest-profile spots, then you do have a chance of getting a few bombs under the belt before it's packed.
Pipeline and Sunset are always busy in the dawn, and if the tide is right, then V-Land will never have a window of uncrowded conditions. Still, sometimes you can get lucky at Rocky Point, and other times you can score at waves like Laniakea or Chuns without a soul in the water.
If you're feeling really confident you can always paddle out at Sunset in the dark. Several other things could go wrong out there though, like getting mowed down by west peak in the dark, which will give you the biggest wake-up call you will ever experience.
You can also surf the Second Tier waves, and you will be guaranteed of getting a fair share and a decent wave count. Pinballs is the little wave that hugs the rocks at Waimea Bay on a small swell. It's not very good, but you can do a few turns and have some fun. Leftovers is a fun, double-up left that you will find on the way from Waimea towards Haleiwa. It's not a great wave by any means, but you can catch lots of them and have fun out there.
Backyards is the section of reef around the corner from Sunset Point, and it is a great wave that reels and spins towards Sunset proper. It does shift and swing a bit, but if you get a good one here, it can be quite a thrill. Jocko's is one of the better uncrowded waves, but it's not the crowds that get you, it's the rip, sucking you deeper and deeper into the takeoff zone.
If the North Shore is just too much, then you might need to think about Heading West. You could try a few of the outside reefs in the vicinity of Haleiwa, but they are quite well known and the only way you're going to get lucky is on the in-between size swells that don't interest the locals.
Heading on past Haleiwa and carrying on towards Kaena Point, there is Army Beach, and several secret and semi-secret spots, including a pretty good left-hand reef – point set up that is really good, with an easy paddle-outs and no one around.
If you're travelling with any surf of decent budget and happen to be staying at the Turtle Bay Resort, then you have some waves right in front of you that are never going to get crowded but are also never going to get very good.
The primary wave is called Pool Bars, a wave that forever backs off. Still, if you know your conditions, there is a rockpile on the east side of the resort with lefts breaking around the corner, and there is a right-hand point-break that is almost accessible by foot but in a private zone, run by some people who don't really like visitors. Over to you.
Turtle Bay Resort
57-091 Kamehameha Highway
Kahuku, HI 96731
Main: (866) 475-2569