Waimea Bay: Surfin’ U.S.A.

The shorebreak at Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore is killer. Surfers put on their big boy board shorts to ride waves memorialzied by that happy-go-lucky Beach Boys song. Specators lounge of the wide rim of sand at the shore, cooling off in the freshwater pool formed where Waimea Stream meets a sand bar.

But the real action at Waimea is the Quiksilver In Memory Aikau Big Wave Invitational, held each year—but only when wave faces are 20 feet or larger. Godzilla waves of 50-plus feet have challenged, but not defeated, the pros, who come from around the world at the drop of the hat when surf’s up. The  parking lot get crammed for the Eddie. The best parking tip: drive around the bay to the top and park at the blocky St .Peter and Paul Catholic Church. Then walk a path down along the guardrail and take a seat on the embankment to watch the spectacle.

Eddie Aikau is on the short list of all time Hawaiian surfing legends. In 1978, at age 32, he was a crew member on the Hokulea (replica of ancient hawiian sailing canoe) that was swamped in heavy seas on its maiden voyage. Eddie paddled off into the darkness on his surfboard to try to seek help on the island of Lanai, and was never seen again.