How To Lose Your North Shore Virginity
According to Gearoid McDaid
All photos by Ryan Janssens.
The hallowed North Shore, steeped in surfing history and raw Pacific power, lined with throngs of spectators and legendary surf houses . . . It’s such stuff as dreams are made on. Dreams that are liable to be crushed into the reef along with the under-gunned, ill-prepared, pasty-faced tourists who harbour them.
Intimidating? Just a little.
Thinking of venturing out there for the first time? Heed the wise words of Gearoid McDaid, a young shredder from an island called Ireland, fresh from his maiden stint on a very different island called Oahu.
Is it easy to surf all the different breaks and get around on the North Shore or do you need a car?
Well everywhere from Velzyland to Waimea is all pretty much within cycling distance from where I was staying, which made it super easy to check waves and try to find the best place with the least amount of people on it. Then there’s Haleiwa which was a little bit further away, we got the bus there one day to go check it out but I ended up not surfing it.
Is Pipe as crowded and gnarly as its reputation suggests?
Yeah it’s definitely as crowded, if not more crowded than I was expecting. Before I went people were always saying how you could sit out there for two hours and not catch a single wave but I thought they were exaggerating… That actually happened to me one day though! I guess for me it seems even worse coming from somewhere that never really gets very crowded.
Are the waves over there as heavy as everyone says?
I think the waves are a little bit heavier than some of the waves we have here, but I think the thing is that the waves move a lot quicker over there, which is why you need a bigger board to help you catch the waves. It was definitely a good experience to surf bigger boards over there.
Could you get away with surfing your normal shortboard?
It depends on what waves you want to surf. I surfed my normal shortboard a bit at Rockies and the smaller days at Pipe but when it got bigger I definitely needed my bigger boards. Most of the time I surfed my 6’6 on the bigger days at Pipe, it was nice just to have a bit of extra paddle power.
Being from Ireland and — no offence — pretty unambiguously not of Hawaiian origin, did you get any bad Haole vibes? You see any shout outs or slaps go down?
Nah I didn’t see too much like that happening over there. I got shouted at one day by some local fella for doing nothing, but it ended pretty quick and apparently he does it a lot so I just brushed it off and kept surfing.
If people aren’t into surfing Pipe what other spots would you recommend?
I had a couple of really fun surfs down around Gas Chambers and Rockies [above], some super fun little rip bowls. I also had a really fun surf one day at Freddies, it was small but there was pretty much no one out and there were a couple of fun sections. But to be honest I surfed Pipe mostly, even when it was 3ft and onshore it was still fun and kinda rippable. And then when it got bigger there you just had to keep an eye out to find those 20 minute windows when there’s not 100 guys in the water.
Is Hawaii really that different to any other surf location in the world?
Erm, kinda yeah. There are just so many waves so close to each other, whereas in most other places a lot of travelling is involved to move between spots.
Overall was there anything about Hawaii that you were not expecting? What most surprised you?
I wasn’t really expecting how crazy the crowds were and I wasn’t expecting all the waves to be where they were. You see pictures of the waves and you kind picture where they are in your head but they are all so close to each other it’s crazy.
A final top tip for anyone going to the North Shore for the first time?
Be prepared to do a lot of cycling and be prepared to sit in the water for a long time and not catch any waves, no matter where ya surf.
Hmmm. Sounds great. Cheers Gearoid!