In Winter, We Fly North

Unlike other migratory birds that fly south for the winter, we in Hawaii follow a different internal compass. We rely on the ocean to guide us. When the south swells die down and the north swells start to wake up we know the season is changing.

Whether you’re in Honolulu town going north shore country, or Lihue town going Hanalei, or Kihei going to Honolua, the town to country migration north in the fall and winter is as familiar to us as leaves changing colors or days growing shorter are to others. 

As the summer months that brought south swells to surf breaks like Ala Moana Bowls, Queens, and Threes change into fall, we start to set our minds on the upcoming winter in Hawai’i, where waves like Haleiwa, Sunset, and Rocky point awaken. Already we’re seeing early season swells and the salty air churned up from the pounding waves begins indicates the cruisy summer surf is about to crank up to something a bit more serious and we need to be ready physically and mentally. 


For the competitive surfer, getting prepared may entail a strict workout regimen with a coach, breath hold training in a pool, and working with a shaper on a new quiver of surfboards. For the everyday surfer, it may be simply surfing as much as possible, knowing your limits, and ordering a couple step-up boards and other hardgoods.

On the north shore of Oahu, each surf spot is so unique and picks up each swell differently. Not all waves on the north shore are of dire consequence. Even on the days when the buoys are 8-10 ft, you can likely find a wave to suit your comfort level. Whatever your level of surfing may be, preparation for those northwest swells should not be ignored. Having your physical fitness and equipment in order, could mean the difference between a fun session and a dangerous one, so be sure to know your limits and when in doubt, don’t go out. 


Mental preparation is also crucial and at times can be more important than preparing physically. Knowing what the ocean is doing and how different surf spots pick up different swells takes time. The north shores can be much less predictable than the south shores and each spot breaks differently. Taking it slowly and getting familiar with how each spot breaks is always a good idea. 

Having the right equipment is also crucial to a successful trip to your favorite west/northwest facing surf spot. Things like a thicker leash, bigger board, the right fins, and maybe even a wetsuit for those long winter sessions can dramatically affect your winter surf experience. If you’re a seasoned vet to a Hawaii winter, you’re likely already dialed in and may just need to update your quiver and other essentials. If you’re not as experienced, there are a few ways to proceed with caution. When it comes to board equipment, finding a board shaper that can help you find that magic surfboard and tailor it to your level of surf ability is highly recommended. Most shapers like T&C’s Glenn Pang, Makani McDonald and Tommy Tanaka are eager to help surfers get the right board under their feet. 

When it comes to your other surf essentials, your local T&C surf shop has everything you’ll need from wax to sunscreen and everything in between. The right fins, the right leash, the right board tailored for your body and style can make all the difference. Stop by the surf shop or board factory or give us a call with any questions.

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