Surfing on Oahu: The Surfer’s Guide to The Gathering Place

Surfing Oahu

Oahu has had the nickname “the gathering place” for a long time. It’s Hawaii’s third-largest island and it’s the one where the majority of people live and visit. This island attracts people for a lot of reasons, one of which is surfing. Oahu has excellent waves for all surfing experience levels, plenty of places to learn surfing, and generally hot weather. In this guide, we’ll share all the essential information you need to know before you go surfing in Oahu. 

Where to Surf

Honolulu (The Town)

Honolulu and its immediate surroundings are affectionately known as “the town.” Overall, surfing on the South shore is essentially a good idea all year round. The waves are always there and mild enough for beginners who are starting out. 


Surfing in Waikiki is definitely one of the busier spots. You don’t find as many locals here simply because they don’t want to line up with the tourists for their chance at the waves. Still, if you’re visiting Oahu, it’s a right of passage that you have to surf in Waikiki. You’ll have lots of breaks to choose from, but our favorite is known as Canoes and is off of Waikiki Beach between the Wizard Stones and the Duke Statute. Canoes is a soft rolling break that allows you to go left, right, or straight, making it easy to navigate. 

The North Shore (The Seven Mile Miracle)

By far, the most popular place to surf in Oahu is the North Shore. The North Shore is known as “The Seven Mile Miracle” because this one seven-mile stretch has dozens of surfing breaks. This is definitely where the advanced surfers go, but that doesn’t mean beginners can’t surf here too! 

Beginners can try Puaena Point for wave breaks and reforms that create various cross-sections. You can stay on the inside selections and get your bearings before moving onto other breaks in Oahu. 

The most popular spots on the North Shore for advanced surfers are Pipeline, Backdoor, and Sunset. You might just spot a handful of professional surfers out here with you. Fair warning, these waves are rough, so these spots aren’t for beginners. 

Surfing in Oahu

When to Surf

The good news is that basically any time of the year that you come out to Oahu, you’ll be able to find good surfing conditions. The only difference is which part of the island will have good conditions. November to March is the prime surfing season for Oahu’s North Shore. On the other hand, April to October is the South Shore’s time, with stronger south swells. 

Surfer on the waves

Surfing Schools & Lessons

As surfing is such a popular attraction in Oahu, you can find surfing schools and lessons just about anywhere you go. Some of the more popular schools are:

Surfing lessons on the beach

Surfing Etiquette & Rules

Before you go surfing in Oahu, here are some general tips you should always keep in mind:

  • If no one is in the water, you probably shouldn’t go either: Oahu is a large island full of committed surfers who love to go out in the water at all times of the day. So, that generally means if there isn’t a handful of surfers out in the water, it’s for a reason. If you don’t see anyone out there, don’t be the first one to go. 
  • The waves are strong: Hawaii is a world-renown for its waves for a reason. The waves are strong and the swells hit strongly. Even getting out into the water can be challenging. The winds make paddling to the waves challenging at times. Have an understanding of the swells, wind direction, and the break you’re about to surf before going out into the water. 
  • Reef-friendly sunscreen is mandatory: As of 2021, Hawaii became the first state to ban toxic sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Both of these ingredients are thought to contribute to coral bleaching. 
  • Being kind is the surfer way: Surfers etiquette is simple: be kind to others. If there’s a line, don’t jump it to get to a wave first. And if you see someone potentially in danger, always try to help. 
Surfboard on the beach

Now you should be all set to conquer some waves in any part of Oahu! And, when you’re not surfing, check out these other activities you can do in Oahu. 

travel magazine logo