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North Shore Surfing

There are thousands of reasons why people flock to Maui every year. Some desire a tropical escape, while others want to glimpse the annual North Pacific humpback whale migration. Still, others seek out Maui in particular for another stunning reason, the region's spectacular waves.

North Shore surfing is popular amongst both novices and professionals. In fact, the small town of Paia on Maui's northern shore has been named among the "World's Best Surf Towns" by National Geographic. It's earned such a reputation due to the natural conditions that make for spectacular surfing, a population that welcomes outsiders, and it's laid-back, artistic atmosphere.

Once a bustling sugar cane town, Paia is now lined with art galleries, colorful boutiques and traditional island restaurants. Its lack of mega resorts makes it even more appealing as it's considered one of the last remnants of authentic Hawaii. But for surfers (and windsurfers), the real fun is at neighboring Paia Bay and Ho'okipa Beach.

Here, the winds and reefs are what have made North Shore surfing so desirable. During the summer, swells are mild and ideal for beginners, while the winter offers some of the state's hardiest swells, beckoning professional surfers from around the world. Every December, a surf challenge is held just a few miles away at Jaws break. Jaws is the world's largest and arguably most notorious big-wave break, generating waves as high as 60 feet.

Other favorite North Shore surfing locations include:

  • Ali'i Beach Park. Another popular location for surfing contests, Alil'i Beach offers some of the area's best and most challenging surfing waves. However, there's also an area close to shore that provides a good spot for novices.
  • Pua'ena Point. This is a North-Shore-must for those just getting into surfing. With the bay’s gentle rolls perfect for the beginner, there is no wonder it is home to several top tier surfing schools.
  • Waimea Bay Beach Park. This is arguably the most historic and recognizable of the North Shore surfing breaks. However, conditions can go either way with offshore waves sometimes reaching 30 feet, while other times barely more than a gentle foot. When the big waves do roll in, be prepared for big surfing crowds, full of both participants and spectators.

It's easy to see why surfing has become such a popular sport amongst locals and tourists. Come any time of year and you'll be able to surf at many of Maui's famed beaches. Novice or pro, you can find a wave to catch.


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