Every island has a north shore, but the “North Shore” as a place name can only be on Oahu, and there you will find Haleiwa, which is the undisputed world surfing capitol—although it is not clear who bestows such a title.
Four surfing beaches on the professional world surfing tour are along the coast extending several miles east of Haleiwa: Haleiwa Ali’i, a lesser-known venue, is offshore the town; a couple miles down Kamehameha Highway is Waimea Bay (home to the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational); next up is Pipeline (or Banzai Pipeline, or just plain Pipe), right next to Ehukai Beach Park; and completing the run is Sunset Beach, home to huge wedges close to an easy-access big beach that inspired L.A. producer Dave Velzy to make those early 1960s surfer-Joe movies that in turn inspired the Beach Boys and a whole generation.
Haleiwa Town is an assemblage of wood-frame buildings, some quaint and some unremarkable, strung out along about a mile of a rural two-lane blacktop. You have to pick a few stopping points and poke around to find the eccentricities of the surfing culture that give the town its undeniable allure. With a railway that extended back to Honolulu (which since has been wiped out by the sea), Haleiwa began as a sugar-growing town, with tourism on the fringes. Agriculture receded, but an endless supply of waves remained, becoming the town’s new economic product.