Monday, June 27, 2011

Waimea Bay: Surfin' USA

Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu has been a premier venue for top surfers since the Beach Boys gave a shout out in the 1960s. Each year—if the conditions are right—the best big-wave surfers in the world test their mettle on waves 30-feet or higher at the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau competition (known as "The Eddie"). Waimea is also on the pro-surfing tour, among the North Shore's big four, along with Haleiwa, Pipeline, and Sunset.

The shore break at the bay also hosts surfing competitions. The popularity of Waimea leads many visitors to believe that it's safe to surf. Not so. The shore break can be lethal, and only yesterday a 60-year-old woman was is critical condition after a near drowning. Waves breaking at the shore are particularly dangerous for bodysurfers, who suffer neck injuries.

Always ask a lifeguard about water safety before getting in. Conditions vary each day. One sure way to spot a dangerous shore break (aside from sheer size) is to look for sand being drawn up the face of the wave before it breaks. The sand is an indication of shallow water, and all of it comes crashing down, along with your body and tons of water.