Photo: WSL/Ed Sloane
Spot Check: Haleiwa
Hawaiian Pro

Spot Check: Haleiwa

Nov 09, 2019

By Cassady Ozimec / Surfline

As both the first stop on the Vans Triple Crown and the most rippable of the three venues, Haleiwa holds a special place in surfing lore. Not only does the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa mark the unofficial start of the North Shore’s winter season, but it sets the stage for the performance battle that is the Vans Triple Crown. A solid showing here can help carry momentum heading into the Vans World Cup at Sunset — and the best chances at being seeded into the main event at the Billabong Pipeline Masters. And over the years, there have been many high-performance benchmarks. From Dane’s turn-heard-round-the-world in 2012 to Griffin’s air rote in 2016 to power performances by the likes of Andy Irons and Sunny Garcia, come early November, all eyes set squarely on Haleiwa.

To get an insider’s look at what makes the wave so unique, Surfline dialed up Haleiwa fixture and perennial standout Joel Centeio for more.

Joel Centeio. Photo: WSL/Laurent Masurel

Best Conditions

Joel Centeio: “For Haleiwa, the ultimate swell direction is west-northwest. What happens when you have a west-northwest swell is that the waves come from way deep — what we call the bath house — and offer up super long, rippable rides with the odd barrel section. When it’s on, it’s a really long, high-performance big wave.”

Watch Live: Haleiwa Cam

Haleiwa Lineup. Photo: Tony Heff

Crowd factor

“For the most part, the vibes are always good out there. There’s a pretty solid local crew, but most everyone out there tends to show good etiquette and share waves. It really depends on the time of the year. Obviously at this time of year (Ed: early November) we’ve got the Triple Crown coming up so you have a lot of the top pros out practicing for the Hawaiian Pro which means it’s a bit more competitive. On the other hand, late season can see some relatively uncrowded days out at Haleiwa with a pretty mellow local crew out trading waves.”

Photo: Jeremiah Klein

Local legends

“I feel like lately a lot of guys have been catching onto Haleiwa and how fun and rippable it is, but for the most part you’ve got a lot of the older guys like myself, Sean Moody, Kekoa Bacalso, Fred Patacchia, Jason Shibata. On any given day when it’s good, you’ll see most of those guys out there holding it down.”

READ MORE: A Brief History of the Vans Triple Crown

What board(s) to ride?

“It really depends on how big it is. Haleiwa is one of those waves where you can actually ride a board on the smaller size because the wave is easier to get into compared to a place like Sunset where you need a bigger board to paddle into waves. I’m usually on a small step-up, about two inches bigger than my standard shortboard. Round pins work great for me. Something that’s drive-y and that works good on rail — that’s my go-to type of board for out there.”

Kelly Slater. Photo: Cestari / WSL

Best spot for an after-surf coffee/snack?

“If it’s morning, I’d recommend Haleiwa Cafe. They do great breakfast and you can get a good coffee there too. If it’s later in the evening, I recommend Haleiwa Joe’s. It’s right around the corner there so you can get a couple waves, grab a mai tai and nice piece of fish — you can’t beat that. Plus they’ve got the great sunset view there too.”

Where to replace a broken board on a minute’s notice?

“You’re going to go to Surf N Sea, which is in the heart of Haleiwa town, right across the bridge there. They have all types of rentals, hardgoods, boardshorts, lycras, wetsuits — whatever you need, they have it. Surf N Sea is the spot.”

Flat day activities?

“Right there you have the harbor at Haleiwa, so you can go out with Island View to swim with sharks without a cage — that’s a good one. You can rent a paddle board from Uncle Brian Suratt’s surf school and go for a paddle up the river, which is always beautiful. Fishing is another one for flat days. But really, whatever you find to do will be fun. It’s Hawaii, it’s hard not to have a good time.”

Photo: Heff/WSL

Are there any ‘QS/‘CT darkhorses we should watch out for at Haleiwa?

“I don’t know if most people have heard a lot about Barron Mamiya, but he’s been blowing upon the North Shore the last couple of winters. Mainly at Pipeline, but he could do well at Haleiwa this year too. He’s got a really good shot at qualifying and he’s been looking super sharp out in the water over the last couple of swells. Zeke Lau, Billy Kemper, a few of the younger guys like Eli Hanneman — there’s always a few local boys who do well on the bigger boards out at Haleiwa that can be threats during the contest. Plenty of talent around!”

Pro Tips

“Haleiwa is a pretty user friendly wave, but know your limits out there. It can be a good place for younger surfers to ride some whitewash on the inside, but it’s easy to get sucked out the back and get into a pretty tricky situation in the heavier waves, so be aware of what’s happening around you. Another tip I’ve got is to just never stop paddling toward Kaena Point/Avalanche side because the current at Haleiwa comes sweeping out of the trench at Avalanche and is one of the strongest currents you’ll find anywhere. So, 1) know your limits, and 2) never stops paddling [laughs]. That, and just is the case when traveling anywhere, always show respect to the locals.”