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Nothing symbolizes Hawaii better than its beautiful beaches and majestic waves. But why are the waves so big in Hawaii? No, it’s not because of a tsunami or a tidal wave. In fact, there isn’t even a Hawaiian word for a tidal wave.
Contrary to popular belief, the big waves at Waimea Bay on Oahu are not caused by the moon. There is also no correlation between how big or small the waves are and whether or not there’s a full moon or new moon. The energy that creates these monster swells comes from deep within the Earth.
Hawaii is a volcanic island chain, and this volcanic activity gives Hawaii a variety of extremes, from some of the world’s tallest sea cliffs to the world’s most active volcano.
When it comes to surfing, all that magma moving around underneath the Earth’s crust creates an energy that moves water in the form of waves.
The more magma, the bigger the waves.
One final note: Those monster swells in Hawaii are not nearly as dangerous as tidal waves because they don’t travel very fast, usually between 10-15 miles per hour. So you can hang ten in relative safety. They’re still dangerous, though, especially if they grow to over 30 feet tall.
Why do waves in Hawaii seem to come from all directions?
Why is there a calm day? And what is a swell, anyway?
Waves in Hawaii come from all directions because of the island’s isolated location.
The ocean swells that hit our shores are not affected by other landmasses. Waves travel thousands of miles across open water with only minor changes in height and direction until they reach shallow water at the reefs.
This is when swells start to build height, refract and combine with other waves making surf more giant waves.
How big are the waves in Hawaii on average?
The waves are massive on average in Hawaii, but that doesn’t mean they are totally unpredictable. If you want to find out about the size of the waves throughout any given season, you can check online.
There are websites where surfers post their videos and photos with the exact date, time, and location they took them at. You can also check with your local surf shop.
Many of them keep up-to-date information on the size and consistency of the waves in different surfing areas throughout Hawaii and even Oahu.
If you want to try this extreme sport in smaller waves, look for a break in a reefy area called a beach break. If you are by yourself, don’t paddle out if there is a crowd because it’s too hard to judge where to sit.
Be respectful of local surfers and know your limits. Surf Watch is a volunteer group that helps with rescues by patrolling beaches for swimmers in distress.
What are the most giant waves ever surfed?
There are many different records of who holds the record for most significant wave surfed. Still, one thing is sure Garrett McNamara was definitely the man who revolutionized big wave surfing.
His record of riding a 100-foot wave at Praia do Norte in Nazaré, Portugal, is definitely one for the history books. Not only was this massive wave ridden, but Laird also towed in with his ski, which proved that big waves can be conquered without using a board or flippers.
For more information on the most giant waves ever surfed, check out this article, but be warned it’s pretty intense stuff.
Title: Big Wave Surfing FAQ’s
What are Hawaii’s most giant waves?
The most giant wave ever recorded in Hawaii was at Jaws (known locally as Peahi) on Maui. On January 7th, 2000, Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara broke his own world record by riding a wave that was 78 feet high. Many surfers believe that Jaws produces the most giant waves annually, although it isn’t always consistent.
What makes Hawaii’s waves so big?
The Hawaiian Islands are located in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, which is one of Earth’s largest oceans, and because of this, there is very little wave interference. Hawaii is also surrounded by deep water, which amplifies the size of waves that hit its shoreline.
How do swells get so big?
Swells are generated in the open ocean by solid storms near the equator. They can be hundreds or even thousands of miles long, but they lose energy as they move away from the storm system. When they reach Hawaii, these swells are generally between 10 and 50 feet high, depending on how long it took them to travel across the ocean.
What kinds of waves do you find in Hawaii?
There are three main types of swell.
- A large swell that is generated by intense storms in the open ocean that will produce waves over 10 feet high;
- A medium-wave motion, which is caused by passing weather conditions which can make waves between 6 and 10 feet;
- And a slight wave motion which is nothing more than the regular waves you would find on an average day. These swells are usually less than 6 feet.
When do the waves get perfect in Hawaii?
The winter months tend to be the best for waves on all of the Hawaiian Islands.
Presumably, this is because they are further away from the storms that generate the swells, so there is less interference.
Also, Hawaii has an interesting swell pattern primarily affecting Oahu and Maui.
After a storm in the open ocean, a swell will hit Oahu first before hitting Maui and Molokai in a few days. They are on either side of The Big Island, which gets the brunt of the storm’s energy.
During this time, South Shore waves at Sunset Beach can reach 20 feet or more, while North Shore waves at Waimea Bay can reach 40 feet or more.
Can you surf in Hawaii during the winter?
To best answer this question, we have to separate the seasons into two parts: The summer months of May-August and the winter months of November-April.
The summer season tends to be better for the smaller swells, while the winter months are better for the more giant waves. In addition, some of Hawaii’s best surfing spots have several seasonal closures that prevent them from being open during certain times of the year.
What can you expect from Oahu?
3 beaches tend to be popular with experienced surfers. These are Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline, and Off the Wall.
Waimea Bay tends to be most popular during the winter season because of its 40 foot plus waves, while Banzai is better for its 20+ foot swells during the summer months.
Off the Wall and Big Island (known as Backyards) are popular with experienced surfers because of quality waves and limited crowds.
What can you expect from Maui?
Maui is home to several great surfing locations, including Hookipa Beach Park, Honolua Bay, Spreckelsville, and The Bay at Haiku.
Hookipa Beach Park is considered one of the best spots globally for windsurfing, while Honolua Bay is better known for its big waves.
In addition, Spreckelsville and Haiku are also popular during both the summer and winter months because they get several different swells throughout the year.
What can you expect on The Big Island?
Kona Coast is home to some of the most giant waves in all of Hawaii.
The season here generally starts around November and continues until about March, but it is possible to find sound waves between May and August.
Peahi (also known as Jaws) is one of the most popular surfing spots globally, while other prominent wave locations include The Bluffs and Kahalu’u Bay.
What can you expect from Kauai?
Kauai is best known for Hanalei Bay which has two sections a rock reef that produces fast waves when there are South swells and a sandbar that makes waves during North/West swells.
Kauai is also home to other great surfing spots such as Tunnels (a big hollow wave located near Princeville) and the Poipu area (near the Grand Hyatt hotel).
What about Molokai?
Molokai is somewhat of a well-kept secret. There are several swimming pools where the waves come in every day, but you have to know when these spots are open because they are closed for most of the summer season.
Two good examples are Polo Beach and Halawa Bay.