Vans Triple Crown of Surfing

Break Breakdown: Inside Haleiwa's Heavy Waves

Vans Triple Crown Editors

Legend of Haleiwa
Former CT competitors Ross Williams and Pancho Sullivan on Haleiwa and the Hawaiian rite of passage.

Best known as the gateway to the Seven-Mile Miracle, Oahu's famed North Shore, Haleiwa town hosts the first stop of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the Hawaiian Pro. The event runs at Ali'i Beach Park on the west side of the Haleiwa Boat Harbor, where Haleiwa's tricky reef is capable of delivering hollow rights, rippable sections and powerful closeouts.

Haleiwa is a true test of a professional surfer's ability to handle a multitude of conditions, all at the same break. From 2-to-4 feet, Haleiwa is a rippable peak, with most surfers favoring the longer rights. Its racy walls allow for high-performance surfing at its best. At 4-to-6 feet, the right can get hollow and heavy and competitors will sit deep and look for the longest barrels. Over 6 feet, the waves transform into powerful, punishing walls of water that race down the reef before closing out over the extremely shallow Toilet Bowl section. The shallow slab of reef is responsible for critical and dangerous end-of-wave maneuvers, as well the occasional broken board.

Haleiwa Hardships
Cringe-worthy wipeouts from the 2014 event at Alii Beach.

"You've got to have everything down pat to be right," said two-time Triple Crown champ Gary Elkerton (AUS), who also competed in last year's Heritage Series at Pipe last year. "It's got so much rip pulling you out to sea and once you get past the takeoff spot the only way back in is to get annihilated back to shore and start again."

Best on a west swell, knowledge of the lineup is key at Haleiwa. As the surf increases in size, a strong rip develops across the lineup and can pull surfers out of position and right into the impact zone of an oncoming set. Most often, the winner at Haleiwa is the surfer who can handle themselves in a variety of conditions and have the stamina to continually fight the rip, heat after heat.

"When you're in the lineup watching sets come from Avalanche and reforming at Haleiwa, you've got to really take your mind and put it in your pocket when it's like that," said Elkerton. "Haleiwa is a serious wave when it's on and it's big and west. Those are the days when a lot of guys go to Sunset and Pipe. Very few would challenge Haleiwa. Rabbit took me down there a few times and it scared the bejesus out of me! It's a wave to be reckoned with."

Haleiwa Highlights
Finals Day at the 2014 event showcased all Alii Beach has to offer, from progression to power surfing.

Much like the raging ocean currents that sweep across Sunset Point, Haleiwa is famous for a strong rip that keeps surfers paddling fervently just to stay in position for the waves. With big open faces and a fast bowling section, Haleiwa also offers the potential for surfers to showcase the most progressive above-the-lip aerial surfing.

Haleiwa is undoubtedly the genesis of surfing's greats on the North Shore. With its playful shorebreak and annual menehune contest, almost every homegrown Hawaii surfer can trace their involvement in the sport to a humble beginning at Ali‘i Beach. This wave is a right of passage and the perfect training ground for charging the North Shore's heavy, intimidating and extra-large surf. Haleiwa can hold its own when the surf gets huge and this big-wave seasoning is a home-court advantage for local surfers looking to post a big result and gain precious momentum going into the Vans World Cup and the Billabong Pipe Masters.