So, you, a non-charger, are on the North Shore during the December through March-ish window of big swells and bigger egos crashing into the Seven Mile Miracle. Maybe you're a visiting journalist. Maybe a PR rep for a surf brand. Maybe you work for the WSL. Or maybe you're simply a run-of-the-mill tourist, just off the jet, eager to see the best surfers on the planet tackle some of the heaviest waves on the planet, right up close and personal.
You, however, not one of the best surfers on the planet, will not be tackling those heaviest waves on the planet. Noooooooooo sir. Instead, you'll be tackling the beer section at Foodland, and dragging a case of Coors Light to the sand to watch those best surfers.
Yet oh, how the mood to surf will strike and strike hard. It's impossible for it not to. The weather is perfect, the water is warm, there's a real-life surf video going on right in front of your eyes. The stoke will be coursing through your veins, animating your body on its own, propelling you off the sand and to the nearest surfboard.
But Pipe is out of the question at 8-10 feet. Log Cabins is spitting bits of broken boards and bodies out of the tube. Sunset looks manageable, maybe, but it's way, way bigger than it looks, and, gosh, that's a really long paddle, and is that Sunny Garcia out there? Ken Bradshaw too? All three Gudangs? No chance of a wave there.
At times like these, it's time to embrace the less terrifying waves of the North Shore. The waves mortals stand a chance of surfing successfully, with at least a shred of dignity. Though, there's not a whole lot of dignity when surfing the scraps of the North Shore along with the rest of the plebes.
This is the non-charger's Triple Crown. Three waves of such average to non-threatening power, with such borderline-quality shape, such ease of access and lack of surly crowd, the most lily-livered and knock-kneed surfer on Oahu can thrive. Kind of.
First, Freddyland. The wave that takes all comers. A soft-ish mostly left that breaks across the channel from V-land. It offers a whitewater takeoff into a brief racy section before it backs off into deep water. The left is longer and better than the right, with both directions frustratingly weak. But! It doesn't seem to matter how big it gets on the rest of the North Shore, Freddyland is never intimidating! Paddle out, bang epoxy rails with pasty ad execs from Orange County who surf three times per year, and juice that wave count. This is just the warmup, the first leg of the Triple Crown of Mediocrity.
Next up, Pool Bars, at Turtle Bay. The wonkiest, shiftiest, backoffingest, wave on earth, Pool Bars is a righthand reef/point warbling off the rocks next to the Turtle Bay resort. Grab a mai tai, watch the weird-ass waves stumbling in over the ill-formed reef, grab a second mai tai, convince yourself you see a couple good ones, and head out there. On big swells, something close to a legit barrel section throws at takeoff, but most of the time, this is a frustrating wave that sets up a long wall, then herks and jerks down the line, with steep sections arising just as you've lost all your speed after bogging through a flat spot. Pro surfer hecklers, lookie-loos from Nebraska, and better surfers relaxing after surfing the North Shore's real waves are your audience, watching from mere yards away, so now's your time to shine. Maybe a third mai tai, actually (Note, the following vid is of the very, very, oh my god it’s insane, best day in the history of Pool Bars).
Once you've warmed up with two of the most user-friendly waves on the North Shore, you’re ready to inch ever so slightly closer to the real action. Pipeline-adjacent Pupukea is your destination for the third and final non-charging Triple Crown challenge. Rarely top-to-bottom, but still grunty at times, Pupukea is a long-ish right that will resemble an all-time day at your local beachie, if your local beachie had been taken over by super grom girl surfers. Those teenage girls will, however, backpaddle, out paddle, out surf, and out shit-talk your ass from the peak to the sand. Survive them, and you'll be dealing with good surfing middle-aged dudes on tri-fin longboards who will never, no matter what, hear your sad little cries of "Got it!" once you've maneuvered your way to the peak. But this could be a hero wave, offering the occasional shocking blue tube section, right over reef patches you can see are several feet below the surface, granting you just enough courage to tuck into a micro barrel, just in time to hear an enraged screaming behind you as you realize you just burned one of Sunset Elementary's finest young rippers, and she's letting you, and all her friends know.
That’s also your cue to head back to Foodland to replenish that Coors Light supply, because you’ve done it. You’ve surfed the North Shore. Technically.