How To Survive the North Shore

Rainos Hayes has been surviving (and shredding) the North Shore for decades. Photo: Knudsen/Freesurf

While board designs and surf styles may change over the years, the North Shore will always remain surfing's greatest crucible. As a place that prides itself on its unyielding punishment, it's a wonder at all that we ever return. But come every November, the surf world returns with swollen boardbags and dreams of Pipe barrels. Thankfully this year we've got some help. We spoke with Rainos Hayes, who, after 32 years of experience on the North Shore, has been so kind to impart some survival tips on us. Heed his words.

Slow It Down: At a basic level, when you're on the North Shore, it's important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Be knowledgeable about the size and consistency of the surf. Take note of landmarks on the beach, know what's happening with the currents--just be aware of the general situation. As a rule, that'll help you avoid disaster.

Position Yourself Properly: The best waves tend to break in similar places most days. Find out where that is and put yourself there. You don't want to scurry around the lineup like a cockroach. You want to position yourself so that you're in a good place to get a good wave. The last thing you want is to find yourself too far on the inside or in someone's way. That's a good way to get run over, caught inside, or punched out.

Be Committed When You Paddle: Make up your mind early when you're paddling for a wave. This let's others know exactly what move you're making. It gets really congested in the lineups, so it's super important to commit to your waves. If you're pulling back and second-guessing yourself, other people in the lineup will start second guessing your commitment and ability as well.

Be as Tuned in as Possible: Follow your own gut feeling, not what other people tell you. There are lots of people out here, and they don't always know what's best for you. Surf places that are suited for your ability or wait till conditions become more user-friendly. Equipment is really important in Hawaii. A bigger board can make a huge difference out here. You don't want to be paddling out to 10-foot windy Sunset on your 6'0" with a comp leash. If you get in over your head, that's all you are is in over your head. It's the North Shore and it's the proving grounds. Keep in mind that there are a lot of places to test yourself out here, just do it safely.