Aaron Gold, a professional surfer and Hawaii resident, clowns it up in the tube at Off the Wall on Oahu's North Shore. // © 2014 Sebastian Photographs
Feature image (above): Gold drops in at the Bonzai Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore. // © 2014 Mark Berkowitz
When big wave surfer Aaron Gold, a well-known Hawaii pro who lives on the North Shore of Oahu, plans a relaxing vacation during which he’ll do a little “for-fun” surfing, Tahiti is usually the first choice on his list.
“I really enjoy going to Tahiti because of the people there,” said Gold. “It obviously has really good waves, and you can get a bungalow on the water that’s very relaxing to get away from it all. But, the people really make the trip.”
Gold has a number of friends in Tahiti, and he often stays with them when he travels to the islands. But he also likes to spend a little time at the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa when he can.
“It’s got a really nice lounge and pool, and you just walk from there right out to your bungalows,” Gold said of the property. “If there is a swell, there are a couple breaks right outside, [and] Moorea just has a different vibe. It’s a little slower than the main island.”
One of the Moorea breaks Gold likes to surf is called Ha‘apiti, a wave he described as an advanced left-hander that breaks one foot to 20 feet and offers every possible maneuver. The other is a right-breaking wave for experts called Te Mae.
“That one reels along a sharp reef and will grow larger as it bends down the reef, offering long technical barrel rides and fast punchy turns,” said Gold.
A married father of two small children, Gold said Tahiti is also a great destination for kids, but he added that the Tavarua Island Resort in Fiji — one of the most in-demand surf properties on the planet — is another destination he enjoys. A globally renowned surf break, the main beach bar faces out over restaurants.
“There’s also an infinity pool right next to the outdoor beach bar,” said Gold. “It’s just nuts.”
Agents can book commissionable packages to Tavarua Island Resort with Waterways, an international surf vacation company started by Sean Murphy. The property offers easy access to Fiji’s most famous wave, Cloudbreak.
“At high tide with chest-high surf, Cloudbreak can be a really friendly break,” said Murphy. “The same spot with a 10-foot face at low tide, with an 18-second interval swell, is going to be black diamond and very, very challenging.”
Gold recently earned an invitation to join some of the biggest names in pro surfing at one of the sport’s toughest events, the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau competition at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu.
Held only when a wintertime swell is consistently producing wave faces of at least 30 feet, the contest honors Eddie Aikau, a legendary Hawaiian surfer, all-around waterman and Waimea Bay lifeguard.
“I was born and raised here in Hawaii, so for me, it’s the highest honor I can imagine,” Gold said of the event. “Just being invited is huge. Winning it would really be a bonus.”
Fellow Hawaii-born and professional big wave surfer, Mark Healey, who competed in the last “Eddie” competition held in 2009, said the experience was one of the most important moments of his career.
“It’s like the Masters in golf, except with a way better back story and much more soul,” said Healey. “And it’s a lot more dangerous.”
Many people wonder what motivates professional surfers to take on massive waves like those in the Quiksilver competition.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got, what color your skin is or who you know: Waves like that treat everybody the same,” said Healey. “If there’s ever been an even playing field to test yourself both mentally and physically, I’d say it’s paddling into giant waves.”