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In the Hawaiian Islands, surfing is revered as the sport of kings. In the 1800s, Waikiki Beach served as a retreat for island royalty, who caught and rode mellow waves on their longboards made of koa and other hearty woods.
While winter’s south shore swells are gentle for newbies, Oahu’s North Shore conditions are elevated to epic levels that lure professional wave riders to hit a trio of beaches for the annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing competition.
Slated for Nov. 12 to Dec. 20, “Surfing’s Crown Jewel” pits watermen against one another in the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa Alii Beach Park, World Cut at Sunset Beach and Billabong Pipe Masters at the Banzai Pipeline.
From its humble 1983 beginnings, Vans stands today as a rival to the WSL World Championship. Legendary Vans champs include Sunny Garcia, the late Andy Irons, Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson.
To take a day of Vans gawking to the max, arrive early to avoid traffic, have patience while searching for parking, bring a beach chair or mat, use binoculars, apply sunscreen, grab a jacket, listen to lifeguards, carry a reusable water bottle and show aloha to the locals. For a tasty slice of paradise, stop by Ted’s Bakery at Sunset Beach for sinfully delicious haupia pie, concocted of creamy coconut pudding with a whipped topping.
For board riding of a different flavor, venture to Haleiwa for stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) with Rainbow Watersports Adventures. These pros plug into inlets, harbors and rivers where waters are calmer for first-timers. After a land session, instructors take SUP newbies up the Anahulu River, which is frequented by green sea turtles, blue herons and peacocks. The higher perspective provides a nice view of fish swimming beneath the board and the colorful coral reef that serves as their aquatic home.