Sandy Beach on the southeast tip of Oahu is arguably one of the world’s most unique waveriding locations. On any given day a group of committed individuals gather together to ride waves on the most diverse collection of tools used anywhere.
Visit Sandy during a south swell and you’ll find kids young and old expertly surfing the vicious shorebreak using bodyboards, soft-top surfboards, fiberglass surfboards, McDonald’s food trays, handmade wooden hand planers, swim paddles, and bodysurfing with swim fins and without.
This is the beach that President Obama famously bodysurfed during his first presidential campaign. When he stuck out his arm in the classic bodysurfin position, surfers all over the world recognized him as the real deal. Our President knows how to bodysurf. And whether it is 2 feet or 10 feet, the waves at Sandy are not easy. You have to want to be there.
South swells are wedged together to pound this 400-yard long beach with terrifying precision in about one foot of water. A local told me, “It doesn’t matter if it just 2 feet. You are guaranteed to get a barrel.” The waves are round and hollow.
The water at Sandy is crystal clear and warm which makes it an inviting place to get wet. But don’t be mistaken by the tranquil looking sea. Just getting in and out of the shorebreak requires negotiating the current, the shorepound and the steep beach.
Turn your back on the waves at Sandy and you’ll be sorry. The lifeguards continually monitor the crowd from two portable towers. They announce on loudspeakers, “Please be careful, the surf is up today. There is no other location in the U.S. where more people have their necks broken. So be cautious and careful.”
On our first visit there, a new south swell was building. With a strong tidal push in the middle of the afternoon, we could feel and see the surf increasing. Since the waves break onshore it was difficult to judge their height.
While out bodysurfing I observed one surfer scratch into a wave. Just before the lip destroyed him, I caught a glimpse of him at the very bottom. The wave was twice his height or about 11-12.’ But estimating the size of shorebreak is difficult. Let’s just say the waves were poundful.
On the east side of the beach are two reefs. Both offer up slabby gnarly A-frames, with the lefts beating out the rights. Waves on the inside reef wedge up and alllowed a couple of expert surfers to snag a few choice barrels. One surfer backdoored the rights all afternoon scoring deep barrels. Another surfed the left, avoiding a large rock on the inside and connecting to the shorebreak where he was either decimated or barreled or both.
The most impressive performers were the surfers riding bodyboards. They had no fins or leashes and took off on the gnarliest set waves, stood up and ripped, hitting the lip, carving 360s and getting deep barrels.
Sandy is popular, crowded, sunny and perfect. And best of all, after you get tired of being pounded into the sand there is a Wahoo’s Fish Taco Truck standing by to provide up lots of bowls, burritos and tacos to help you get over the pain.
My sons and I surfed a lot of spots on Oahu. We had the most fun at Sandy’s.