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Ala Moana


Long, fast, left-breaking wave in Honolulu, Hawaii, located next to the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor; "the agony and the ecstasy of the South Shore," as described by Surfing magazine; a high-performance haven for local surfers, nearly as famous for its mashing crowds as for its tubing Bowl section.

While Ala Moana breaks from two to 10 feet and is ridable almost daily from midspring to midfall, it rarely gets over eight feet, and hits peak form just a few times each season. The dependable northeast tradewinds blow offshore at Ala Moana, so that the afternoon surf is often better groomed than the morning surf.

Ala Moana (Hawaiian for "Ocean Street") was dynamite-blasted into existence when the Ala Wai Harbor entrance was rerouted from nearby Kewalo Basin in 1952, producing a deep-water channel for waves to spill into. Still, most surfers thought the new break was too fast to ride. Not until the early '60s did local surfers, including Sammy Lee, Paul Gebauer, Conrad Canha, Paul Strauch, and Donald Takayama, transform Ala Moana into Hawaii's premier summer surfing hot spot. Lee was particularly gifted at threading his way through the Bowl section, placing himself and his 10-foot board behind the curl with such regularity that he's been noted as the original tuberider.

Ala Moana has hosted dozens of state championship surf contests, along with the 1976, 1992, and 1996 editions of the United States Surfing Championships. But its greatest moments have traditionally taken place during unscheduled free-surf sessions. Larry Bertlemann, Ben Aipa, and Gerry Lopez were among the top performers at Ala Moana in the early '70s—the break's golden decade—followed shortly by Montgomery "Buttons" Kaluhiokalani, Mark Liddell, and Dane Kealoha.

A sequence from Tales of the Seven Seas (1981) perfectly captures the superheated thrills and chaos of a big day at Ala Moana, with deep tuberides, flying boards, gurgling wipeouts, and merciless drop-ins, all building to a climax as a baby-blue catamaran exiting the nearby harbor is pulled into the vortex of a 10-foot closeout set.