Harbor town located at the western end of the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, fronted by an excellent but temperamental right-breaking wave. Haleiwa is best during winter, and requires a west swell. From three to eight feet it's a lively, hollow high-performance wave. At 10 to 15 feet it's a thrilling but punishing semi-beast that invariably winds down to a closeout finale in what is called the "toilet bowl." An eastbound current—"the treadmill," as locals call it—gets stronger as the waves get bigger, and will quickly pull unwary surfers out of position, to get steamrolled by incoming set waves. Haleiwa is often the North Shore's most active and crowded break. It's a full-amenity area, with a parking lot, showers, lifeguard, barbecue pits, a popular nearshore beginner's surfing area, and the beachfront Haleiwa Surf Center.
The town of Haleiwa was originally populated almost exclusively by plantation workers, who tended the nearby sugarcane and pineapple fields. Soloman Kukea, a full-blooded Hawaiian whose brother was a Waikiki beachboy, started riding Haleiwa's nearshore waves in the early '20s, and was later joined by a few other locals. But the break long remained unknown to the rest of Oahu's surfers, as well as visiting mainlanders.
Hawaii's Henry Preece was riding Haleiwa in the mid-'50s when surfer-filmmaker Greg Noll drove up, filmed Preece, and used the footage in his 1957 surf movie, Search for Surf. By that time, surfers were migrating in ever-larger numbers each winter to the North Shore, usually renting houses a few miles to the east; they used Haleiwa as a supply stop and mail depot, and occasionally dined at the town's cafés.
Haleiwa has been the site of hundreds of amateur surfing contests over the years, beginning with the 1964 Dick Brewer Championships, the first surfing event held on the North Shore. The pro tour's World Cup was the best-known money contest held at Haleiwa, and from 1976 to 1982 it was the international circuit's final event. World Cup winners included Mark Richards, Shaun Tomson, and Margo Oberg. Other pro contests staged at Haleiwa includ the 1977 WISA Cup (won by Lynne Boyer), the 1991 Wyland Pro (Tom Curren), the 1993 Oxbow World Longboarding Championships (Rusty Keaulana), and the 2010 Reef Hawaiian Pro (Joel Parkinson). Haleiwa is one of the three breaks, along with Sunset Beach and Pipeline, that hosts an event in the annual Triple Crown of Surfing.
Haleiwa, with a population just below 4,000 has long been a minor tourist attraction and its two-lane main thoroughfare is lined with art galleries and gift stores. It also remains the commercial and social hub of North Shore surfing, and is home to a dozen surf shops, a major boardmaking factory, and a surfing museum, as well as a number of surfer-frequented cafés and restaurants.
In 2010, Surfer magazine named Haleiwa #2 on their list of America's ten best surf towns, behind Santa Cruz. Haleiwa is featured in Columbia Pictures' 1964 movie Ride the Wild Surf, as well as dozens of surf movies and videos, including Barefoot Adventure (1960), The Endless Summer (1966), Cosmic Children (1970), Wizards of the Water (1982), For the Sea (1994), Searching for Tom Curren (1997), and Harvest (2002).