Dreamy right-breaking pointbreak located on the northwest corner of Maui, Hawaii; described by four-time world champion Mark Richards as "the ultimate wave; the best wave in the world."
Beginning at an outermost section called Coconut Grove, the wave at Honolua bends into the cliff-and boulder-lined bay, passes through the Cove takeoff area, and arranges itself into a long, fast, perfectly foiled wall that spins through two or three bowl sections. The northeasterly tradewinds blow offshore at Honolua. Small surf is fairly common here from October to April (the summer months are waveless), and on sub-six-foot swells the area divides into three separate breaks. Incoming North Pacific swells have to thread the narrow Kalohi Channel between the islands of Molokai and Lanai before moving into Honolua Bay, which means that only a few times a year does the point come into full form, with waves linking all from Coconuts to the final Cave section. When conditions do come together, the lineup is invariably choked with surfers, who often ride three or more to a wave.
Oahu surfers George Downing, Wally Froiseth, and Russ Takaki are often credited as the first to ride Honolua Bay in 1947, but the break was rarely surfed until the early '60s. The Performers, a 1965 surf movie, featured a Honolua sequence filled with glorious six-foot waves, which helped put the break on the map, and Oahu-based surfers were soon beginning to fly over by the dozens when the swell got big enough. Still, a full day of waves might find the lineup nearly empty by late afternoon. "The place just ate surfboards," Hawaiian surfer Barry Kanaiaupuni recalled describing Honolua's cliff-lined shore, which is notorious for destroying lost surfboards. "Fifteen, 20 boards a day sometimes." Maui resident Joseph "Buddy Boy" Kaohi was regarded as the mid-'60s master surfer of Honolua; Oahu surfers Jeff Hakman and Jock Sutherland, who both briefly attended college in Maui in 1967–68, were also standout Honolua riders, as were Les Potts, Gary Birch, and Neil Norris.
Honolua is sometimes thought of as the coming-out location for the short surfboard, as Australians Bob McTavish and Nat Young rode the break in late 1967 on their new vee-bottom boards; footage of the two Aussies climbing and dropping across the transparent Honolua walls was used for the mindblowing final sequence to The Hot Generation (1968), which introduced the shortboard to much of the surf world. Honolua then became a favorite testing ground for the ongoing shortboard revolution.
Honolua also became a focal point for surf mysticism (waves here were described by one surf magazine as "the road to Nirvana"), in part for its unspoiled beauty, but also for its connection to the LSD-fueled Maui drug culture.
The development of the surf leash in the early '70s brought an end to the Honolua idyll, as average surfers could ride without destroying their boards. Surfer magazine described Honolua as "paradise lost" by 1975; five years later, Surf magazine alerted its East Coast readership to steer clear of the break altogether, warning of crowds, fights, and car rip-offs.
Honolua was cited by Surfing magazine in 1981 as one of "The 10 Best Waves in the World." Surfer had it at #13 on it's 2011 "100 Best Waves" list. The break was featured in Great Waves (1998), a documentary series produced by Opper Films, and has appeared in dozens of surf movies and videos, including Angry Sea (1963), Cosmic Children (1970), Free Ride (1977), Follow the Sun (1983), Surfers: The Movie (1990), and Triple C (1996).
Second-tier men's division pro surfing contests have been held at Honolua since the late '80s; its was also the site of the Billabong Pro women's world tour event from 1999-2009. Honolua Surf is also the name of a rootsy but succesful line of beachwear.
As of 2013, ASP world tour pro Dusty Payne, along with fellow local boy Ola Eleogram, were regarded by most as the top Honolua Bay surfers.