Small waves make for slow business on Oahu's North Shore

Published: Nov. 20, 2011 at 9:33 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2011 at 3:55 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Marty Thomas
Marty Thomas

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HALEIWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's well-known that Haleiwa makes a lot of its money during the winter surf season. But what happens when Mother Nature is running late?

That's what's happening this year.

On Sunday, Haleiwa Alii Beach was all dressed up with no surf to go. Everything has been in place for the Reef Hawaiian Pro, the first jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Organizers called off the contest due to a lack of surf, but hope to try again Monday.

"There's been some decent waves coming in from the north-northeast direction, but that bypasses Haleiwa," said Reef Pro contest director Marty Thomas. "You go up the coast and places like Laniakea, Sunset Point, (have) well-overhead surf. But here at Haleiwa, it just misses."

There were surfers catching those overhead sets at Laniakea, including local residents who drive up and spend the day -- and some money -- on the North Shore.

"When we come up, we make a day of it," said Ewa Beach resident Bryant Culp, as he waxed up his board. "We stop in Haleiwa, do some shopping, grab some lunch an then head back to Ewa."

But no waves means no surf meet. And that means no crowds.

Aoki Shave Ice estimates sales are 30 percent behind what they were a year ago.

"We got a lot of regular customers from town side that come in, and a lot of surfers that come to just see the waves and get in the surf, and we haven't had anything yet," said Cathy Aoki. "So far it's been really slow. So we are waiting for the waves to come in, but I guess it all depends on Mother Nature."

For much of this month, Mother Nature has placed high pressure just to the north of the Hawaiian Islands. That means that low pressure systems that produce the high surf have been forced to go around the high pressure centers, much farther north than usual.

Surf events like the Triple Crown pack an economic punch. According to a study conducted last year by Brigham Young University-Hawaii, the six weeks of Triple Crown events generate more than $20 million in spending.

If it weren't for the weak dollar against the Japanese Yen and the Euro, it could be worse, according to one business owner, who has been talking to tourists from outside the U.S. "They say it's a great time to travel, they save its a good time to travel far in America, so they're here in droves," said John Moore, owner of the Grass Skirt Grill and Strong Current clothing store. "It's wonderful."

As for the Reef Pro, forecasts have been pointing to a bump from the northeast that could bring some head-high sets. Those waves could allow the surf contest to finally get underway, along with the winter money-making season for the North Shore.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.