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Ala Moana Bowls Surf Guide

Ala Moana Bowls, more commonly known as Bowls, is a man-made reef break located adjacent to the Magic Island Lagoon.

Ala Moana Bowls Surf Guide

History of Ala Moana Bowls

In the 1950s, construction was initiated to connect the Kewalo Basin and the Ala Wai Small Boat Yacht Harbor.

While this process displaced much of the previous coral and sand, it gave rise to a peaky, bowly left that can produce clean, big barrels on larger southern swells.

Initially ridden with longboards as modern shortboards did not emerge until the 1990s, the wave gained attention in the 70s when Gerry Lopez, also known as Mr. Pipeline, and his crew began surfing here.

They pioneered new approaches to surfing, pushing the boundaries of what could be done on this wave.

Not to forget, Lopez pushed barrel riding, style, and aggression at Pipeline on the North Shore, earning the moniker Mr. Pipeline.

Waves in Ala Moana Bowls

Primarily a long left with various sections that swing into the harbor channel, and on smaller days, the right can be quite fun but closes out on the shallow inside reef.

In the area of Ala Moana Bowls, there are Kewalos, South Bowls, Bowls, and Rockpiles, as well as other peaks nearby that can have waves when the south swell hits just right.

Surf Culture at Ala Moana Bowls

The culture is long and deeply embedded in Hawaiian traditions, ranging from surfing to the Kapu Religious system.

This won’t be the super-friendly, take-any-wave crowd that you might find at Queen’s just down the road.

Locals are attuned to when the waves are firing and will come out to play.

It's crucial to show respect and wait your turn if you want to snag a couple of waves at Bowls.

Gear Needed to Surf In Waikiki

All you need anywhere on Oahu and in Hawaii, in general, is a pair of solid boardies and a decent quiver for all conditions.

Consider wearing a shirt or a rash guard to prevent a sunburn.

With water temperatures averaging 76 degrees Fahrenheit, you'll be more than comfortable for a cruising session.

Where to Park for Ala Moana Bowls

You can either park at the Magic Island Lagoon parking lot and jump off the jetty but be cautious of breaking the fin box or dinging your board.

Alternatively, you can park near the Ilikai Hotel and paddle out from the beach.

How to Surf Ala Moana Bowls

The main peak at Bowls is a hollow, heavy, barreling left that begins to fire when the waves reach around 6 feet plus.

On smaller days, you can longboard on the inside, as it tends to offer a fun, mellow ride. Anything from 3 to 6 feet will present a bowly, rippable face, perfectly adept for dialing turn after turn.

South Bowls, just west of the Magic Island Lagoon, can have both lefts and rights and works on pretty much the same swells as the Main Peak (Bowls).

It can get big and barrel but tends to hold less on big swells compared to the main peak.

Kewalos isn’t necessarily considered a break of Bowls, but it is just west of Bowls and South Bowls.

Located just off the Kewalo Basin Boat Harbor and right in front of Kewalo Basin Park, this is a hollow right reef break that has lefts as well, but they tend to be shorter rides. It is typically at its best around 4 to 7 feet, on south swells with wind blowing from the north.

Rockpiles is east of Bowls/Main Peak in front of Kahanamoku Beach and the Hilton lagoon.

Usually, it's a whitewater wave with smaller faces, best suited for beginner surfers on smaller days.

Don’t confuse it with the heavy North Shore Rockpiles, which is a beast of a wave.

The Bottom Line: Surfing Ala Moana Bowls

Bowls offer a wide variety of high-performance waves to smaller beginner waves.

From Kewalos, South Bowls, Bowls, and rockpiles, you will be sure to find a break that has some waves, even if you are trying to dip your toes in and not paddle battle each wave.

Kewalos and both breaks at Bowls are going to be for more experienced surfers, as many local rippers will be out.

Don’t think you will find Bowls empty on a solid day, as locals know when it will turn on.

Beware of sea urchins, pollution, debris, and local crowds when surfing in the Ala Moana Bowls area and surrounding areas.

As I’ve gotten caught on the inside on dry reef at Diamondhead on a big day and stepped on a sea urchin, it's not a great way to end a session.


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