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How to Surf the Waimea River Wave

If you follow any of the local North Shore boys on social media, like Jamie O'Brien or Koa Rothman, you have most likely seen this standing wave in action.

It doesn’t often happen, as it is not a naturally forming wave unless locals help it by digging out the sand between the river at Waimea Valley and the bay itself.

Waimea River Wave Guide

What is the Waimea River Wave?

The Waimea River wave is a standing "river" wave that forms when Waimea Valley gets full of water, creating a river.

The sand in between the valley and Waimea Bay gets dug out, allowing the water to flow to the bay.

The rapid rush of water out of the valley and over the sand carves the sand into little bumps.

Once the water is fully flowing into the bay, those bumps can turn into shoulder-high dunes that create a river wave.

It is ridden facing the valley with your back to the bay as the water flows out into the ocean; this opposite current running over the wave allows surfers and bodyboarders to ride the wave.

What Season does it Break the most?

This spectacle of a break does not happen often, as stated before, and needs a helping hand from people to funnel the water into the bay.

Typically, this occurs in the winter months. Waimea Bay is known for its big waves, and it is the location where the annual Eddie Aikau is held.

The big waves and strong currents move sand from the bay onto the shore over time.

With water building up in the valley and not being able to flow into the bay as it is supposed to do, the water begins to sit at the tail end of the valley and creates a river.

Then, locals come to dig up the sand connecting the two areas, creating the standing river wave.

Gear Needed to Surf at the Waimea River Wave

If you are coming to observe and hang out on the beach, you should obviously bring towels, food, and water.

You can bathe on the beach or even jump off the famous Waimea rock, which is to the left of the bay facing the water.

If you are planning on taking part, bring a shortboard, skimboard, foamy, or bodyboard, and you’ll be set.

Just ask the locals when you can go or wait in the line that usually builds on the side of it. It's usually pretty safe but can be sketchy as the current running into the bay is quite rapid.

Don’t just show up and go on the wave; come with aloha and good vibes, and you’ll have a great time with no problems.

Where to Park to Surf the Waimea River Wave

You can either park in the lot right in front of Waimea Bay or park up the street near the church and neighborhoods and walk down.

How to Surf Waimea River Wave

There are a couple of ways to surf the wave.

You can step onto your board by placing your board down on the side of the wave and push yourself into it, or you can jump off the adjacent sandbank into the wave. If you are bodyboarding, you just hop on.

For those skimboarders out there, you can do the same as the surfers. If it becomes too difficult for you, just be respectful and ask the locals taking part for help, or just watch and learn as they rip.

The Bottom Line: Surfing Waimea’s River Wave

The Waimea River wave can be challenging, but once you get the hang of it, it is the perfect place to practice carves.

It does not often happen, so follow local surfers like Jamie O'Brien to see when they plan to make the wave.

After all, Jamie is the one who made the wave famous through his YouTube videos.


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