Surfing in the Sanctuaries

person surfing a big wave

Mavericks. Waimea Bay. Pipeline. The names evoke images of pumping surf, the raw beauty of ocean swells exploding on solid reefs, and crowds gathered to watch in awe as expert surfers take on world-class waves. These places are some of the most revered surf spots on Earth, but there's another thing they have in common, something that few people realize: They are all found within national marine sanctuaries.

person surfing a huge wave

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale

Banzai Pipeline — O’ahu, Hawai’i
Known simply as “Pipeline,” or just “Pipe,” this iconic break on O’ahu’s North Shore draws world-class surfers every winter with its towering swells and picture-perfect barrels. The wave breaks over a shallow reef, making it one of the most powerful — and most deadly — surf spots in the world.

Waimea Bay — O’ahu, Hawai’i
This scenic spot is home to an internationally known big wave contest that attracts surfers from around the world to honor the memory of Waimea Bay surfing legend, lifeguard and waterman, Eddie Aikau.

person surfing a wave in monterey bay

Monterey Bay

Mavericks — Half Moon Bay, Calif.
This infamous wave rumbles off the coast of California’s Half Moon Bay, cresting as high as 50 feet when conditions are right. Fierce currents, shallow rocks and bone-chilling water temperatures pose a daunting test for even the most intrepid big wave surfers. High-Resolution Mapping of Mavericks

Steamer Lane — Santa Cruz, Calif.
Northern California surfing pioneers like Jack O’Neill made Steamer Lane a hub of innovation starting in the late 1950s, giving rise to the modern wetsuit and board leash. While other waves surpass it in size and power, it remains one of the most popular surfing destinations on the West Coast.

sunset and surfers on ocean beach

Greater Farallones

Ocean Beach — San Francisco, Calif.
Miles of beach break surf near San Francisco offer moody, powerful surf to those up for the challenge of strong currents, cold waters, and year-round exposure to swells from many directions.

cliffs and the ocean

Channel Islands

A chain of offshore islands with rocky reefs and thick kelp beds, accessible only by a long boat ride, the Channel Islands hold a few hidden gems for the adventurous advanced surfer.