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.
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
Home to professional surfing tournaments such as the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, O’ahu’s scenic Waimea Bay was one of the first big wave surfing destinations to gain international fame.
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.
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.
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.