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Ala Moana Bowls: The South Shore’s Performance Surfing Center

Ala Moana: The South Shore’s Performance Surfing Center

If Waikiki  is the center of longboarding and surf lessons on the South Shore, the Ala Moana Bowls is the local, shortboarding zone. Located just west of Waikiki, Ala Moana features a high density of quality reef breaks stretching from Kewalos all the way through the beach park to Magic Island, and then across the channel to Bowls and Kaisers.

Whether you are looking for rights, lefts, barrels, turns, or even an exclusive bodysurfing wave, Ala Moana has it all.


In addition to lots of waves, Ala Moana also has lots of history. Local legends include Davey Boy Gonzales, the Mike and Derek Ho, and Jeannie Chesser. And of course Gerry Lopez grew up surfing Ala Moana. Most people only think of Lopez as Mr. Pipeline, but he was born in Honolulu and surfed the waves in Town when he was a kid. He ended up winning the state championships at 14, and by that time he was honing his style at Bowls and starting to take trips out to the Country, where he eventually developed one of the most celebrated relationships with Pipeline of any surfer alive!

The beauty of Ala Moana Bowls is that it has something for everyone, from a beginner on a rented longboard to one of the greatest Pipeline surfers of all time.

Here are a few of the best surf spots along the Ala Moana reefs:

Derek Ho at Ala Moana Bowls

Bowls: Ala Moana Bowls is considered to be one of the best waves on the South Shore, and it’s not a great mystery why. Created in the 1950s when the Ala Wai Canal was dredged out, this left-hander is one of the few waves on the island that breaks into a reef pass, and is super rippable up to around the head high mark. When it gets bigger than that, Big Bowl starts to break, which produces the best barrels in Town. To access Bowls, you can either paddle out from the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor or walk out to the end of Magic Island, jump off the rocks, and paddle across the channel. Just watch out for the boats!

Kaiser Bowl: The easternmost wave along the Ala Moana stretch before you officially enter Waikiki territory, Kaisers is a shallow, steep, right-hand bowl with a competitive crowd that tends to be a bit more localized than Ala Moana Bowls. Kaisers handles up to the head-high+ range, then starts to close out when it gets too big.

Concessions: Named for the concession stands on the beach directly in from this wave, Concessions is a Beach Park spot that features an A-frame peak with both lefts and rights. The rights are rippable and break into First Holes, while the left is punchy and steep and breaks into the classic barrels of Big Rights. Like most spots along the Ala Moana Beach Park stretch, Concessions tends to blend in with all the other peaks, especially for those who are inexperienced in the area. But the wave has a devoted crew of locals who swear by their Concessions sessions, and is definitely worth check.

Kewalos: Ala Moana’s other left-hand reef pass, Kewalos breaks into the channel running parallel between Point Panic and Kaka’ako and has a reputation for being a bit sharky, but is also one of the most user-friendly, high-performance waves on the South Shore. While the left is the main attraction, the right is also quite fun. Crowds can get crazy, but there’s a reason they flock here. The wave is excellent, and really fires under a solid south swell.

Point Panic: One of the South Shore’s best and most controversial waves, Point Panic is a perfect right-hand bowl breaking in front of Kaka’ako Waterfront Park. It is also the exclusive domain of bodysurfers, who rule the spot due to restrictions passed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources banning surfboards and other watercraft.

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