Get To Know Ala Moana Bowls
A few hundred yards out to sea from the manicured lawns that skirt Magic Island, a perfect left-hand wave known simply as Bowls reels into a Honolulu channel.
For decades, when a southerly swell pumps life into this magical lineup, both locals and visitors have flocked to the peak in droves. Bowls’ reputation for being one of the most mouth-watering waves in the world is unquestionable. But the story behind the wave’s formation often goes unheard.
While the surfing world has fought tooth and nail to preserve natural lineups across the world, Ala Moana Bowls can actually credit its formation to the man-made extension of Magic Island. In the 1960s, there was a famous right-hand peak known as Garbage Dumps, which was featured in the original Endless Summer surf flick. But in the ’60s, the city extended Magic Island, which effectively crushed Garbage Dumps, but also serendipitously created the famed lineup at Ala Moana Bowls that we’ve all come to love today.
According to the Encyclopedia of Surfing, Bowls was originally regarded as being too fast of a wave to surf. But that didn’t stop a die-hard crew of surfers like Sammy Lee, Paul Strauch and Donald Takayama from pushing the envelope and showing that the wave could indeed be surfed, despite their 10-foot boards. Just a few years later, the lineup became the go-to locale for progressive surfing.
When it comes to waves that have literally changed the history of surfing, Bowls stands at the head of the pack. In the 1970s, the likes of Gerry Lopez, Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Larry Bertlemann, and Mark Liddell practically rewrote the book on tuberiding and progressive surfing right here in Town. It would be fair to say that during a stretch of time in the 1970s, Bowls was home to the most futuristic surfing on the planet.
Today, Ala Moana Bowls continues to wear the crown and acts as Honolulu’s premier wave. When a solid south swell meets the reef, stand-up tubes are served up every minute for those in the know. And the fact that you can go from a business meeting or your apartment to perfect surf in a matter of minutes isn’t lost on us either. That being said, I think it’s time we jumped in the ocean…I heard Bowls is supposed to be good today.