Haliewa Flashback: The Biggest Swell of the Decade is Hit by Haleiwa

Haleiwa is a truly peculiar place. Most visitors come to this laid-back and relaxed little beach town to allow the deeply salty air and the constant sound of the ocean to blanket them with their almost-magical, timeless atmosphere. They leave looking forward to returning next year. They yearn to once again enjoy some famous Matsumoto’s shaved ice, while walking along the Waialua store lots, and feel their inner ukulele strum the soft figure-8 melody of peaceful happiness. They see Haleiwa as a peaceful oasis, where pressure, fatigue and worry don’t exist.


Although, there are times when even tourists realize that the little 4000-people town isn’t peacefully calm – it’s sleeping off a storm and resting up for the next one. In late January of 2014, that became clear to everyone who paid attention and anyone who happened to be vacationing at the time. While some people quickly scattered to their lofts and hotel rooms to hide from the storm winds, hoping the 30-foot storm waves would seize soon enough, the majority had other plans. They rushed to the beach, powering through 45mph wind gusts, dodging fronds that got torn from palm trees, in hopes that they weren’t too late for the strongest swell of the decade. Haleiwa News source via Haleiwa Telegram.

According to the local weather report, the giant waves first appeared on the 21st and continued all the way through the 23rd as a result of an area of low pressure passing over Hawaii. At first, even a world-class surfing competition, the Mavericks tournament, was going to be canceled due to worries about the historic swells. The waves were truly huge – the biggest since February 26, 1986, when the local weather service recorded 30-feet tall swells with periods that lasted longer then 20 seconds. This didn’t stop the locals from having the surfing session of a lifetime while the American Red Cross stood by as part of the emergency response effort. Quite a few tourists joined them, but none were there for peaceful walks on the beach and shaved ice.

On January 24th, when the storm subsided, Haleiwa beaches laid in ruins, the town’s little (Waialua Bay) boat harbor was almost completely flooded and there were chunks missing from many of the beach-side houses. Even so, this storm and the swell that followed it are remembered as a joyful, exciting occurrence by our locals. They reminisce about struggling in the cold, windy storm as someone else might about vacationing in a sunny, peaceful and laid-back beach town. They yearn for the next storm to come and take them away into a state of fast-paced, adrenaline powered excitement. They see the 2014 storm as an escape from the monotony of their every-day lives. Haleiwa is a truly peculiar place.

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