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Hiking in Hawaii with the Best Views of Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu
Big wave surfer Dave Wassel leads a scenic hike to one of the best views in all of Hawaii, along the way exploring old World War II bunkers and recounting one of the biggest swells to hit the North Shore in recent history.
There's nothing like the reward of an incredible view after a hike. Hawaiian waterman, lifeguard and all-around outdoorsman Dave Wassel knows this well and is the perfect guide to share his expert knowledge of North Shore's surf breaks, of which there is no better view of than from the quiet hills above the Volcom Pipe Houses.
Throughout Oahu lie the remains of a vast system of turn of the century and World War II-era bunkers, some on public land, more of on military and private land, and much of them hidden completely underground. Long since abandoned by the military, and not properly suited to have protected anyone from Hawaii's recent accidental missile scare, are a series of bunkers overlooking the beautiful North Shore of Oahu.
Those who make the somewhat strenuous hike up the hill can explore several bunkers buried in the hillside. Many of the bunkers are open to the public and for the most part are easily accessible if one knows where to look. Once done exploring the bunkers, head back up top above ground for some fantastically epic vantage points of the North Shore coastline.
Looking down, spanning the coastline you can see all the famed surf spots and if you adjust your gaze to the horizon you can actually see the edge of the island, the furtherest point out that waves will break when it's really big.
From here is a great place to catch the sunset, just be sure to pack a flashlight and/or headlamp for your hike back down.
Sunset Pillbox Hike
Not totally overrun with visitors, the Sunset Pillbox Trail is a local favorite and offers photographers an opportunity to capture a stunning image of the famous Banzai Pipeline. Get started by making your way towards Sunset Elementary where across the street you will find a sign marking the start of the hiking trail. Allow yourself at least an hour and a half to make the hike up and down with some time to explore and take in the view.
Volcom Stone Lite Jacket
Rain or shine, the Stone Lite Jacket is an essential tool in your hiking arsenal. Extremely lightweight, packable, breathable and wind & water resistant, this jacket will keep you comfortable as the elevation and climate changes on your hike.
For Dave Wassel, hitting the trails behind the Volcom Pipe Houses is more than just a hike, it's a space to clear his head. The overwhelming sense of calm and tranquility he gets from listening to the sounds of the wind through the Ironwood trees, is the same sense of calm Wassel says one needs when getting held down by one of Pipeline's monstrous waves. It is this place Wassel takes himself to in his head to stave off the natural inclination to panic.
Remembering one of these absolutely monstrous days when Log Cabins was breaking, Wassel recalled surfing it with Garrett McNamara, Buttons and a handful of other Hawaiian big wave surfers.
"That day the surf was 50-70 feet before dark. Garrett McNamara and Buttons were out as a tow team. I just happened to be passing by on a jet ski after work lifeguarding. Buttons was over it and 'GMac' said to grab my board and the rope and he'll get me into the wave of my life. Are those the biggest waves I've ever surfed? Let's just say if the waves got any bigger than that, I wouldn't have been surfing."
When riding these giant waves of consequnce, the slightest misstep could cost you your session, or even worse, your life. Surfing big waves in Hawaii and around the world for the past 20+ years has given Wassel the experience, knowledge and maybe most importantly the ability to put himself in the right state of mind when things go wrong.