What are novelty waves?

If you haven’t already heard, you heard it first! Novelty waves can be some of the most fun, exhilarating, and dare I say… secret waves you are bound to encounter!

Part of the fun of surfing novelty waves includes small crowds, tailored conditions, and technique and stamina training. In addition, as Stab Magazine so aptly suggests, the waves are rarely decent! But this is all part of the allure and what makes novelty waves so special!

Funky fresh, alive with character, and very rewarding! Once it’s on, it’s on! And at some of the locations below, you can even book a HOKALI surf lesson!

Novelty waves occur when surf spots see waves at unusual and uncommon times! If you are familiar with a surf spot in your area, and especially if you have grown up near a certain break, then you probably know that different sections of the spot or the wave break at different times of the year and under different conditions!

So what influences the creation of a novelty wave? Things like tides, wind and swell direction play a big role in their formation. The direction the swell is coming from, for example, Northwest, Southeast, etc. can heavily influence where the wave forms up.

Some spots break consistently year-round; as a result, these spots are regularly crowded and have high traffic. However, novelty waves tend to be less popularized because they are more touch-and-go, and do not break consistently year-round.

Perhaps the most famous novelty surfer is Mason Ho, based on the North Shore of O‘ahu. His YouTube channel, Ho & Pringle Productions, features novelty waves all over the island: oddball wedges, crazy backwash, all expertly, mindblowing-ly navigated sections, threading the needle of seemingly inaccessible barrels.

Ho describes a novelty wave as “a wave the average person wouldn’t notice if it’s directly in front of them” or, a place where “a wave forms up where there isn’t usually a wave to surf.” This is perhaps a commonality among pro and amateur surfers alike when it comes to novelty waves: no one can quite pin down how to exactly define them.

To give a female example, on the rise is Hawaii surfer Tina Cohen. Based also on the North Shore of O‘ahu, she has been deemed the novelty wave queen! What makes her special is that she is not a professional surfer, yet finds the fun no matter what! In her YouTube vlogs, you can see all the unique spots on O‘ahu and in the U.S. that she surfs–spots that usually remain untapped for most of the year.

So, let’s get into some examples of famous novelty waves:

1. Baby Queens, O‘ahu, Hawaii

Beginner-friendly. Located on the south shore of O‘ahu, in Waikiki, Baby Queens, as the name suggests is known for being a beginner-friendly surf spot where parents can easily push their keiki (children) into waves, and oftentimes where beginner surf lessons occur!

The more advanced or experienced longboarders tend to frequent Queens, further out at the main break. However, during peak high tide (~2 ft.), Queens flattens out and does not pitch as much, making it more challenging to catch waves and slower overall, especially on small days.

Because Baby Queens is a sandbar, however, high tide makes it perfect for scoring long rides all the way to shore. It provides a fun little section for walking and nose rides and is great to practice staying on the wave as long as possible. Even surfing Queens on a good day, it is always fun to catch a wave inside, into Baby Queens, and ride it all the way till you hit the sand! Trust me!

Similarly, Canoes sandbar, further down the beach towards Waikiki strip, is another great zone at high tide. If you are ever in Waikiki, spend some time watching surfers to see where people are catching waves and, more importantly, scoring the longest rides! This can be key to having the most fun on any size day.

2. Lake Tahoe

Warning! Not for the brave of heart! Lake Tahoe, known for blankets of snow, can be a beautiful winter surfing snowscape, if you can handle the cold in a heavy duty wetsuit!

Think: snowboarding, surfing, and après-ski. It is probably Northern California’s most famous novelty surf spot, which sees maybe 10-20 days a year (okay, maybe more) of rippable conditions.

3. The Wedge

Though perhaps too well known to be considered a novelty wave, we’ll leave that up for debate. The Wedge is a famous heavy double-up on the south end of Newport Beach, known for tripping bodyboarder rides, wild dismounts, and… well, broken bones.

Left hand closeouts mean even the most professional of professional surfers get annihilated, which, depending on who you ask, is all part of the fun.

This wave is perhaps more popular among bodyboarders, since the current sucks out over an extremely shallow sand bottom.

4. Munich, Germany

You heard that right – Germany. As a division of novelty wave surfing in itself, river surfing is a not-so-well-known attraction in Munich.

River surfing involves what’s called stationary waves; unlike waves in the ocean, stationary waves are created by two traveling waves of the same frequency moving in opposite directions.

While the surfer will be surfing the wave, he or she won’t be traveling laterally, from the break to the shore, for example. If you’ve ever “surfed” a man made wave experience at a waterpark, for example, the feeling is similar, because you are not technically moving away from where the wave is breaking.

Stationary waves are also present at Waimea Bay, on the North Shore of O‘ahu, during certain times of year when flooding occurs! Surfers will come with shovels to dig up the sand, exposing a channel of running river water! This is probably the quintessential example of a novelty wave!

Now that we’ve shared some examples with you, are there any novelty waves that come to mind for you? Feel free to share some in the comments below!

Surfing is an incredibly beautiful and unique sport, just for that… its unique-ness! There are endless opportunities to get out in the water and learn something new!

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