North Shore, Oahu

World-renowned stretch of Hawaiian coastline located on the north side of Oahu; the undisputed capital of big-wave surfing from the 1950s to the early '90s; home to about 40 surf breaks, many of them hallowed. "If the surfing world has a shared mythology," American essayist William Finnegan wrote in 1997, "then the North Shore of Oahu is its Olympus."

The North Shore's thin coastal plain is backed by steep lava-ribbed hills and fronted by a dazzling system of nearshore reefs. Because the coa...