Surfers around the world dream of riding the epic waves that crash here every winter. The waves are so huge that they sound like rolling thunder as they hit the reefs. When they hit 40 feet, as they have some years, the thunder is deafening. Representing the surf centers of the world, professional surfers arrive from November through February to compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. This is prime big-wave season, when spectators scan the ocean for big waves, surfers and humpback whales. In Hale‘iwa, boutique shopping, surf shops galore, and casual restaurants keep the hippie-chic vibe alive. This is O‘ahu’s “country,” where a laid-back lifestyle prevails and social life centers around the beach, natural food stores and small cafés scattered between surf shops. Year-round surf competitions take place at Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. Drive further and you’ll pass the small town of Lā‘ie with its roadside fruit stands and the Polynesian Cultural Center, the economic engine of the town.