Exploring the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii
This past weekend we had the opportunity to explore Leftover's surf break, a little-known diving spot located on the North Shore. Because we are rapidly approaching the end of the diving season on the North Shore, the visibility was a little murky. Altogether though, this dive site definitely rivals Sharks Cove and Cathedrals.
Located between Haleiwa Harbor and Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu, this dive site can be reached via boat, kayak, paddle board, DPV, or long surface swim. If you elect to do a shore dive, just note that parking is very limited along the sides of the road. We elected to use a small fishing boat, and took a short 10 minute boat ride from the harbor. We anchored over the long, winding channel that runs from the shore out to sea. If you decided to kayak dive this site, you can launch from Waimea Bay for a short 1 mile paddle over to this spot.
Once anchored, we descended into the main channel, about 0.25 miles away from the shore. We decided to head north/northeast over the main channel wall. We came up to about 15 feet when going over the top of the reef walls, swimming parallel to the shore. We found a series of trenches that ranged in depth from 20 to 40 feet. These trenches were formed by the lava flow, and all run in the same direction.
These trenches are the highlight of the dive. Some were steep and narrow, giving the sensation that you were making the X-Wing attack run on the Death Star (nerd reference). Others opened up into large rock formations with all sorts of weird shapes and ledges. Throughout all of this was swim through passage ways and small caves to explore. I know this may sound sacrilegious to some divers, but I thought that it was cooler then the Cathedral in some spots. When we got bored with one area, we simply swam up and over the wall to the next trench, which usually was only about 10 - 20 meters away.
Because this was a less-frequented site, there was an abundance of wildlife all over the place. Most notably there were dozens of nudibranches spread out over the entire area, all of a different variety. In some of the larger open areas there were sea turtles that clearly were residents of this spot. I suspect that many of them use the ledges and caves to catch a nap. There were also some massive puffer fish that hung out in caves along the bottoms of the trenches (although they seemed slightly skittish). There was at least one spotted eagle ray that soared right in front of us over the reefs.
Here is the map we created from our dive (with a measured out surface swim). If you are SCUBA diving or freediving, we recommend heading to the north/northeast side of the main channel. The trenches run perpendicular to the shore, and can be found in between the two blue arrows on the map. The entry beach at this site is protected by land that sticks out to the north and south, forming a small bay. When conditions are good for diving on the North Shore, this area is generally calm with minimal surf break and surge (much like Sharks Cove).
Here is the data I pulled from my Garmin Descent. The average depth of the exploration dive was 26 feet, with a max depth of 41 feet. You can see from the depth profile where we went up and over the trench walls to the next trench over. It is definitely a fairly easy dive for beginners, with minimal surge pushing around on the bottom.
Although it takes some work to get to this spot, we highly recommend it. We could have easily spent hours down there systematically winding our way through each lava trench. Add to that the abundant wildlife and lack of other people around, and this is easily one of our favorite spots on the island!
Check out the official Dive Guide!