Nestled among multi-million dollar mansions, Koko Kai Mini Beach Park is little more than an unimpressive plot of grass, but it leads to one of Oahu’s most unique surf spots: China Walls. On a flat day, even novices can safely jump off the small cliff’s edge and swim among sizable fish and patches of coral reef. On a big day, only a fraction of Hawaii’s surfers dare challenge its might.
Basically, China Walls is a little cliff/plateau that drops off into the ocean, with a spectacular view of Oahu’s southeast side. It’s arguably the best place to watch sunsets on clear days, have picnics, or relaxx with a good book without fear of being bothered by other beach folk. It’s also a great spot to free dive and spear fish; and if you can handle, its an amazing wave.
China Walls only works when the waves are at least overhead; it wedges off the wall and peaks into a crazy-steep slab. In order to catch it and avoid the giant boulder and the rest of the cliff that lie ahead, surfers literally sit and push off the wall itself. The wave first lurches you further towards the wall, but if you pull a sharp enough left, you’ll graze past the danger zone.
If you manage to make the turn, the wave is absolutely yours – especially since the danger factor keeps the crowd relatively thin. It’s a beautiful, perfect left that pitches off the underlying reef for a hundred yards or more. Yes, a hundred frickin yards. In other words, giant in-n-outs for the taking.
The other terrifying thing about China Walls is that the only way out of the turquoise water is to climb back up the cliff’s jagged face. It’s also riddled with sharp wana, or sea urchins with a painful bite. I’ve seen many a tourist scratch multiple limbs attempting to climb out. Today at China Walls, a tourist slipped and fell trying to jump off the cliff just as a wave came; he got slammed so hard against the boulder that he had a decent-sized hole in the back of his head and scratches from head to toe. He bled so much (it was his head, after all) that all of the surfers in the water got out because it might attract sharks. Which is probable, since the wall is a straight drop off into deep water with plentiful fish and reef.
My roommate and boyfriend in the pictures love China Walls, but I’ve only braved its waters a few times when the waves were pounding. On my last excursion, the waves looked doable, and the boys made it look easy. It was only after I jumped in that I realized the sets were at least double overhead. Plus, the few smaller waves I tried to catch launched me so hard towards the wall that I thought i was going to slide back on top of it. I ended up going around the cliff and climbing up into some mansion’s compound and sneaking back out onto the street.
If you’re visiting, hitting China Walls at sunset is an absolute must. But be careful jumping off and getting back up; you really can get hurt.
Enjoy the pictures!