Perhaps it's because there are rideable waves year-round even though nearby surf breaks snooze through the winter season. Or maybe it's that singular shade of blue even Pantone can't replicate. Or the way the hotels lining Kalakaua Avenue buffer the offshore winds, creating a wave of perpetual glass. Or maybe it's all of these qualities that make Queens such an exceptional break, one that, generation after generation, is the wave of choice for a community of truly elite longboarders. Named for Queen Liliuokalani, who had a house on the beach fronting the wave, Queens has been home break to generations of Hawaii board riders, from precontact alii (royalty) to the father of modern-day surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, to beachboy Rabbit Kekai, to contemporary world champions like Bonga Perkins and Kelia Moniz.
"What's truly unique is how many there are at Queens, now," says Waikiki-bred pro longboarder and shaper Kai Sallas. "When I was young, there were a lot of good longboarders around, but not necessarily from Waikiki. So what stands out to me is how many world-class longboarders are raised on this very wave-there's no place in the world with that much talent all coming out of the same spot."
He's not wrong. Kelis Kaleopaa won the US Open of Surfing in August, finishing number two in the world by year's end. Her cousin, Kaniela Stewart, nearly won the men's world title (just shy by 0.37 points) last October. Kelia Moniz is a two-time World Surf League World Longboard Champion. All of them-with a dozen other young local surfers nipping at their heels-honed their skill at Queens.
"Queens is where I feel the aloha spirit the most," says John van Hohenstein, a.k.a. "Johnny the Ripper," seen on page 74, hanging ten. "You're surrounded by all the love and energy from aunties, uncles and all the past generations of surfing and history, knowing you're in the heart of where it was all born. To say that I am blessed to be a part of such a tradition, would be an understatement. Knowing I'm surfing where some of the greatest longboard legends have surfed and realizing I get to inspire the next generation to carry on the legacy is why longboard surfing will forever be in my heart."
A classic Queens party wave
"This place is so important because it is the birthplace of [modern] surfing," says Kelis Kaleopaa, seen on the facing page and also on the following spread. "This is where our kings and queens used to surf back in the day, so it's only proper that we, as people who were born and raised here in Waikiki, continue that on through our future, and the younger generations' future. The best we can do is learn through the generation above us and teach the generation below us."
"Queens is such a special surf break, it's where Hawaiian royalty surfed back in the day, and all the surfers that influenced me heavily have surfed here," says Arthur 'Toots' Achinges. "With the resurgence of the longboard scene, it's producing a pool of very talented young and upcoming world-class surfers. But Queens is home. It's where I learned to surf, and it will always be a very special place for me. Despite visiting and surfing some beautiful and unique places while traveling, Queens will always be the place that changed my life."
"I love how good and fun the wave can get for all types of board riding," says Queens regular Hana Ito. "I appreciate the respect the people have for each other, and we all enjoy this spot together. Learning and understanding the simple unwritten rules makes it easier and safer for everyone to have fun. I think the uniqueness of Queens is that the wave can accommodate all different levels, from novice to professionals. It is nice to see that we all share waves and have fun together. This makes it feel less of a scene and more of a tradition. Aloha lives forever."
"What I love most about Queens is that it's such a world-class wave," says Kaniela Stewart, pictured above handstanding during a tandem ride with Keani Canullo. "Queens is so unique and it has many different personalities. The waves could be small, coming from the east-southeast, and Queens becomes this little right-hand point break. If the waves are over five feet coming from the south-southwest, Queens turns into this left-hand barreling wave. What makes the Waikiki surf scene truly unique, though, is the family and the connection we share. We all share this love for the ocean and the love for the sport of surfing. Also, we all are such good all-around watermen and women no matter what type of craft we are on. To have that is such a blessing."
"Queens is such a perfect longboarding wave-it has very fun, smooth rides that are excellent for noseriding," says Nique Miller, pictured above cross-stepping down a personable Queens southeast right-hander. "I'm super stoked to carry on the longboard tradition here in Waikiki. To me it's an honor to surf here and represent this part of Hawai'i to the world. I feel like longboarders from Waikiki are known for their precise footwork and elegant maneuvers, so I really try to display that quality in my surfing."
"There's something about this place that will never get old," says Kelia Moniz. "I don't think I'll ever be able to tell you what it is. The people? The surf? The beauty? The surf heritage? The fact that it's home to me? Whatever it is, it's magic. I've traveled the world and have yet to find a place that has left a mark like this magical place has left on me. Home forever, and forever grateful to call this wave my home."