You have a lot of options. I am a very experienced guy on the North Shore (yeah, right).
Seriously, I’ve been a few times and have some tips that might help from a very advanced surfer (when it’s chest high) to an intermediate surfer (a foot or two overhead) and a total kook (when it’s big, big). Again I joke a bit. I’m an advanced intermediate.
There are a lot of good rentals on the North Shore. Plus, a great option is to buy a used board, use it for a week, and then sell it on consignment at the end of the week (provided it didn’t break). I’ve done that, and if you are patient, you’ll get paid and only come out fifty bucks or so behind.
Tip #1: Check with your credit card company about insurance. It’s usually free and (at least with American Express) will provide you a refund if any purchase is lost, stolen, or broken within 90 days of purchase, no questions asked. So, go get that new gun you’ve always wanted when you get to the North Shore, and go have fun. If it breaks, AMEX will refund the money, and you can even tell them the truth. They’re that cool. I’ve had to make a couple claims, and it doesn’t hurt your credit record at all.
Tip #2: Pinballs (inside Waimea) is a great fish spot. The wave is big and mushy, perfect for fishing. I like it because it shows you the power, but forces you to stay in the pocket (if you can call it a pocket). It’s an easy paddleout, and as long as you are careful about the rocks, you’ll be fine. When it gets big, though, stay on the beach. Waimea Bay is crazy. But Pinballs is manageable. Easy spot to shoulderhop (but not in front of anyone).
Tip #3: If you are in town, go to Leonard’s. From the outside it looks like crap, but the Malasadas (a doughnut-like pastry) will blow your mind.
Tip #4: Ehukai Beach Park (Pipeline’s channel). The wave is great, and usually safe. Plus you can watch Pipe. That’s my favorite spot, because I get barreled, have fun, the reef is smoother, often covered in sand, rarely crowded, and the lifeguard is there.
Sunset Beach is also a good option when smaller. Good channel. But watch the swell. If it’s expected to rise, don’t be afraid to paddle in quickly. Paddling out and out and out isn’t going to work. When in doubt, get the heck out. That’s what I say, and that’s what all the signs say on the side of the road.
Oh, yeah. If the winds are Kona (and you’ll know), try the windward side.