Freight Trains: The Legend Comes Alive

Off Da Wall

I grew up hearing about the “fastest wave in the world,” the mythical, legend-level surf break at Māalaea Harbor.   Not the first place you might pick for an incredible surf session, but older surfers would get a nostalgic gleam in their eyes as they shared stories about rare encounters with this wave of wonder, known as Freight Trains for its record speed and power.  

Protecting that Power

Black & White

Some didn’t believe the hype…but others believed in it so strongly, they took action.   Back in the late 1980’s, plans were in the works to extend the breakwater at Mā‘alaea Harbor, a move that would have forever damaged the nearby surfbreak.  Just as notably, the project would’ve done significant harm to large parts of the coral reefs, water quality and marine ecosystem.  

Surfers and environmental activists weren’t having it.  As explained in this 2012 article from Surfer Today, groups like the Protect Mā‘alaea Coalition and Surfrider Foundation passionately opposed the project, calling for a stop to the harbor expansion.  They were in it for the long haul and didn’t give up.  After 23 years of intense battles, the state and federal agencies abandoned their plans to extend the breakwater, and as the article’s headline reads, “the fastest wave in the world has been saved!”

A Mythical Monster Wave

Freights Morning Light

As for that elusive wave, some still doubted it really existed as such a formidable force.  Were the stories just exaggerated rumors?  Could the break really be that big?  I, for one, feel like I waited my whole life to see it in action!  

Freight Trains Delivered!

Albee Layer
Surfer Albee Layer at Freight Trains
Kai Lenny Barrel
Surfer Kai Lenny gets barrelled
Jackson Full Send
Surfer Jackson Bunch gets it

That day finally came on Saturday, July 16th, on the heels of a full moon and in the midst of some significantly high tides.  Freight Trains came barrelling (literally!) into the station at Mā‘alaea Harbor in mighty, magnificent fashion, attracting crowds and cameras with its celebrity status!  Pro surfers from O‘ahu’s North Shore were even jumping on planes to get over here stat!!

My instincts told me to be out there early on the first and second day, and indeed, it was a sight to behold.   As giant waves just kept rolling in, I witnessed the dominance of this historic force of nature, and  captured the “courage versus carnage” on behalf of the epic surfers — pros like Kai Lenny, Albee Layer and Jackson Bunch — who jumped in to brave this beast!  

A Swell with Celebrity Status

Torrey Meister Standing Tall
Torrey Meister stands tall
Rainbow Runner

The energy was palpable, the ocean mist was thick and the visuals were unforgettable.  I’m so glad I got to see this long-dormant break awaken after more than two decades!  You might notice some of these photos on the walls at Three’s Bar and Grill as a testament to this incredible experience. 

A Lasting Legacy at Freights

The Art of Movement

Shout-out to those valiant ocean protectors back in the 1990s who helped this surf break survive — it sure came alive this time around, and I’m stoked to know the legend lives on!!