Banzai Pipeline, or simply "Pipeline" or "Pipe,"
is a surf reef break located off Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea
on O`ahu's North Shore. A reef break is an area in the ocean
where waves crash once they reach the shallows of a reef. Pipeline
is notorious and famous for its huge waves breaking in shallow
water just above its sharp and cavernous reef, forming large,
hollow and thick curls of water that surfers can surf inside.
There are three reefs at Pipeline in progressively deeper water
further out to sea that activate at various power levels applied
by ocean swells.
The location's compound name combines the name of the surf break
(Pipeline) with the name of the beach fronting it (Banzai Beach).
It got its name in December 1961 when surfing movie producer
Bruce Brown was driving the North Shore with California surfers
Phil Edwards and Mike Diffenderfer. Brown stopped at the then-unnamed
site to film Edwards catching several waves. At the time, there
was a construction project on an underground pipeline on adjacent
Kamehameha Highway, and Diffenderfer made the suggestion to
name the break Pipeline. The name was first used in Brown's
movie Surfing Hollow Days.
Pipeline is best on a strong swell that is pushed from the west,
to clear out the sand in the reef that normally closes it out
(meaning the hollow tube collapses all at once) on strong north
swells. It is a flat tabletop reef, with several caverns on
the inside, creating a giant air bubble that pops on the front
of the wave when the wave lurches upwards just before breaking.
There are also several jagged, underwater lava spires that can
cut up fallen surfers fairly badly.
There are four waves associated with Pipe. The left (which means
the wave breaks from left to right from the perspective of a
watcher on shore) known as Pipeline (a.k.a., First Reef), is
the most commonly surfed and photographed. When the reef is
hit by a north swell, the peak (the highest tipping-point of
the wave where it begins to curl) becomes an A-frame shaped
wave, with Pipe closing out a bit and peeling off left, and
the just-as-famous Backdoor Pipeline peeling away to the right
at the same time. As the size at Pipe increases, over 12 feet
usually, Second Reef on the outside (further out into the deeper
ocean waters) starts breaking, with longer walls (the steep,
unbroken part of the wave that the surfer slides across), and
more size. At an extreme size an area called Third Reef even
further outside starts to break with giant waves.
The extreme challenge posed by Pipeline at size, to even the
best athletes, cannot be overstated. Numerous surfers and photographers
have been killed at Pipe, including Jon Mozo and Tahitian Malik
Joyeux, who was famous for his heavy charging (gutsy surfing)
at Teahupo'o. Pipeline is often called the world's deadliest
wave, since more people have died there, or have been seriously
injured, than at any other surf spot.
The takeoff zone at Pipeline is small but the number of surfers
who flock there when it's breaking is large. Established local
surfers consequently work together to limit outsiders' access
to the waves. The localism and occasional violence of this self-described
"Wolf Pack" (successors in this role to Da Hui) are
often criticized, but their intimidating presence provides an
indispensable degree of crowd control and has probably prevented
even more carnage at Pipe.
Among the many famous surfers to earn a reputation surfing the
Pipeline are Butch Van Artsdalen, Gerry Lopez, Rory Russell,
Shaun Tomson, Kane Quinn, Mark Richards, Michael Ho, Simon Anderson,
Dane Kealoha, Tom Carroll, Gary Elkerton, Sunny Garcia, Kelly
Slater, Jamie O'Brien, Rob Machado, Kala Alexander, Sunny Boy
Gomes, Flynn Novak, John John Florence and bodyboarder Mike
Stewart. Although not famous for surfing Pipeline, Jack Johnson's
fame is partly because of surfing Pipeline. After a wipeout
that put over£200 stitches in his forehead and knocked
a few of his teeth out, his career path veered from becoming
a professional surfer to becoming a musician.
The top surfing competitions at this spot are the Pipe Masters
(Board Surfing), the IBA Pipeline Pro (Bodyboarding), the and
the Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic.
As well as Shaun Tomson 1977 world champion from South Africa,
and Mark Richards four time 1979-1982 world champion from Australia,
surfers Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew 1978 world champion from
Australia and Peter Townen, 1976 world champion from Australia
earned reputations surfing Off-The-Wall and Backdoor at a time
when competitive surfing was coming of age. Off-The-Wall, and
Backdoor are "the rights on the other side of Pipeline"
- Randy Rarick, Director of Hawaiian Triple Crown of Surfing
quoted from the movie "Bustin' Down The Door."