Banzai Pipeline

The North Shore of Oahu is littered with incredible surf spots that have helped to earn it the nickname “The Seven Mile Miracle”.  A short bike ride away from Waimea Bay lies another spot with legendary status, a place almost every surfer will have mind-surfed at some point, a place that is so over-saturated with photographers that the majority of the public will have seen this wave (not necessarily knowing where it is). Of course I am talking about the one and only Banzai Pipeline.

J.O.B showing the benefits of having a house with this wave in the back garden. 

It’s a wave that up until recently had a reputation like no other. Almost every season someone tragically dies there in search of their perfect barrel. The wave is incredibly heavy and breaks into shallow water with a razor sharp reef underneath, a sure-fire recipe for disaster. If you just sit at the beach and watch there’s a very high chance you’ll see some spectacular wipeouts and surfers limping up the beach with snapped boards and cut limbs.

The drop is critical, mess it up and you are heading for a world of pain.

Every year from December to the end of February the North Shore is bombarded by swell and the majority of the world’s pro surfers set up temporary residence nearby to maximise their time on quality waves and of course to enter the comps, the most famous, The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, is made up of 3 separate contests, held at different beaches with the final, the Pipe Masters, held at Banzai Pipeline.

Unfortunately, during my time on the North Shore I managed to miss the Pipe Masters but did catch the Volcom Pipe Pro and the IBA Pipeline Challenge ( & Some of the surfing I saw was unbelievable, it was a real treat to sit on the beach and watch the pro’s trade waves and get some pretty amazing barrels.

Bruce Irons, about to get some tube time.

Personally I’m not a very good bodyboarder, average waves suit me fine and Pipeline is way out of my league. However one evening I found myself paddling out to 4ft Pipeline with a friend who assured me it would be easy. He was wrong. Getting out wasn’t hard, getting into a good position wasn’t too hard either, the amount of people in the water is one of the reasons why getting a wave is hard, so I decided to paddle closer to where the wave starts to peel to attempt to get one first. Once I’d got my spot I looked further back to see a big wave heading my way (every few sets and a double up set will come through), it was about 7-8ft and I was sitting right in the impact zone. I knew there was no way I’d be able to duckdive my board under it so I ditched it and dived as far under as possible. When the wave hit I was thrashed about a lot but came up quickly, minus my board. I cleared my eyes and looked up to see another big wave heading my way so I dove down again and waited it out. I swam towards the channel and bodysurfed some whitewater in to find my board waiting for me at the shore, someone had generously grabbed it on their way in.

For the next couple of months I had quite a sore shoulder and eventually went for physio on it, only to discover that Pipeline had hyper-extended my shoulder!

Unknown bodyboarder trying his luck at Backdoor.

So despite the injuries, snapped boards and deaths Pipeline still holds a allure over travelling surfers, the thought of getting a perfect barrel often outweighs the consequences of the wave itself. As long as it breaks people will travel to surf it, it’s what surfers do and the danger won’t put many off, just look at all the mental footage coming from Teauphoo of late.


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