December 1st, 2011
It’s one of surfing’s longest running traditions that the final (and often world title-deciding) round of the ASP world tour is held at the awe-inspiring Pipeline. This year the final round of the Triple Crown series, the Billabong Pipe Masters takes place during the waiting period from 8th to 20th December.
In the run up to the event we take a look at the famous wave:
At the Southern end of Ehukai Beach Park. Going North from Waimea about 2 miles, small alley on left before Sunset Beach Elementary.
Pipeline; Probably the squarest barrel on earth. ..when it’s on. Pipe needs trades, and the right swell (W to NW at 4 – 25ft) to work properly.
Take one of these away and you can have a shapeless, punishing mess. The rule of thumb is; the more west the swell, the heavier and hollower the wave.
Pipeline is a series of 3 reefs working from the inside to the outside as the swell increases. First Reef: At 4 ft, you can have the
most perfect barrels followed by a short whack-able section here. The crowds at this size will frustrate, and the dropping in is blatant.
The wave is so close to the beach that spectators can get closer to the action than any other surf spot. At 6-8ft, the peak appears close to dry
sucking off the reef, and the drop is a free-fall. A mistake could see you jammed into a crack in the lava reef, but successful riders will make the
bottom turn, and stand tall in a super-wide almond shaped barrel. Then it’s a speed-race out onto the shoulder, which eventually tapers into a sandy channel.
Second Reef: From 10 or 12 ft plus, another crop of lava pushes up bombs another 100 yards out to sea. These can be mountainous
jacking peaks which reform on first reef giving 2 rides in 1. Take-offs here are more critical than any wave anywhere. Timing, commitment
and a heavy board are essential to manoeuvre into the elusive time-space window between being pushed over the back by the gusty winds
funneling up the face, and too-late drops straight to the bottom. The entire length of the wave is a full-power situation, with the lip ready to cut a surfer
down at any moment, and even the latter half of the ride can produce truck-sized barrels.
There’s anoccasional 3rd reef too, for monsters up to a much contested 30 feet. Now a tow-in domain, and quite rare to see it perfect.
Paddle-out fast, West of Backdoor. Current will sweep you East of the peak into the channel. Crowds to the extreme. Drop-ins are
the rule not the exception. Frustrated caged battery-chicken surfing. Experts only.
Backdoor: The right off the same peak as first reef, is an equally if not more heavy tube machine, with even more shallow reef and
rocks to contend with. Backdoor tubes often end in shut-down or dry-suck, and the successful surfer will make speed his friend. No
time for turns here. Works on similar swells, although likes more North than Pipe itself. Too much West in the swell, or too much
size, and it will be a dangerous close-out. From 3 to 10 ft. Crowded to the extreme. Drop-ins from body-boarders and surfers better than you.
Shallow reef with deep cracks to get stuck in. Current. Thick guillotine lips.Both these waves have claimed lives, and may be best experienced
vicariously. Try to catch them early or late season or you may not get a single wave. If you want expert tuition to help get your confidence up
(or are prepared to admit that you need some lessons), The Hawaii Surf School is based on the North Shore, on 808 638 7845. Beccy Benson and
her team of pros will hone your skills whatever your level.