DECEMBER 8TH - DECEMBER 20TH 2011
If you need to know the answer to this, you may have taken a knock to the head. The ultimate surfing gladiator pit - a wave so famous it’s become part of the popular vernacular in countries that haven’t even heard of surfing. Pipeline is a trio of lava reefs midway along the North Shore’s famed ‘Seven Mile Stretch’, with the inside reef breaking so close to the shore that spectators could almost high-five guys in the tube. Pipeline is the left, Backdoor is the right, this twin headed Frankenstein monster roars to cackling life during huge West swells. Second Reef breaks over 10’. Third Reef starts breaking over 15’. As the final stop on tour, it presents the ultimate World Title proving ground.
In the 1950s, it had mesmerised all those (boofy beatniks with their shorts pulled up too high) who were camping along the muddy isthmus in tin sheds, riding Sunset and Waimea on slabs of redwood. Style-master Phil Edwards was the first to paddle out and momentarily tame the beast in 1961, proving it rideable. From then on, it became the hub of world surfing: a natural theatre of destruction, death and triumph, which magnetised the world’s crazies and media to its bloody focal point.
Myles Padaca, Volcom House residents, Jamie O’Brien, Randall Paulson
Famed benchmarks set at the world’s most famous wave include, Jock Sutherland, Rory Russell, Jeff Crawford, Gerry Lopez, Shaun Tomson, Bugs, Occy, Derek Ho, Tom Carroll, Johnny Boy Gomes, Liam MacNamara, Slater, Bruce Irons, Jamie O’Brien.
Slater has an affinity with the place, with no hands tubes and rodeo clowns. Likewise, the Irons brothers are also near unstoppable here, everyone from Mick Lowe to Jake Paterson, to the wildcard locals. Hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for potential boy-becomes-man debutantes. Experience here is a must.
Japanese company Marui, and gaming shoot-em-ups Xbox have been previous benefactors, though the event is now sponsored in spectacular fashion by deep-rooted Australian surfwear company Rip Curl. Previous to this, Rip Curl sponsored the just as cataclysmic Sunset event a couple of miles up the beach.
It doesn’t go that flat, during the Northern Winter, it just gets wonkier, windier or muddier. If Pipe isn’t working, Sunset, Off The Wall, or one of the 30-odd killer waves along this stretch may be. Bodysurf the Waimea Shorebreak. Drive to Wahiawa and check the adult book store. Hop in your kidnapper van and go a-hunting for waves on the East Side or the mal-sliding South Shore paradise of Waikiki by day; then, by night, sidle up to the honeys and sidestep the Navy rocklords populating the Honolulu niteclub strip.
Intimidating on land and in the water. When the event is on, crowds flock from every surfing nation on earth, to line the beach and have their wigs blown off. Local Hawaiians, keep the place in check, kindly offering beat-downs to any outsiders making a tool of themselves in the water. Also joining the land-based crowd, are busloads of legume-shaped Mid-Western tourists wearing cowbay hats and Hibiscus-print shirts who have stepped straight out of Gary Larson comics to join the throng.