Origin of the name
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 legend producer Bruce Brown was driving up North with Californians Phil Edwards and Mike Diffenderfer. Bruce stopped at the then-unnamed site to film Phil catching several waves. At the time, there was a construction project on an underground pipeline on adjacent Kamehameha Highway, and Mike made the suggestion to name the break "Pipeline". The name was first used in Bruce Browns movie Surfing Hollow Days. It also lent its name to a 1963 hit by surf music rockers The Chantays.
Specifics of the break
The reef at Pipe 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 injure fallen surfers. Sand can accumulate on the reef at Pipeline, and that can cause waves to "close out" (meaning the hollow tube of the wave collapses all at once and thus is impossible to surf). A strong swell (a formation of long-wavelength surface waves) from the west clears out the sand in the reef, and after that, a strong north swell can give rise to the best waves.
There are four waves associated with Pipeline. 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 equally 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 unbroken face 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.
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 considered the world's deadliest wave. Its average wave is 9 feet (3 m), but can be larger. Many more people have died or been seriously injured at Pipeline than at any other surf spot.
The takeoff zone (the area in which a surfer needs to be in order to catch a wave) at Pipeline is small, but a large number of surfers tend to congregate there when it is breaking large.
Among the many notable surfers to earn a reputation surfing the Pipeline are Butch Van Artsdalen, Jock Sutherland, Steven Ing, Gerry Lopez, Mike Stewart, Shaun Tomson, Mark Richards, Michael Ho, Simon Anderson, Jack Lindholm, Tom Carroll, Sunny Garcia, Kelly Slater, Kainoa McGee, Danny Fuller, Jamie O'Brien, Rob Machado, Tamayo Perry, Andy Irons, Sion Milosky, John John Florence, Jeff Hubbard, Spencer Skipper, Chanel Raymond, Marvin Foster and Ronnie Burns.
The top surfing competitions at this spot include the Pipe Masters (Board Surfing), the Volcom Pipe Pro, the IBA Pipeline Pro (Bodyboarding), and the Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic.
Every winter, surfers can submit a video to Surfline's Wave of the Winter competition. The coveted award goes out to the surfer who the judges believe showed the most commitment and style and also heavily factor in other things such as how deep the surfer got and how big the wave was. The judges are Gerry Lopez, Pancho Sullivan, Ross Williams, and Shawn Briley, all well respected surfers at Pipe. Surfers to win the award include Kelly Slater, Reef Mcintosh, Mason Ho, and most recently, Koa Rothman.
Shaun Tomson, 1977 world champion from South Africa, Mark Richards, four time 1979-1982 world champion from Australia, Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew, 1978 world champion from Australia and Peter Townend, 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.
An episode of Season 6 (1974–1975) of Hawaii Five-O, named "The Banzai Pipeline", was filmed at Pipeline.
The 2002 surf movie Blue Crush was filmed at Pipe.
The 2007 film Pipeline featured events at this location.
Recent deaths at Pipeline
- Joshua Nakata, local bodyboarder (16 March 2008)
- Joaquin Velilla, Puerto Rican surfer (12 January 2007)
- Malik Joyeux, Tahitian surfer (2 December 2005)
- Jon Mozo, local surf photographer (9 February 2005)
- Moto Watanabe, Japanese surfer (19 January 2004)
- Travis Mussleman, California surfer (20 March 2000)
- Andy Chuda, California surfer (25 March 1989)
- Pipeline on BlooSee (satellite view, NOAA chart and surfing spot)