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Surfing locations in Pūpūkea

Banzai Pipeline


The Banzai Pipeline, or simply "Pipeline" or "Pipe," is a surf reef break located in Hawaii, off Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea on O'ahu's North Shore. A reef break is an area in the ocean where waves start to break once they reach the shallows of a reef. Pipeline is notorious for huge waves which break in shallow water just above a sharp and cavernous reef, forming large, hollow, thick curls of water that surfers can tube ride. There are three reefs at Pipeline in progressively deeper water further out to sea that activate according to the increasing size of approaching ocean swells.

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.

The surfers

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)


External links

  • Pipeline on BlooSee (satellite view, NOAA chart and surfing spot)
Post a comment
Tips & Hints
Arrange By:
Justin Linsday
26 December 2010
Axel Vedani
1 March 2013
Sit down and watch the magic
Degree Men
26 October 2011
Made of 3 reefs in increasingly deep water, no matter the swell size, the reef churns out deadly powerful and heavy waves over a jagged coral reef. It is home to the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Russel Cheng
23 December 2009
Best on a NNW swell at 6-10 feet. Experience surfers only.
Christoffer Engström
26 August 2014
Even if you ain't good enough to surf, the break is close to the beach and makes it a perfect spot to watching!
Dana D.
19 March 2014
You won't find waves like these anywhere else in Hawaii
Olga Diniz
22 March 2013
Great beach to watch the surfers. Amazing waves and beautiful sunset!/ ótima praia para ver os surfistas. Ondas gigantes e um pôr-do-sol maravilhoso!
Kenny Bruner
29 July 2010
Not for the amateur weekend warrior surfer or for that matter even a "good" surfer. This wave is for the elite, not only because waves power but also they dont like kooks, too dangerous to play here.
Karina Lopes
27 September 2015
The spot for surfing, but in the summer there weren't many waves
Marcy Maxwell
9 September 2015
Stayed in a beach house right on the Pipeline. It was beautiful and peaceful. Watching surfing all day long.
Britney Teper
26 February 2015
This spot is amazing, you will see the best surfers in the world here. Don't be fooled by a lower looking surf day either, this spot is NOT for beginners
The Wall Street Journal
Front row for watching the pro contests and punishing waves.
Jason Feirman
14 April 2014
Supposedly the best place to watch surfers
Alan Curtis
8 February 2014
Just some very big waves
9 August 2013
Quiet in summer, great swimming.
30 August 2011
OAHU: Best place to watch pros battle 25-foot waves
Damian Bayona
20 February 2018
Grab a chair and watch some choice waves at the world famous banzai pipeline. Always entertaining. Expect a crowd and photographers sprinkled throughout.
Jessica Liu
26 October 2017
Watch some dare devils surf and boogie board. If you want to get in the water but don't want to die, there's a nice wading area
19 January 2017
Check the surf reports if you're in Hawaii. We took a last minute trip to see the 20-25 footers and caught a contest. It was worth it!
Keith Kaplan
13 January 2016
Best waves on Oahu. It's worth the trip up here if you're staying on the south shore.
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59-385 Ke Nui Rd, Haleiwa, HI 96712, USA

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