Andy Irons is the Xbox Pipeline Masters and overall Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion. There’s no surf in Cleveland (unless there’s one hellacious storm), maybe you’ve heard that. I miss the ocean, salt in my eyes, sand in my teeth. I’m not much of a surfer because I was just learning when we moved to Cleveland from LA when I was a kid, but I’m a ripping bodysurfer. But enough about me.
Check out these gnarly waves from the legendary and dangerous Banzai Pipeline break at Ehukai Beach Park on Oahu’s North Shore. Rad.
Check out this description of riding Pipeline:
- the wave
“One wipeout here is worth 100 anywhere else.”
-2000 xbox pipeline masters runner-up
The classic left tube at Pipeline relies on a west-angled swell, which refracts onto a shallow flat lava reef about 80 yards offshore. Result: a dramatic, shifting wave with a sometimes critical takeoff. If sand is built up on the northern edge of the reef, murderous closeouts occur on a regular basis. Smaller swells from the northwest or north bring life to the Backdoor section, which peels right across the near-dry center of the reef. Pipe is flanked by Off-The-Wall’s reef to the west, and Ehukai Beach Park’s sand bars to the north.
Pipeline is an outrageously intense, short ride that more than anything else requires perfect timing. The simple skills count for most: getting in early and placing the first turn just right – that, and an ability to adjust quickly to changes in the vast, quick moving volume of water. It sounds easy, but what’s not easy is the self control needed to make things work when the ocean is roaring around you like a wild beast. “Pipeline takes attitude and knowledge,” says outside drop king Liam McNamara. “It’s not for everybody, though everybody wants to ride it. My first surf there each season is as heavy as any session I’ve had. You have to familiarize yourself with every kind of wave that can hit the reef, and know which ones to take and which ones to let go.” Above all, tuberiding techniques – from the basic frontside turn and stall to the backside rail-grab style – are essential for all riders with a Pipe ambition.
how it’s won
Although Pipe’s a charger’s paradise, final day surfers have to be careful not to burn up too much energy with crazy wipeouts. You pay a big price for errors at this punishing location – broken boards, exhausted bodies, vital minutes out of the lineup. “One wipeout here is worth 100 anywhere else,” says Michael Lowe. “It takes so much out of you.” Most of the past decade’s Masters have done it by choosing the perfect waves at the perfect moments, and making as few mistakes as possible. The classic example is 2000’s champ, Rob Machado, who only wiped out once during his last four heats. “It’s hard to get any practice at Pipe – on a good day you’re not going to get many waves,” he says. “A lot of the time I’ll go out just to watch and to paddle for the waves I’d like to ride, and think my way through it. Is there any better wave in the world?”
I’m stoked, bra. Gotta get back to the Islands.