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Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu

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Pipeline, Oahu Hawaii

Banzai Pipeline, or Pipeline or simply Pipe is a world renowned surf reef break located at the North Shore on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. A reef break is a place in the ocean where waves start to break once the reach the shallows of a reef. Pipeline is infamous for large waves that break in shallow water over a cavernous sharp reef. When this wave breaks it forms large hollow, thick curls of water that allow surfers the opportunity of a “tube ride”. There are three reefs at Pipeline at varying depths that become active depending on the size of the swells.

The unique name of Pipeline has its origins in December 1961, when a surfing movie producer by the name of Bruce Brown was driving around the North Shore with a couple of California surfers. The group stopped at an unnamed spot to film Phil Edwards catching some waves, at that time there was construction on an underground pipeline on Kamehameha Highway, and one of the group suggested naming the spot Pipeline. The name was used in Bruce Browns movie titled “Surfing Hollow Days”, and the name stuck.

The reef at Pipeline is a flat tabletop reef with several holes or caverns on the inside which creates a large air pocket that pops on the front of the wave as it breaks over the reef. This action is what makes for the nice tube rides that pipeline is known for, however there are also many jagged spires on the reef that can injure fallen surfers. When sand accumulates on the reef it will cause the wave to collapse all at once making it impossible to surf. Once a strong swell from the West cleans out the sand a strong North swell provides the best surfing opportunities.

There are four types of waves that are associated with North Shores Pipeline. The left, where the wave breaks from left to right which is known as Pipeline, is the most commonly surfed and photographed. When a North swell comes in the wave is known as Peak, where the highest tipping point of the wave begins to curl becomes an A frame shaped wave, with Pipe closing out and peeling off to the left, and the equally famous Backdoor Pipeline peeling off to the right at the same time. When the wave size increases, usually over 12 feet, the second reef to the outside becomes active further out in the ocean, and creates waves with longer walls and more size. At a much larger and extreme size the area called “Third Reef” even further outside and deeper out in the ocean becomes active with giant waves. Some of the top surfing competitions in the world are held here and included in that list are; The Pipe Masters, The Volcom Pipe Pro, IBA Pipeline Pro (Bodyboarding) and The Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic.


Oahu Tours to Pipeline:


>> Pearl Harbor and Circle Island Tour
>> Oahu Grand Circle Island Tour