BANZAI PIPELINE – Famous, iconic, legendary, but surely dangerous. Located on Oahu’s north shore where waves in the winter months can reach an upward of 20 feet (6 meters) high. A place that’s always perfect for riding or watching the waves.
This area of Oahu is home to the Pipeline Masters Surf Contest that is attended by the best and bravest surfesrs from all over the world. Currently the Billabong Pipe Masters is running at Pipline for the next few weeks in December. I was lucky enough to have been there on opening day where the swells were high and have been dubbed among the largest waves at Pipeline during the competition. The event is the final stop on the 2011 ASP World Title Series, and the third jewel of the Vans Triple Crown.
The north shore of Oahu is part of a volcanic crater that’s mostly submerged in the ocean, but part of it makes up the northern section of island. What is created on the north shore is a shallow reef that almost immediately drops to very deep water. This deep drop creates prime conditions, especially during the winter months where heavy swells push up onto the shallow reef, creating some of the best picture-perfect waves that form gorgeous rideable barrels that pro-surfers dream about.
The surf can rise quickly going from 2 feet to 25 feet high during the course of a day. In Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu near Pipeline, the waves have been cranking up to 50 feet or higher in recent winters. Swell after swell of waves trashes the shore with such intensity you can feel your heart thump as it cashes on land.
On the day I went, the waves have been between 16 to 22 feet, with occasional larger sets. Although it is not possible to predict exactly when high swells will come-in at Pipeline, it will surely happen some time on several occurrences between the months of November and December. But these brave surfers are not the only one who come out when these big waves hit the island. Spectators, like myself, also come out and try to go as close to the water as possible. Often times, however, people get wet as they underestimate the power of the waves and how far they’ll get on shore.
Please take note that hundreds of surf boards are broken each year on the shallow reef, along with injuries and sometimes even the unthinkable. These are dangerous waves! DO NOT attempt them unless you are an excellent swimmer and have advanced experience on a body board or surf board. The Hawaiian waters may be beautiful, but take it from someone who grew up here, these waters are not forgiving."If you like this post, you might like these, too:"