The renowned Banzai Pipeline is one of the heaviest and most-photographed waves in the world.
Thick left tubes explode over a shallow, jagged
and totally unforgiving reef. Breaks on most directions and sizes, but best on medium-sized W to
NW swells. Always packed with an international
assortment of the most skilled shortboarders,
bodyboarders and hard-charging modern longboarders to be found anywhere. Second Reef
begins to break once the swell hits 10 feet. Third
Reef reaches 25 feet and is rarely surfed.
Backdoor is the fast, hollow right on the other side
of the main peak at Pipe. Backdoor is usually best
on NW swells with light winds. Pipeline is the
venue for several professional contests during the
Hawaiian winter season, including one leg of the
coveted Triple Crown of surfing. Expect massive
crowds, especially when the swell is under 8 feet.
There is a very distinct pecking order in the lineup
and offenders most often must face the local crew
hanging on the beach. Be alert and on guard
when dropping in as there is little room for two riders at either Pipe or Backdoor.
Off the Wall is a
clean reef break alternative just SW of Backdoor,
offering a less competitive environment and featuring fast, hollow rights from 2 to 8 feet on NW
swells. Also tends to close out more than
Backdoor. Extremely shallow and dangerous bottom contour at all three of these spots on all
swells. Access this stretch of fabled reef breaks
through the S end of ‘Ehukai Beach Park.
O‘ahu is surrounded by waves. There are more
accessible waves per mile than almost any other
travel destination.Most surf spots are reef breaks with
little offshore continental shelf to dissipate wave energy. Due to O‘ahu’s ideal mid-ocean position, it picks
up almost any well aimed North or South.
O‘ahu’s surf can be divided into four principal
regions: North Shore, Wai‘anae Coast, South
Shore and Windward Coast. The North Shore
extends from Ka‘ena Point to Kahuku Point. The
area from Ka‘ena Point to Mokul‘ia faces almost
due north, but it’s easily blown out by prevailing
northeast trades. This section of the North Shore
has many shallow reefs. It’s best on medium-sized
swells with southerly Kona winds.
Shore’s premier breaks are concentrated in a
seven-mile strip from Hale‘iwa to Velzyland. The
area’s swell window extends from 270 degrees
clockwise through 40 degrees. Primary swell
sources are intense higher-latitude storms that
track eastward across the North Pacific Ocean
south of the Aleutian Islands. The area from
Hale‘iwa to Kahuku usually sees early morning
side/offshore winds. Later in the day the winds
tend to turn side shore or side/onshore.
The Wai‘anae Coast, or the West Side, extends
from Barber’s Point Naval Air Station northwest to
Ka‘ena Point. This region’s swell window extends
from 160 degrees clockwise to 340 degrees. Most
beaches face west/southwest, allowing the region
to pick up both winter waves from the North Pacific
and some Southern Hemisphere swells. A winter
northwest swell could produce 15-foot surf at
Mkaha, but the same swell may fade to only two
to four feet by the time it wraps into Kalaeloa.
normal east/northeast trades are directly offshore
along the Wai‘anae Coast. Afternoon sea breezes
sometimes create choppy conditions. Daylong
onshore winds are possible during winter storms,
producing clean conditions on the normally wind-
blown eastern coast.
The South Shore extends from the southwest of
Makapu‘u westward to Kalaeloa at Barber’s Point.
Most of the coast faces due south, but there are
significant local variations. The winds are frequently side/offshore from Waikk to Ala Moana,
often producing clean surf. The frequency of chop-
py surf increases closer to Kalaeloa.
Shore swell window extends from 90 degrees to
270 degrees, but the Outer Islands from Moloka‘i
to the Big Island block some east to east/south-
east swells. Primary swell sources are powerful
mid-latitude South Pacific storms. Occasionally,
hurricanes passing to the south produce
groundswells as well.
The Windward Coast extends from Kahuku Point to
Makapu‘u Point. Most of this coast faces
east/northeast, although there are a few local variations. This region faces directly into prevailing
trade winds, causing frequently blown-out conditions. The abundant offshore reefs on this coast
may fire with south to southwest winds and a bit of
swell. The overall swell window stretches from 330
degrees clockwise to 150 degrees. Shadowing
effects from Moloka‘i, Maui and the Big Island
reduce incoming east/southeast swells. The best
overall swell set-up is a large, slow moving winter
storm to the north or northeast of O‘ahu.
•2006 Pipe Masters Final Day Photo Gallery