In all the history of modern surfing, very few places will ever reach the mythical status of Banzai Pipeline. Located on the fabled North Shore of O'ahu, it is the premiere proving ground for anyone wanting to make a name for themselves in the surfing community. Pipeline has one of the prettiest forming waves around, and it spits out heroes and hospital patients on a regular basis. Located just off Ehukai Beach Park, the area frequently hosts some of the top surf competitions in the world. The annual Pipe Masters is the final stop on the World Triple Crown of Surfing because of its legendary status and its consistently deep pits. What makes the break so renowned is the unique topography of the shoreline: A suddenly rising plateau of reef flips the force of the wave up and over onto itself, creating a perfect barrel. Combine that with violent storms in the North Pacific that send energy toward the island with nothing getting in the way until 75 yards off the coast and you get the mecca of surfing. During the winter months you can feel the ground being struck by 20-foot waves crashing even when you're standing safely on the beach. It is truly awe-inspiring power.
There are four major breaks here and several more just dozens of yards away. Just like with every beach, different spots are better on different days. It depends on the direction and frequency of the incoming wave energy as well as their size, which is affected by storms and seismic activity. There are several reefs in succession that break further out as the size of the swell increases. First Reef breaks closest to shore and is surfed regularly along with Backdoor, its world famous right-breaking sister wave. Second and Third reefs come alive outside in the winter as it gets bigger. Off the Wall is a bit west of Backdoor with Gas Chambers east of Ehukai break, which lies directly in front of the beach park.
These breaks are usually for a select few, not just in the territorial sense but also for safety, even if you have decent experience surfing outside of Hawaii. The takeoff is notoriously dangerous, and the well-known caverns of jagged reef that sit just feet below the surface are ready to swallow up anyone who doesn't stick their drop in. People that surf here regularly tend to be well-known figures on the North Shore, and it's not the type of place where you can just show up and paddle into the line up. There's a well defined hierarchy here as well, as there is on most breaks on the North Shore. Most of the time everyone is mellow, and most just enjoy watching these athletes from the safety of the beach because you are not allowed to go swimming in the shorebreak. It's not uncommon to spot celebrities, models, and other professional athletes who come to visit the beachfront houses often owned by major companies within the surf and entertainment world.
This place is a must-see for anyone on O'ahu, especially in winter. It can get super crowded with spectators on big days from October to March, so traffic and parking can be a nightmare. Do your best to go early or on weekday. It's an amazing place to watch professional and amateur surfers right off the shore of a white sandy beach.