Credit:© ASP / CESTARI | Billabong Pipe Masters 2010

Billabong Pipe Masters 2010

A Short History of the Pipe Masters Event

This year the most legendary surf contest of modern times will once again be hosted by Billabong. The crown jewel in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the Billabong Pipe Masters will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2010. The world's longest-running professional surfing event will be staged as always, at the famed Banzai Pipe on Oahu's North Shore.

The Pipe Masters was founded in 1971 by Hawaiian Fred Hemmings, (now a Hawaii State Senator) who is credited with developing Hawaii’s fledgling professional surfing cene. Contest Director Randy Rarick, who eventually took it over from Hemmings, still runs the event and has been it’s inspiration for over three decades.

Although Jeff Hakman won the inaugural competition, fellow Hawaiian Gerry Lopez was riding the wave with such a casual elegance that the contest was later named after him (Lopez was not present in 1971 having been duped by the crafty Corky Carroll into thinking the event had been cancelled). In 1972 and1973 Lopez won the event with a display of surfing so beautiful that it caused Jim McKay, the legendary ABC announcer, to wipe tears from his eyes ... on air.

To the surfing world, a Pipe Masters title is the pinnacle of the sport; an honored achievement that sets a surfer in a special elite class. Entire careers have been spawned out of riding the Pipeline. Surfers from dozens of countries travel here to prove their ability in the caverns of Pipe. Make your mark on this wave and go down in surfing lore.

The “Masters” stature grew quickly as the NY Times declared a huge day in the early years as "A day of days on earth." Sports Illustrated published a cover story in 1982 called Thunder from the Seas. ABC's Wide World of Sports featured the event for nearly a decade.

Pipeis held by many with as much reverence as the World Title itself. The history of the place, combined with the sheer ferocity of the wave, makes winning the Pipe Masters a career highlight. Great rivalries in the sport have had their most intense matches here, from the Mark Richards/Cheyne Horan duels of the early Eighties to the fiery clashes of Tom Curren/Mark Occhilupo and the all-time battles between World Champs Andy Irons and Kelly Slater for the last decade.

Although hosted by a slew of major brands over the years, the WCT event at Pipe was taken over by Billabong in 2007, promising to make it the premier Hawaiian event. This year is expected to be a banner season for surf on the North Shore, promising a spectacular experience for both spectator and contestant alike.

Past Winners

2009: Taj Burrow (AUS)
2008: Kelly Slater (USA)
2007: Bede Durbidge (AUS)
2006: Andy Irons (HAW)
2005: Andy Irons (HAW)
2004: Jaime O’Brien (HAW)
2003: Andy Irons (HAW)
2002: Andy Irons (HAW)
2001: Bruce Irons (HAW)
2000: Rob Machado (USA)
1999: Kelly Slater (USA)
1998: Jake Paterson (AUS)
1997: Johnny-Boy Gomes (HAW)
1996: Kelly Slater (USA)
1995: Kelly Slater (USA)
1994: Kelly Slater (USA)
1993: Derek Ho (HAW)
1992: Kelly Slater (USA)
1991: Tom Carroll (AUS)
1990: Tom Carroll (AUS)
1989: Gary Elkerton (AUS)
1988: Robbie Page (HAW)
1987: Tom Carroll (AUS)
1986: Derek Ho (HAW)
1985: Mark Occhilupo (AUS)
1984: Joey Buran (USA)
1983: Dane Kealoha (HAW)
1982: Michael Ho (HAW)
1981: Simon Anderson (AUS)
1980: Mark Warren (AUS)
1979: Larry Blair (AUS)
1978: Larry Blair (AUS)
1977: Rory Russell (HAW)
1976: Rory Russell (HAW)
1975: Shaun Tomson (ZAF)
1974: Jeff Crawford (USA)
1973: Gerry Lopez (HAW)
1972: Gerry Lopez (HAW)
1971: Jeff Hakman (HAW)

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About How Pipe Breaks

Pipe is the result of an outer reef refraction effect, which in the ideal swell direction (west) pulls waves squarely onto its flat lava tabletop. When such a swell hits the North Shore, suddenly the wave that wasn't there comes roaring back, with all the energy and animal beauty that's drawn surfers to it for generations. In smaller, peakier northwest swells, the wave becomes a dual option, with super hollow rights funneling across toward its close neighbor Off-The-Wall; in recent years this wave (Backdoor) has become even better known than its left-hand cousin, at least if you count the number of pictures in surf magazines.

Classic Pipe relies on two outer reefs -- outer Log Cabins and Third Reef -- to refract an approaching west swell into a long wall finishing with a tapered peak that hits the inside Pipe reef about 80 yards offshore. The inside "first reef" is mostly flat solid lava, with a couple of small caves under the takeoff zone which create a distinct boil on the wave face. All the craggy bits you've seen in underwater photos and footage are way down the end of the ride, where the reef begins to fall away into sand and deeper water. Even when it's small, a west swell at first reef Pipe is always tremendously powerful, breaking hard on the reef and holding a lot of energy in the lip, which is best avoided during wipeouts. At four feet it's an exciting little left barrel with a soft shoulder reforming down the line and eventually closing out across one sandbar or another. At six feet it's arguably at its most dangerous, sucking brutally hard off the shallowest patch of reef and taking no prisoners in the drop. At eight to 10 feet, it begins to open up a little more, with some waves breaking on another slab of the inside reef 10 or 15 yards outside the main zone, allowing an easier entry and time to select from a range of possible lines. At 12 feet, waves begin breaking in big foamy lumps on Second Reef another 80 yards or so outside; Pipe itself becomes a second reform section, sometimes a steep flat wall, other times a mad belching pit.The wave is prone to sand buildup along the inside reef's northern fringe, which occurs during north swells and over summertime; when sand is packed tight along this reef line, Pipe lefts become a hideous closeout, particularly in swells slightly north of west. Six or eight hours of a fresh big west swell will clean the sand out, ready for use.

Backdoor was somewhat ignored during Pipe's first golden days in the 1970s. It makes you wonder how many heaving barrels roared right off the peak before everyone kind of clicked on it. The wave relies on a slight breaking up of swell lines from the northwest and a thin channel between the Pipe reef and Off-The-Wall. The broken swell allows a tapering wall, which hits square on the shallowest part of first reef and creates an intense deep tube. Further inside, the reef gets shallower and actually pokes itself above the waterline here and there; dealing properly with the finish of a ride is very important. This is even more the case on larger days, when the unwary surfer might come out of the tube, start paddling, and be faced with a full-on major closeout set at one of the North Shore's scariest moments.

How the World’s Most Dangerous Wave Got Its Name

The first documented ride at Pipe was in December of 1961 by Californian Phil Edwards and captured on film by legendary filmmaker Bruce Brown. Californian shaper Mike Diffenderfer called it "Pipeline" after large concrete pipes being laid in nearby Kamehameha Highway. Locals called the beach "Banzai" after the small beachside nursery of Bonsai trees. Pipe rears up 50 feet from shore and showcases waves of up to five stories high that march shoreward before exploding upon a barely submerged coral reef. Hitting with speed and power, these swells launch off the shallow reef, abruptly 'jacking up' from just a few feet in height, to 15 or 20 feet in a matter of seconds. The effect of this is a hollow, barreling wave that has made the name "Banzai Pipeline" famous around the world.

Probably the best-known surf spot in the world, Pipe is capable of pulling the most incredible disappearing acts. In a slack winter with lots of smaller north swells and bad wind, the casual observer, rolling up to Ehukai Beach Park and gazing west, wouldn't have any idea it was there.

Sources for all copy for this site:

Interviews with Gerry Lopez, Fred Van Dyke, Phil Hoffman, Rory Russell, Tommy Carroll, Joey Buran, and Dane Kealoha
Surfing Magazine
Surfer Magazine
ASP International

Jeff Johannson

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