We had some incredible surf conditions at Pipeline last month.
The waves were enormous and barreling.
The surf was extremely treacherous though. Some sets that came in were unsurfable.
Really big December waves at Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
But when it was good, it was really good.
Pipeline is known as the best wave in world because of the perfect shape of it’s barrels and the danger involved in surfing here. The water is shallow and if you take a bad fall you can easily get slammed into the reef.
For spectators (like myself), it’s one of the best surf breaks because the waves break so close to the shore. You can see the action without needing binoculars and you can feel the power of the waves as they pound the coastline. Not only that, but Pipeline is easy to get to. It’s located at a Ehukai Beach Park on Oahu’s North Shore.
I drove up to the North Shore on Friday, December 28 and Sunday, December 30 to watch waves. I spent several hours watching surfers get barreled in the monster surf. This post contains the best photos I got over those two days. It was quite a show. A real “only in Hawaii” experience.
This is Ehukai Beach Park. That’s the name of the beach. When you see people take off on a wave and go to their left, they are surfing the surf break called “Banzai Pipeline” or “Pipeline” or just “Pipe.” If the go to their right, they are on the surf break called “Backdoor”.
On Friday, the waves were maybe 12-20 foot (faces). The rolling waves hide how many people are in the line-up.
But when a set came in, you can see how crowded it was.
Some waves were shareable. One surfer would take the right (“Backdoor”) and one would take the left (“Pipeline”).
The conditions were excellent.
Surfers try to take off deep in the wave and then race up the face.
The goal is to get into the barrel and hopefully ride out of it before the wave eats you.
Often times, surfers will have to exit the barrel before it closes out. That puts them in this situation. This guy is saying “Hi” to his buddy, but seconds later would be pummeled by that avalanche of white wash behind him.
On the beach, there are plenty of people and photogs. This guys wins the biggest lens contest.
A lot of people like to sit or stand close to the water. I wouldn’t do this if I were you though.
Not on a day with huge surf at least.
Every now and then a wave would wash all the way up the beach. People’s backpacks and purses get washed away when this happens.
The waves on Sunday were much bigger. The faces were 15-30 feet.
The outer reefs were breaking. It was an eerie sight to see a wave break that far out.
Broken boards were not uncommon.
There were maybe only a third of the people out surfing on Sunday. Derek Ho was one of them.
A couple of body boarders were cleaning up on all the inside waves.
When the sets came in, there were several waves per set. Everyone was catching waves.
I wonder what it feels like to be sitting out there like that.
Every time I would decide to pack up my gear and leave, a monster set would come through and I’d get stuck watching it. I was out at the beach for over 5 hours on Sunday.
When a wave is closing out, the surfer will ride up over the lip to escape.
This surfer is right at the lip deciding if he wants to drop into this wave.
You can see how hollow this barrel is here.
And then there were the wipeouts. This guy is taking an air-drop from the lip. Bad things are about to happen.
When he hits the wave, his board gets sucked up and he falls onto the wave. He’ll then get sucked up as well and slammed down into the water.
This guy’s board slipped out from under him. He’s going over the falls as well on this huge wave.
Surprisingly, I didn’t see too many bad wipeouts this day. The surfers out here were all careful about which waves they would drop into.
This was my first time ever seeing Pipeline this big and this clean. It was so much different seeing it in person than in videos.
When surfers exited the water they would see this. A crowd of spectators taking pictures and cheering for surfers than made it out of barrels.
For the rest of that day, when ever I would day dream or close my eyes, I would see waves in my head. I could watch this stuff all day.
If you wanna see video of what the surf looks like at Pipeline, here’s a trailer for the upcoming surf contest.
- Directions and info on Ehukai Beach Park on Yelp.
- History of Pipeline on Surfline.com.
- Several of the beach houses here are owned by surf sponsors. Here’s an interesting article on those properties: The Hottest Real Estate in Surfing.
- You might have to sit through some traffic driving up here if there are big waves, but at least there’s plenty of places to park along the road.
- Camera equipment: If you don’t have a long lens, you can do what I did and rent one from Hawaii Photo Rental. (3oomm minimum. 400mm or 600mm would be better.)