North America

That one time I surfed Pipeline

Written by a legend in our head office of Australia who once featured in the best surfing movie of all time, Blue Crush. 

When you’ve grown up surfing, Hawaii is the Holy Grail. Big waves, shallow reefs, but it’s the ultimate place to surf. It’s the Grand Final, the Super Bowl if you will of surfing, and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I absolutely shat myself and actually thought about crying at one point as I nearly drowned underneath tonnes of white water at Pipeline.

Image by @mimi_kowski

I’m really lucky that I’ve travelled and surfed all over the world, one of the perks of job I suppose, and I’ve spent a huge amount of time in Hawaii. Some work, some play, but mostly getting scrapped along the reefs after having huge waves land on my head. I’m not talking about Waikiki here either, I’m talking places like Waimea Bay, Off The Wall, Pipe etc. (I’d also add a wave called Backdoor to that list but its sounds kind of dirty)

Waimea Bay Image by @sean_davey

When you surf the North Shore you fly into Honolulu airport and then you’ve got about an hour’s drive on the Kam Highway, cruising through country towns and pineapple fields but you’re seriously shit scared on what should be an incredibly pleasant drive through the sunshine. You get to the top of the island and head down towards Haleiwa and you see all these waves breaking miles out to sea and the surf looks enormous and you just want to go home to your mum but you know if you don’t surf that surf you’ll forever regret it.

Haleiwa bridge. Image by @haubushsurf

After you’ve stopped for the first of four nervous pee’s, you pass through the Haleiwa, this classic surf town stuck in the 70’s and onwards along what is basically a single lane country road past Waimea Bay (yep that Waimea Bay), Pupukea and you’ll try to find a park somewhere around the school opposite Pipeline (you know the one where the girl gets dropped off at in Blue Crush). After finally finding a park over a kilometre away (it’s always packed on the North Shore), your hearts beating at 150 a minute and you wander down the path between the houses and you’re hoping it’s not too big and there aren’t hundreds of people already in the surf


You’re at the top of the stairs or end of the trail, say hey to a few others nervously checking out the surf and if you’re in luck you’re looking out at the most perfect waves you’ll ever see in your life. The North Shore is one of the only places where you can be 100 metres from waves that are four or five stories high and you can hear the sound of the water as it spits out of the barrel like a shotgun. When the waves are huge you do this weird thing… where you wait for an hour or so counting the minutes between the “sets” which are the biggest waves that are coming through, so when you’re out in the water you know that if you can’t get any of the biggest and best waves (and you won’t) that you’ve got X number of minutes to catch one of the smaller (yet still massive) “scraps” before the next set comes and breaks on your head, washing you all the way into the beach to the laughter of the crowds that line the backyards of the houses overlooking Pipeline.

That barrel. Image by @oroviophotography

With some luck you’ll score 2 or 3 waves every hour. Doesn’t sound much does it? But surfing in Hawaii is like being thrown into a Lion’s cage with nothing but harsh words and a snickers bar to protect yourself. Not only are you trying to catch the best and biggest waves of your life, you’re trying to get them amongst the best and most aggressive surfers in the world, without trying to catch a wave on the head that will grind you into the reef or push you in and under the caves and overhangs of the Pipeline reef. Add to that the “death whistle” which is if you get in the way of a local or in any way endanger someone in the surf, this loud whistle permeates from the backyards and you’ll be met on the beach by one of the Wolfpak. So pretty much, just don’t cut any one off!

Image by @licosta11

If you’ve managed to survive all of that, head down to Ted’s Bakery and grab yourself a signature cream pie, you’ve basically just cheated death… calories mean nothing now.

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