Pipeline, the most iconic wave in surfing, seen here from above. At a distance, its beauty deceptively masks the extreme danger inherent in riding the wave. A fitting venue for the grand finale of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and the WSL competitive year, the Billabong Pipe Masters is one of the most spectacular shows in surfing.
Photo: Mike Ito
Australia’s Ace Buchan is one of the World Tour’s most astute competitors and has proven himself to be especially lethal in heavy surf. Photo: WSL/Cestari
The versatility, power, and commitment of Ryan Callinan’s surfing is an ideal match for the challenge of Pipe. Photo: WSL/Cestari
Two-time Billabong Pipe Masters champion and this year’s Quiksilver Pro France victor, Jeremy Flores is always a major contender at Pipeline. Photo: WSL/Ed Sloane
Reigning Billabong Pipe Masters champion and 2019 WSL world title favorite, Gabriel Medina will be a force to be reckoned with at this year’s event. Photo: WSL/Ed Sloane
It could be said that no stronger of a bond exists between a surfer and a wave than Kelly Slater and Pipeline. The seven-time Billabong Pipe Masters champion (and 11-time WSL world champion) redefined how the most iconic wave on the planet is surfed. In the twilight of his competitive career at 47 years old, Slater still remains an outright favorite when the waves get serious. Photo: WSL/Cestari
South Africa’s Jordy Smith has done well to evolve his surfing from the high-performance wunderkind in his rookie years, to becoming a serious threat in all conditions. Having recently moved to the North Shore, his comfort level in Pipe’s challenging lineup has shown with a Finals appearance in last year’s event. At press, Smith maintains a mathematical chance at the world title, so he’ll be aiming for a major finish at the Billabong Pipe Masters. Photo: WSL/Cestari
Still fresh off his historic win at this year’s Tahiti Pro, Owen Wright has overcome extreme adversity to regain his true form as one of the world’s very best in extreme surf. Suffering a traumatic head injury at Pipeline during a freesurf in 2015, Wright has endured an arduous recovery, making his recent victories that much sweeter. Wearing a protective helmet during competition in Tahiti, Wright spoke of the extra confidence it provided and was looking forward to carry that momentum into this year’s Billabong Pipe Masters. Photo: WSL/Cestari
The final jewel of the Vans Triple Crown (VTCS) and the only WSL Championship Tour (CT) event of the series, the prestige of the Billabong Pipe Masters is unrivaled in competitive surfing. The wave of waves, the Banzai Pipeline sets the bar to a towering height, to which all other waves in the world are compared and to which very few come even remotely close. For the WSL Top 34 surfers, along with local wildcard qualifiers, this is the final CT battle of the year and everything is on the line: Pipe Masters glory, the allusive Triple Crown trophy, world title dreams, and last-ditch qualification efforts. It all takes place just a few dozen yards from shore in some of the most intense and exhilarating barreling waves the world has to offer.
While tube rides can be offered at both Hale‘iwa and Sunset, a majority of the competition at the first two stops of the VTCS is judged on the high-performance surfing done outside the curl. Meanwhile, the cavernous barrels that explode along Pipeline’s shallow reef are so awe-inspiring that generally whatever happens beyond the barrel diminishes in comparison.
Interesting to note, regular-footers have the statistical advantage at the Billabong Pipe Masters. Gabriel Medina is only the second goofy-footer, along with Rob Machado in 2000, to have won the event since Tom Carroll in 1991.
36 Competitors Main Event – Plus 32 Invitational Trialists
First Place Prize: $100,000
Championship Tour Event (CT)
Defending Champion: Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Pipeline breaks from 2-15 feet. Waves begin to wash through from the outer reefs when the swell gets over the 15 foot range.
Beautiful barreling waves are produced from deep ocean swells hitting the shallow reef below.
Pipeline is made up of a series of different reefs, or take-off zones: First Reef, Second Reef, and Third Reef.
Waves are best on west or northwest swells.
While historically known as a dominant left-hander, Pipeline has become equally defined by the incredible rights at Backdoor.
One of the most dangerous waves in the world, Pipeline has the ominous statistic of claiming more lives than any other wave on the planet, averaging one fatality a year.
Public restrooms, showers, and picnic tables are available at ‘Ehukai Beach Park.
The wave breaks just 30 yards from shore, providing the ultimate viewing experience.
Do not approach the shore break. Be vigilant and watch for high washing waves, especially at high tides. Children and personal belongings could be swept away in the strong rip current. Ask the lifeguards on duty any ocean safety questions. Heed all warning signs and announcements.
Food and drinks are generally available for purchase from on-site vendors during the event. Additionally, there are numerous food trucks and vendors along Kamehameha Highway. Water bottle refill stations will also be available.
Where to Park
‘Ehukai Beach Park has a small parking lot.
There is additional parking along Kamehameha Highway.
Heed all ‘No Parking’ signs. Use good judgement when parking along the highway and be respectful of neighborhood residents.
Take advantage of public transportation or the North Shore bike path that runs parallel to the shore.
Rainos Hayes, North Shore local, Billabong Hawai‘i Team Manager, Personal Coach to CT Competitors Courtney Conlogue and Seth Moniz-
“For Pipe, you have to be versatile; the years of having an advantage because you are a goofy-foot are long gone. Most of the winners tend to be regular-footed these days. You can [take off] later on the lefts as a regular-foot. And the right tends to lean more towards regular-foots as well with a lot more technical pieces in the wave, its length, and having to fabricate some of your rides, and break through weird sections—it’s not the most user friendly thing for backsided goofy-foots. What really pushed the regular-footed dominance over the edge was Andy, Bruce, Jamie, and Kelly. They were so good out there.”
Billabong Pipe Masters Champions
2018 – Gabriel Medina, BRA
2017 – Jeremy Flores, FRA
2016 – Michel Bourez, PYF
2015 – Adriano de Souza, BRA
2014 – Julian Wilson, AUS
2013 – Kelly Slater, USA
2012 – Joel Parkinson, AUS
2011 – Kieren Perrow, AUS
2010 – Jeremy Flores, FRA
2009 – Taj Burrow, AUS
2008 – Kelly Slater, USA
2007 – Bede Durbidge, AUS
2006 – Andy Irons, Hawai‘i
2005 – Andy Irons, Hawai‘i
2004 – Jamie O’Brien, Hawai‘i
2003 – Andy Irons, Hawai‘i
2002 – Andy Irons, Hawai‘i
2001 – Bruce Irons, Hawai‘i
2000 – Rob Machado, USA
1999 – Kelly Slater, USA
1998 – Jake Paterson, AUS
1997 – John Gomes, Hawai‘i
1996 – Kelly Slater, USA
1995 – Kelly Slater, USA
1994 – Kelly Slater, USA
1993 – Derek Ho, Hawai‘i
1992 – Kelly Slater, USA
1991 – Tom Carroll, AUS
1990 – Tom Carroll, AUS
1989 – Gary Elkerton, AUS
1988 – Rob Page, AUS
1987 – Tom Carroll, AUS
1986 – Derek Ho, Hawai‘i
1985 – Mark Occhilupo, AUS
1984 – Joey Buran, USA
1983 – Dane Kealoha, Hawai‘i
1982 – Michael Ho, Hawai‘i
1981 – Simon Anderson, AUS
1980 – Mark Richards, AUS
1979 – Larry Blair, AUS
1978 – Larry Blair, AUS
1977 – Rory Russell, Hawai‘i
1976 – Rory Russell, Hawai‘i
1975 – Shaun Tomson, S, Africa
1974 – Jeff Crawford, USA
1973 – Gerry Lopez, Hawai‘i
1972 – Gerry Lopez, Hawai‘i
1971 – Jeff Hakman, Hawai‘i