Who is the world's best left hander? Jimi Hendrix? Phil Mickelson? Babe Ruth? Perhaps. But let's talk about surfing, and waves. The Pipeline left. Or to newbies, "The Banzai Pipeline." Located on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, to what many call the best and most dangerous wave in the world. Notorious for large winter swells breaking in shallow water just above a sharp and cavernous reef, has been home to countless professional surfers and has claimed, unfortunately, many lives. A world-class wave to which professional surfers gather to year-after-year to compete in the prestigious Pipeline Masters and Volcom Pipe Pro, in high hopes of being added to the iconic list of "Pipe Masters."
To a casual spectator standing on the beach Pipeline may look like a repetitious, learned-wave, but for every surfer who's been courageous enough to take on that beast, knows each wave is a very different creature. The slightest hesitation, the one-second mistiming, the wrong board, can be the difference between a fatal blow and a wave of your life.
Gavin Beschen, perfect timing at Pipeline. With heavy offshore winds, it's even more difficult to get in front of that wave.
When you spend time and you're familiar with something, you know how it's going to act and react, and how you're going to act and react, so you're probably going to have a greater chance of playing the odds well. But no one ever feels like they have mastered Pipeline. I don't think anyone will ever feel that way. There's always some little bit more you can push it. -Kelly Slater
Kelly Slater, 2016 (photo: Brian Bielmann)
There are four famous waves associated with Pipeline. The left, known as Pipeline (a.k.a. First Reef), is the well-known and most photographed of the four. The right, known as Backdoor, is the same wave as Pipeline, but breaks in the other direction. Then there's Second Reef, which breaks farther outside when the swells gets larger, and Third Reef sitting way outside, which doesn't break often, but when the swells are massive, gets its chance to shine.
Pipeline from above. First Reef (photo: Andrew Christie)
Pipeline First Reef (foreground) throwing some massive tubes. When swells generate larger waves, Second Reef (background) breaks outside and whitewash rolls into First Reef, hitting the shallow waters throwing huge barrels (photo: Andrew Christie)
So why is Pipeline the world's best left hander? Aside from the media attention, iconic surfers who've earned their reputation there: Gerry Lopez, Shaun Tomson, Mark Richards, Michael & Derek Ho, Tom Carroll, Kelly Slater, Jamie O'Brien, Andy Irons, John John Florence, etc., status as the world's most dangerous wave, and so on, it's more personal than that. Let's take a look and jot down some memorable points of difference that the Pipeline left offers more than any other single wave in the world.
Here are 5 reasons why Pipeline tops all lefts in the world
1. It's hollow and powerful...
No one out?! (photo: Brian Bielmann)
Notice the boils on the face of the wave. These come from just underneath the water a few feet due to the shallow reef (photo: Brian Bielmann)
When there is swell at Pipeline, it's nearly impossible that the left does not barrel
These swells travel thousands of miles to the Pipeline shore and explode with more force than you'd like to know. Being taken out by one of these waves may just end your surfing career.
2. One wave can be the wave of your life...
Gavin Beschen, local Pipeline standout, has been surfing this left since his teenage years (photo: Andrew Christie)
Ecuadorian Carlos Goncalves, far from home, comes to Hawaii every winter to surf this left and is always packing heat (photo: Andrew Christie)
European goofy foot shredder Joan Duru finding a clean one at Pipeline at the 2016 Volcom Pipe Pro (photo: Lugo)
3. Surfing careers are made, legends are created...
Kelly Slater states Pipeline as one of his all-time favorite waves, and for good reason, too. Kelly has had tons of success in contests here, winning his first of many Pipeline Masters in the early 90s (photo: Jack Morrissey)
4. It's one of the most difficult waves to learn...
1 of 2 - Makai McNamara goes over the falls during the 2016 Volcom Pipe Pro finals - video of this fall below (photo: Brian Bielmann)
2 of 2 - Makai McNamara (photo: Brian Bielmann)
Fred Patacchia, one of Hawaii's most likable humans, in a very unlikeable place on a meaty one at Pipeline (photo: Brian Bielmann)
Watch some of the worst wipeouts at Pipeline during the 2016 season
5. Front row viewing experience...
photo: Andrew Christie
Spectators gather on the beach year-after-year to watch the Pipe Masters and Volcom Pipe Pro to get an up-close view of the world's best surfers competing at the world's best left hander (photo: Andrew Christie)
Volcom Hawaii houses are stationed directly in front of Pipeline where we house team riders and employees throughout the year (photo: Andrew Christie)
photo: Andrew Christie
In honor of National Left Handers Day today, let us know what your favorite left is (or left you wish to surf) in the comments below!
Posted on 08/12/16