Last chance to turn-off before hitting the Pipe super highway. Fuller still feels that churn in the guts when the north swells swing into town. But, ain’t that just living, right there? Photo: Riley Blakeway
10 things you need to know before surfing The Pipeline, Hawaii
From Stab issue 60: Y'think you're ready to surf The Pipe? Come and fill out Danny Fuller's 10-point checklist.
By Elliot Struck
1. The mirror memo
Take a good look at yourself in the mirror, and at your surfing, and ask yourself, am I really capable of surfing this wave? And, if you’re ready to put yourself, and others, at the risk of harm. I don’t care how good a surfer you are, there’s always risks out there and shit does go down. So many people go wrong by missing the memo of being honest with themselves about whether they should really be going out there. I’ve had a situation where I got this incredible wave, taking off in the deepest position possible, and just as I was pulling in, I saw this guy falling outta the sky on the shoulder and I was, like, are you fucking kidding me? If you’re not capable of slowing things down, looking back and seeing that someone else is taking off, then you shouldn’t be out there.
2. Living without air
You need to be able to handle yourself in a lot of life-threatening situations. You definitely need to be able to hold your breath and stay calm under pressure when you’re faced with… who knows what. More than likely you will eat shit on your first one. Staying calm during a violent beating, and having some kind of physical, cardiovascular training is key.
When I was a much younger kid, I looked at what Braden Dias was riding and ordered the same boards as him. A lot of these kids, maybe up and coming pro surfers, they get all like, “Oh, I’m gonna ride my 6’8”, or my 6’10”, mate!” At like, proper eight-to-10 foot Pipe. And you’re just, like, are you fucking kidding me? Unless you’re John John or Jamie O’Brien, you’re completely fucking kidding yourself. My range of good Pipe boards range from 6’8” to 7’8”. It’s a wave with many different faces. If you’re looking to get boards for proper eight-to-10 foot classic Pipeline, you need a board between 7’0” to 7’8”. It’s a matter of actually getting the waves. Don’t even fuck around with the thickness. You just need a thicker board, with a nice, tapered rail to give you that paddling power to actually get into waves. Every year, I’ve gotten my boards thicker and thicker. It’s the difference between getting the wave of your life. Or not.
4. Time in the water
Hopefully, you have some kinda wave in your hometown or nearby, that’s a solid, barrelling wave and has a really quick, steep takeoff, and you find yourself being comfortable in those kinda environments. It’s wild because, you look at a guy like Mark Mathews, he’s got some amazing waves out there, some shit down in Australia that’s just like, are you kidding me? And, he’ll still say he’s completely baffled by the wave, y’know? I mean, it’s absolutely perfect but there’s no other wave like it where you have these waves moving in so fast, jacking up from second reef, then they hit that first reef, and it just jacks up so quickly, and next thing you know you’re finding yourself in the lip or underneath the lip, and who knows what’s happening, but it’s all happening so quickly. So, master any waves nearby that are similar. In the end, people always say, “It’s just like Pipeline,” but really, there’s no other wave like Pipeline.
“I’ll never forget the first time I ever surfed Pipe when it was really on and happening. It reminded me of an intersection in Indonesia. I remember how fast everything was moving. You’re negotiating the wave itself, which you’re scared shitless of, then you’ve got the crowd to deal with, too. You’re putting yourself in this really high-adrenalin situation and you’re trying to get this wave, but at the same time you’re looking to see if so-and-so’s going, and then, oh my god, they pulled back, and then… you’re going!”
5. The season
I’d definitely recommend going in late February through March when it’s not such a scene, when you don’t have the entire surfing world there, and you can actually get a few waves under your belt and not get yourself into a situation where you find yourself getting a terrible wipeout or dropping in on somebody.
6. Slow down
Spend time on the beach, watching and observing the wave, seeing where the waves are coming in and which ones are good. It’s not like you’re gonna go out there and have a choice of which waves you wanna get, but at least you’ll know which ones are good, and where they’re actually coming in at. And, try to find yourself with some kind of a lineup or a gauge of where to be. Then, when you’re out there, sit on the shoulder for a while and watch. And, wait for a window when you can get out there when it’s a little less crowded.
7. Ease it in
A good friend of mine, he’s a decent surfer and from New York, but doesn’t get to surf as much as he’d like. He came out to visit me on the North Shore. It was a solid four-to-six-foot Hawaiian day, but it was definitely happening. He jumped in the water at Jamie O’Brien’s house where the current’s going parallel to the beach towards Rocky Point and there’s this little gap between Gums and Ehukai and you come out at this angle. My friend was paddling just behind me and he wasn’t in the best shape at the time ‘cause he hadn’t been surfing in ages and I don’t think he’d ever surfed waves like that in his life. I looked at him and said, “Hey, if you don’t make it out right now, you’re never gonna make it out.” But, he did the best thing, and it’s something I would recommend to anyone for their first time. He got out there and sat on the inside shoulder, where you see boogieboarder chicks, kinda past the photographers. He was kinda just watching the waves for a few hours and getting more comfortable and easing his way in and seeing what was happening. You need to take it slow.
8. It's just like an Indonesian intersection
Everyone wants to surf Pipeline at some point in their life. But, people should be very real with themselves. If they think they can really surf it, get out there. But, I’ll never forget the first time I ever surfed it when it was really on and happening. I was 14. It reminded me of an intersection in Indonesia. It was so fucking chaotic. On any given good day, you have 100 guys out there. I remember how fast everything was moving. You’re negotiating the wave itself, which you’re scared shitless of, then you’ve got the crowd to deal with, too. You’re putting yourself in this really high-adrenalin situation and you’re trying to get this wave, but at the same time you’re looking to see if so-and-so’s going, and then, oh my god, they pulled back, and then you’re going.
9. Ah, look left…
Be very aware of who’s who and who the guys not to drop-in on are because that’ll result in a traditional Hawaiian sampling. Hawaii’s such a unique place. Obviously, you have the pecking order with the boys where they’re sitting really deep and it’s almost forbidden territory. If you’re not one of them or not cool with them, you’ll definitely find yourself out of your element. Note to self: definitely do not drop in on any of the boys. And, if you don’t know who they are maybe you should do your homework before going out there ‘cause dropping in on one of them would definitely result in a black eye or at least a good bitch slap. Just know who’s who, and if you’re not a good enough surfer to realise that someone is taking off deeper than you, then you shouldn’t be out there.
10. Ain't no rearview mirror
If I see a wave coming in and I’m, like, this is the one, as I see it coming in there’s already so many different elements going through my head. I’m seeing who’s in front of me, who’s behind me, who’s in position, who’s not, okay, I’m in, this guy’s paddling, but I know he’s not gonna get it… so many times I’ve been paddling and then seen a guy deeper than me who I thought was gonna get it, I’ve pulled back and he’s missed it, and it’s just, like, that could’ve been the one. It’s being able to juggle all these different elements that are happening so quickly. Everyone builds up this idea of what it’s gonna be like, but you never really know until you’re out there experiencing it.