How To Stuff Pipeline Closeouts Like A Madman…
Words by Jed Smith When it comes to Pipeline, there isn’t a person more shrouded in myth and mystique than Shawn Briley. While he never experienced the height of celebrity reached by fellow Hawaiians, Derek Ho, Shane Dorian and Andy Irons, his tenure, which spanned the 1990s, produced several of the heaviest waves ever ridden at Pipe. We […]
Words by Jed Smith
When it comes to Pipeline, there isn’t a person more shrouded in myth and mystique than Shawn Briley. While he never experienced the height of celebrity reached by fellow Hawaiians, Derek Ho, Shane Dorian and Andy Irons, his tenure, which spanned the 1990s, produced several of the heaviest waves ever ridden at Pipe. We cornered the legend as he sat down for Monday Night Football and asked him how you stuff Pipe closeouts like a mad man, and live to tell the tale.
Stab: The obvious question first, how do you stuff Pipeline closeouts like a mad man?
Briley: Um, obviously I don’t do it anymore (laughter). Yeah, you know, it was fun to me, I enjoyed doing it. Different people enjoy doing different things for different reasons but, ah, the number one reason if you’re gonna put your life at risk you better love what you’re doing and enjoy it. It’s been a while but I really enjoyed doing it, I got a kick out of it.
The first wave of this clip is a roll-in on one of those nasty second reef days. It was a day like this that Evan Geiselman almost died on recently. Can you talk us through conditions like that? The days that were bigger and more gnarlier I personally liked those days moreso than the smaller, more perfect days, because there was more that you had to deal with. And they were bigger and nastier and, you know, everyone is different but the bigger and the gnarlier and the deeper, those were the ones that I liked. Those were the kinds of waves that used to come through on those days like that instead of just being eight to ten foot and perfect. Those waves at Pipeline don’t really set themselves apart versus 12 footers which are really hard to find.
What are the traps lesser experienced surfers fall into at Pipe? I don’t know that much these days because I’m not out there but from watching the little bit that I’ve seen, if they’re just gonna charge they’re gonna get good ones or they’re gonna get experience to a certain extent. That is true but it takes a certain type of person to do that and if you’re not built for it you’re gonna get hurt, you’re gonna pay the price. There’s a mad concocting skill to doing it, not just the will to do it. You can attempt it but you’re gonna get hurt.
Bede Durbidge, split seconds before fracturing his pelvis and potentially ending his career as a professional surfer. Pipeline is no joke. Photo: WSL
Which is king at Pipe: balls and bravado, or ability? It’s the same thing that it’s always been. There’s very very few people that come around. When they have both the balls and skill level, you take those critical talents and gifts together you still, throughout time at the spot, over the decades, you only have a few guys who truly stand out. It’s rare that someone has both, right. Usually one has more, leaning towards more balls than skill. Other guys have more skill and talent, but every once in a while you have guys, and those are the guys that stick out in the waves they ride at Pipeline and they stand the test of time. In a nutshell, when you get both of those you get something special.
Who springs to mind? A great example is someone like Tom Carroll. Tom had an enormous amount of natural talent and skill but he also had big balls and he would go. Not only that, but to elaborate, someone could have balls and skill level but it’s not necessarily geared to Pipeline you know what I mean. There’s something at Pipe just in itself as a wave and a surf spot that to surf it at the highest level it requires the surfer to have both that specifically fit that spot. As of late, from what I’ve seen, I don’t watch it that often, the newer guys like Jamie O’Brien and John John have it in exceptional – higher than exceptional – amount of skill and they have balls too. You put it together and they make it look easy. Anyone who has surfed big gnarly Pipe knows it is not easy. So that stands the test of time.
The third wave in this clip could easily have killed you. The one on the red board? Yeah, I dunno, I always surfed with the belief in the theory, I looked at it like, if you don’t go you’ll never know. I always tried to find out. That’s what I did. If you don’t go you’ll never know if you could have made it. It could end up being the worst wipeout of your life, where you pay the price and get hurt, or it could be the best wave of your life.
Is it true, that you gave it all away because you were scared of killing yourself? I don’t wanna elaborate on all that. Put it this way, I’m sitting at home waiting for Monday night footy and I’m perfectly happy and perfectly content having this conversation with you on the phone. You know what I mean?
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