Stab Magazine | How To Stuff Pipeline Closeouts Like A Madman…

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 […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

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?


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Hassling, Head-Dips, and Broken Apple Watches

The 2023 CT is underway. Here's what happened on Day One of the Billabong Pro…

Feb 2, 2023

Stephanie Gilmore And Filipe Toledo Are The 2022 Stab Surfers Of The Year 

Caity and Hughie take Best Juniors, “NOZ VID” wins best film, and Ho and Pringle…

Feb 2, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: The Stab Premium Vote

Day Ten: You voted, we counted.

Feb 1, 2023

Red Bulls, Crypto Bears, Former’s Six-Figure Fish, Tyler’s Multi-Millions And More

A brief catalog of the latest surf industry news and whispers.

Jan 31, 2023


“Definitely The First Time I’ve Gone Surfing Via Plane”

Parker Coffin, Harrison Roach, and friends tear through NZ on Roark's most well-rounded surf trip…

Jan 30, 2023

Pipe Preview: This Year Feels Different

With John and Gabs healthy — and the arrival of the femme next-gen — here’s…

Jan 29, 2023

WSL Tells Competitors: ‘You Better Like Them Apples’

Will mandating competitors to wear Apple Watches make the 2023 tour more or less engaging?

Jan 29, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: John John Florence, Italo Ferreira, Balaram Stack, Rolo Montes, and Shaun Manners

Day 9: "You can't do better than his year last year." - John John Florence

Jan 28, 2023

Full Moon Surfs, Impassable Puddles, And A Few Nights Spent Sleeping In A WSL Commentary Booth

A reader-submitted collection of nonconformist surf stories.

Jan 27, 2023

Kael Walsh Now Owns A Bitcoin, And Watched One Crypto Video

He’s officially your Stab Edit Of The Year champion.

Jan 27, 2023

Carissa Moore And Finn McGill Are Your 2023 Vans Triple Crown Of Surfing Champions 

They both pocket $50k and tickets to this year’s Vans Pipe Masters.

Jan 27, 2023


The Pick-Up, Presented By Vans, Episode 5

Mason Ho helps us ring in our final week on the North Shore.

Jan 27, 2023

Goofyfoot Brazilian World Champion Stars In Stab’s Biggest Board-Testing Franchise

Can you guess who?

Jan 26, 2023

Surf Community Rallies To Raise Funds For Eddie Winner And On-Duty Hawaiian Lifeguard Luke Shepardson

Because it's the right thing to do, of course.

Jan 26, 2023

Interview: Caity Simmers On Machete Wars, Rihanna, Personal Project Problems, And The Rise Of Female Surf Content. 

A toast to ‘Toasted.’

Jan 25, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: Creed McTaggart, Albee Layer, Laura Enever, Dane Guduaskas, and Selema Masekela

Day 8: "65 years young and charging just as hard as ever at Pipe, Backdoor,…

Jan 25, 2023

“I’m Not A Big Wave Guy”

How Kai Paula accidentally made his mark at Jaws three weeks after surfing it for…

Jan 24, 2023

Everyone Went.

A toes in the sand, phone in the lagoon account of the 10th Eddie Aikau…

Jan 24, 2023