Stab Magazine | Pipeline Remains The Deadliest Surf Spot On Earth

Pipeline Remains The Deadliest Surf Spot On Earth

“Just because you may not have heard about [certain deaths], doesn’t mean that they didn’t occur” – North Shore Lifeguard and Pipe specialist Dave Wassel

vtcs // Feb 23, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Did you know that a surfer died at Pipeline last month?

We didn’t.

It wasn’t until we specifically asked North Shore Lifeguard and Pipeline-specialist Dave Wassel about the rate of injuries and deaths this season that we learned about Marcus Bihu – a local bodyboarder and self-proclaimed “barrelholic” – who died after sustaining an injury at Pipeline this January. 

“Let us never forget that Pipeline is a dangerous wave at any size,” Wassel told Stab. “Adjacent to the right of way access between the Volcom Houses hangs a plaque – the list of fallen heroes is nearly as long as Pipe Master champions. Also, for every life lost there are tens of near-death accidents that never reach the masses. The ones that do are usually top tier athletes like Dusty Payne, Bede Durbidge, Owen Wright, and Kalani Chapman.  

“The media is great at focusing on the incredible moments that Pipeline has shined, most notably during the Da Hui BackDoor Shootout time frame, but they’re not so focused on all the



“Don’t get me wrong, there have been incredible moments here and there for people who were on it, but there weren’t many all day Pipe sessions outside of the contest scene. And yes, having only four surfers in the water at once will dramatically reduce the odds of injury.”

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 Pat G takes the blue pill and stands erect. Photo: WSL

At the start of this North Shore season, we released a video highlighting the perils of Pipeline and explaining why guys like Tom Carroll and Nate Fletcher wear helmets when surfing above the cheddar-cheese reef. That clip was part of our Vans Pick-Up series and you can rewatch it above. 

“People asked me, ‘You got your training wheels on?’” Nathan revealed when we asked about his brain bucket. “But you don’t hit a mega ramp without knee pads, or drive formula one in trunks, do you? 

“I like to be prepared. I’m like a business guy. This is my fucking briefcase.”

And it makes sense. Year after year Pipeline takes peoples’ skin, mobility, and occasionally their lives. It’s just pragmatic to protect oneself, especially the head. 

But at a wave with the prominence and might of Pipeline, people are always gonna get hurt – no matter what safety gear they’re rocking nor who’s there to save them (and the North Shore Lifeguard Association is the best at rescue and revival). 

“We have had close calls and one fatality this season at Pipeline, and the winter isn’t over yet,” Dave Wassel solemnly stated. “Just because you may not have heard about them doesn’t mean that they didn’t occur. Kinda like the number of shark attacks in Australia or other surf destinations that we don’t hear about.  I’m pretty sure that just because I haven’t heard that much about them, doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.”


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