Stab Magazine | Pipeline Remains Tops In 2019
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Pipeline Remains Tops In 2019

If ever there was debate between going left or right, this winter shut it down epically. 

vtcs // Mar 9, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

About a year ago, we framed a debate around the relative quality of Pipeline and Backdoor as part of our Vans Pick-Up series (which you can see above).

We wanted to know: left or right – which was the superior route at the world’s most famous wave?

Rather than asking top surfers for their (presumably biased) opinions, we took the best quantifiable data we could find (the past seven years of Pipe Masters scores) to discern which wave, Pipe or Backdoor, typically scored higher. 

After some in-depth research, we discovered that fifteen 10-point waves had been ridden in those seven years – eight on the right (Backdoor) and seven on the left (Pipeline). The bias toward Backdoor was statistically negligible, so we considered it a draw. 

Then this winter happened. 

Between the months of December and January, Pipeline had at least seven days of categorically large, pumping surf. Second and Third Reef roll-ins were a common sight, and all the big names were after that career-defining Pipe bomb. 

Barron Mamiya got a wild tube-to-air combo in November. Nate Florence and Zeke Lau had crazy runners on that same day. 

Then on the swell preceding the Pipe Masters, we watched Mark Healey spear Pipeline’s heart with his bright orange spear, before inspiring South Carolina’s Cam Richards to gun-up and wrangle a tri-headed beast the very next day (as seen above). 

Then came the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout, which saw Tyler Newton nab a lurching left roll-in and Japan’s Keito Matsuoka scratching in under the chip-shot and placing himself in the most bulbous Pipe pit anyone can remember.

A couple weeks later, Kelly Slater posted this Kohl Christenson x Daniel Russo photo on his Instagram, questioning if it might be the best Pipeline photo in history.  

The list of great Pipe waves in 2018/19 Hawaiian winter goes on and on. In fact, Surfline just released its top-10 Wave of the Winter entries from this season, and nine of them were lefts. Torrey Meister‘s January spit-cannon was the sole Backdoor entry. 

All of which points to one apparent truth: when the waves are on, Pipe remains tops. 

One-time 10-point Backdoor rider and current WOTW hopeful, Cam Richards, agrees. 

“People have made careers just by surfing Pipeline,” he told Stab. “I can’t think of another place where that is possible. The main thing that Pipe has over Backdoor is its ability to hold size. But at the end of the day, if you get a good wave anywhere on that little slab of reef, you’ve done something pretty amazing.”

Amen to that.  

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