Stab Magazine | Pipeline Remains Tops In 2019

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.  


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

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

The Vans Triple Crown Of Surfing Returns In 2023

Can anyone beat John Florence and Carissa Moore in a three-week window?

Dec 1, 2022

What Will Airs Look Like In 10 Years?

The final installment of our editorial exploration into the nuances of airborne surfing.

Dec 1, 2022


Can A South African Cavern Queen With No Pipeline Experience Do Well At The Vans Pipe Masters?

Sophie Bell will have a steep learning curve in Hawaii.

Nov 30, 2022

After Years Of Tragic Shark Attacks, Surf Competition Returns To Reunion Island — And A CT Event Could Follow

"We compete at J-Bay and Margarets where there's the same problem." -Johanne Defay

Nov 30, 2022


Sharing Tubes And Hummus In The Middle East’s Surfing Jewel: Israel

No Contest does Tel Aviv!

Nov 29, 2022


Joao Chianca Wants A Pipeline Rematch With JJF

And ain't afraid to ride more foam to do it in the Vans Pipe Masters.

Nov 29, 2022

An Unorthodox Marriage Of Science And Surf

Cliff Kapono and The Mega Lab are changing stereotypes on all fronts.

Nov 28, 2022


Harry Bryant Dumps Crutches, Visualizes Pipeline Pits After Snapping Leg

“For once in my life, I’m taking something a bit more serious."

Nov 27, 2022

What If You Bought This Sumatran Surf Camp For $690k?

Making a blue print out of surfing's most recurring day dream.

Nov 27, 2022

Sierra Kerr On Greasing Full Rotes, Making Dad Cry & Her Concussion @ VSHPBME 

'I haven’t got my license yet, but I'm thinking of buying a little truck.'

Nov 27, 2022


“There Definitely Needs To Be More Girls That Try Airs”

Caity Simmers' thoughts on her Vans Pipe Masters debut.

Nov 26, 2022

Preview: Who’s John John Florence Flushing Down The Haleiwa Toilet Bowl?

The final event of the CS schedule is almost upon us. Let's dissect.

Nov 25, 2022


Dane Reynolds Said These Clips Weren’t Good Enough

Could'a fooled us.

Nov 25, 2022

Watch Now: Kael Walsh, Rolo Montes, And Al Cleland Jr In ‘Saturn’

Quik’s new 20-minute surf film is so good you’ll want to burn a DVD of…

Nov 24, 2022


How A Magic Island Birthed One Of The Most Radical Surf And Skate Scenes In The World

Mateus Herdy, Pedro Barros and friends in Red Bull x Stab's No Contest, Brazil.

Nov 23, 2022

The Uber Driver Turned Crypto Millionaire Who Denounced His US Citizenship And Whips Into XXL Nazare

"I do what I want, I don't have a boss." -Toby Trouble

Nov 23, 2022


‘I Thought He Was Gonna Grab A Machete… Then He Picked Up A Rock’

2x SSOTY Jai Glindeman’s drama (& left-tube) filled Sumbawa trip.

Nov 23, 2022


“The Inside Of Pipeline Sounds Like The Center Of The Universe”

Tosh Tudor seeks solitude at the Vans Pipe Masters.

Nov 22, 2022