• Charles Cherney

124: Pipe Surf Master Gerry Lopez


I just came back from the North Shore of O'ahu in Hawaii. Lucky me to stay in a bungalow on the beach on the North Shore – right in front of Pipeline.


As Wikipedia notes, "the Banzai Pipeline, or simply Pipeline or Pipe, is a surf reef break located in Hawaii, off Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea on O'ahu's North Shore. A reef break is an area in the ocean where waves start to break once they reach the shallows of a reef. Pipeline is known for huge waves that break in shallow water just above a sharp and cavernous reef, forming large, hollow, thick curls of water that surfers can tube ride. There are three reefs at Pipeline in progressively deeper water farther out to sea that activate according to the increasing size of approaching ocean swells."


One of the first to surf Pipeline was a young surfer from Honolulu named Gerry Lopez. Back in 1963 – his sophomore year in high school! – Gerry found his way to Pupukea.


Seeing is believing, so watch this clip to see Gerry surf Pipe:

It's worth highlighting that when Gerry first surfed Pipe, he didn't make one single drop. Today he is known as "Mr. Pipeline." But when he first started surfing here, he couldn't stay on his board. Something for every beginner in any field to remember.


But Gerry got some good advice from another surfer to angle into the wave.

Oh, and Gerry himself developed his own style surf board best suited for riding the waves.

And he figured out a way to surf Pipe.


The rest, as they say, is history.

Gerry Lopez changed the entire direction of the sport of surfing – one wave at a time.


As the film notes, he wasn't all tensed up on his board and freaking out.

He was smooth. Casual. Zen.


Gerry Lopez didn't overpower Pipe.

He didn't perform.

Rather, he was one with the wave.


Gerry Lopez was Pipeline.


Do yourself a favor and watch the entire 2006 documentary from which the clip above is found. I have included the link to the full film below for your viewing pleasure. I am already looking forward to watching it again.


Meanwhile, right now I am going to close my eyes and picture Gerry touching a perfect wave at Pipe – and come out of it with him, standing on my board.