Surfing’s Meccas

Pipeline

Nicknames: Banzai Pipeline, Pipe

Location: The dead center of the North Shore of O’ahu, one mile east of Waimea Bay and one mile west of Sunset Beach.

Breaks best: January-March

Type of wave: A grinding left-hand barrel capable of being twenty feet plus that breaks best on a west swell. Everything about surfing Pipe is intense-the crowd, the current, the power. With no barrier reef or continental shelf to protect O’ahu from the power of winter storms in the Northern Pacific, the area is regularly bombarded with Earth-shaking waves throughout the winter. The right that breaks off the same peak is called Backdoor, and it, too, is a world-class barrel. Pipeline is comprised of a series of reefs-1st Reef, 2nd Reef (about 100 yards out), and 3rd Reef (a giant wall of whitewash that breaks 300 yards farther out than 2nd Reef and is rarely surfed).

First surfed: Under dispute, but most people agree it was December, 1961 by California legend Phil Edwards.

Names synonymous with Pipeline: Edwards, Butch Van Artsdalen, Jock Sutherland, Gerry Lopez, Rory Russell, Jeff Crawford, Michael and Derek Ho, Dane Kealoha, Tom Curren, Ronnie Burns, Tom Carroll, Mark Cunningham, Johnny-Boy Gomes, Sunny Garcia, Mike Stewart, Liam McNamara, Rob Machado, Kelly Slater, Tamayo Perry, Braden Dias, Andy and Bruce Irons, The Wolfpak, Jamie O’Brien, and the Pipeline Posse.

Ouch: One day in 1998, there were over 30 injuries at Pipe.

Downside: It has a shallow lava reef, an intense crowd, a river-like current inside, wide-swinging north sets that catch you off guard and close out the channel, and huge waves that can grow bigger by the set.

Surfability: Anything over six feet should be left to the pros and the locals (who are all pro).

Jeffreys Bay

Nickname: J-Bay

Location: Southernmost South Africa in St. Francis Bay, 40 miles west of Port Elizabeth, just east of the tip of Cape St. Francis.

Breaks best: May-September

Type of wave: Long, hollow, high-speed right point generally regarded as the best point break on Earth. The same storms that deliver double-overhead swell also bring strong offshore and side-shore winds that last for days at a time and give J-Bay incredible barrels. The wave is divided into several sections: Boneyards, Magnatubes, Supertubes, Impossibles, Tubes, and the Point. In the right conditions, it’s possible to get a wave the entire length of Jeffreys Bay, which would take you almost 3/4 mile and last over two minutes.

First surfed: Easter 1964 by South Africans Gus Gobel, Brian McLarty, and four others.

Names synonymous with Jeffreys: John Witmore, Bruce Brown, Peers Pittard, Bunker Spreckels, Terry Fitzgerald, Shaun Tomson, Miki Dora, Tom Curren, Mark Occhilupo, Derek Hynd, Sean Holmes, Kelly Slater.

Kelly Slater on J-Bay: “J-Bay’s similar to many right points, but it’s unique with it’s speed and barrels. Most points aren’t so hollow, just fun. I’ve had a two-and-a-half-minute ride there before.”

Downside: Freezing-cold offshore winds make lids necessary, getting in and out of the water is dangerous with pounding waves and barnacle-crusted rocks, and there’s the constant fear that a great white shark as big as a Ford pickup might suddenly view you as lunch.

Surfability: Very surfable for intermediate to expert surfers.

Teahupo’o

Nicknames: Chopes, Kumbaya, “the end of the road”

Location: At the end of Tahiti Iti’s main road, La Route Ceinture (“the belt”), on the southwest tip of the island in the shadows of Mt. Roonui.

Breaks best: May-September

Type of wave: A surreal, ledging left that looks more like an avalanche or a tidal wave than anything you’d think was surfable. This monster breaks several hundred yards off the coast, so unless you want to make the twenty-minute paddle, you need a boat to access the lineup. A short distance from the shallow horseshoe-shaped coral reef, the depth drops hundreds of feet into the darkness of the open Pacific Ocean, which explains t power of the surf. Because of the thickness of the wave’s lip, even small surf can be scary, and as the swell grows, Kumbaya’s power grows exponentially. In anything over six to eight feet, survival is the name of the game, but if you connect with a good-sized one, you’ll understand the meaning of speed. When it’s bigger than twelve feet, you have to tow in, and when Laird Hamilton whipped into an eighteen-foot behemoth in 2000, he rewrote the surf history books. It’s rumored that after that wave, he sat in the channel and wept.

First surfed: Locals surfed it small in 1985, but Hawai’ian bodyboarders Mike Stewart and Ben Severson were the first take it on at full strength in 1986.

Names synonymous with Teahupo’o: Laird Hamilton, Andy and Bruce Irons, Kelly Slater, Manoa Drollet, Vetea David, Keala Kennelly, Raimana Van Bastolaer, Alain Riou, Malik Joyeux.

Near-fatal crash: During the 2005 Billabong Pro at Teahupo’o, Reef McIntosh’s WaveRunner went over the falls, narrowly missing Raimana, who was in the barrel at the time.

Downside: The simple thought of falling on the takeoff or getting caught inside when an eight-foot set comes in.

Surfability: Don’t even think about it. Anything over three foot is not suitable for anyone but expert surfers.

Mentawais

Nicknames: Mental-wais

Location: The Indian Ocean, approximately 100 miles off the coast of Sumatra in Western Indonesia.

Breaks best: May-September (but there are waves all year)

Description: Four main islands (Siberut, Sipura, North Pagai, and South Pagai), plus several small islands and atolls. Since their discovery, the Mentawais have become one of the most popular destinations in surfing, and when you arrive there you’ll understand why. In this maze of palm-fringed beaches and coral reefs are every type of wave imaginable-lefts, rights, big waves, rippable ones, beachbreaks, points … You name it, the Mentawais has it. Amongst this bounty of surf spots are two true gems-big, shallow, barreling Lance’s Rights (named after Aussie Lance Knight who pioneered the spot in 1990) and the small, perfect left called Macaronis, which has been featured in hundreds of surf videos and is generally considered the best high-performance small wave in the world. With very limited land access, boats are how people access these waves. In recent years, the number of surf charters (which can run you from $1,200 to $3,600 for ten days at sea, depending on how luxurious the boat) have made it so you never surf a break alone.

First surfed: In 1980, Aussies Scott Wakefield, Chris Goodnow, and Tony Fitzpatrick camped on the islands and surfed several breaks.

Names synonymous with the Mentawais: Every pro surfer active since 1995.

Changing times: During the past decade, boat trips have been the only way to access the myriad amazing waves in the Mentawais, but surf camps and resorts are beginning to pop up throughout the islands. One-day boat trips to Indo could be a thing of the past.

Downside: Crowds have gotten bad in recent years, and when Macaronis is good there can be 50-plus surfers in the water. Reef cuts are a given, and malaria is a real concern in some places. Land camps are starting to spring up at various breaks, which will only worsen the crowd problem.

Surfability: Very surfable. If you can take off, bottom turn, and do a cutback, you can survive a boat trip in the Mentawais.

Secondary Meccas

The Gold Coast

Nicknames: The Goldy, the Superbank, God’s Country

Location: The southern corner of Queensland, Australia from Coolangatta to Surfers Paradise.

Breaks best: December-July

Description: Possibly the most wave-rich coast on Earth, including the Superbank-a two-kilometer right-hand sand-bottom point-world-class beachbreaks Duranbah and South Stradbroke Island, and the point at Burleigh Heads.

First surfed: Early 1920s by Kirra Surf Lifesaving Club members Sid Chapman, Bill Davies, Eric Lane, Lance Powell, and Laurie Powell.

Names synonymous with the Gold Coast: Michael Peterson, Peter Townend, Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Australian Surfing Life magazine, Munga Barry, Mark Occhilupo, Luke Egan, Ted Grambeau, Kelly Slater, DHD, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Dean Morrison, Serena Brooke.

Local residents: Parko, Dingo, Mick, Rabbit, Luke Egan, Occy, Jay Phillips, Sarena Brooke, Chelsea Georgeson, and about a thousand other big-name surfers live in walking distance to the Superbank.

Downside: Packed lineups, heavy northbound current.

Surfability: Infinitely surfable. The Goldy is fun between two and ten feet, and it’s always two to ten feet.

Tavarua

Nicknames: Tavy

Location: A tiny island just west of Fiji’s Viti Levu in the South Pacific.

Breaks best: February-October

Description: Tavarua is a surf resort island with limited capacity and the exclusive rights to two of the best left-hand reef breaks in the Pacific-Cloudbreak and Restaurants. On the right southern hemisphere swell, it can reel from six to sixteen feet.

First surfed: 1982 by Dave Clark.

Names synonymous with Tavarua: Clark, John Roseman, Scott Funk, Kevin Naughton, Craig Peterson, C.J. Hobgood, Kelly Slater, Tavarua boatmen.

Hollywood at Restaurants: Tavarua’s Restaurants was featured in the Tom Hanks film Cast Away, when Hanks’ character tries to escape the island only to be beaten back by pounding surf.

Downside: The sharpness and shallowness of the reef at Restaurants, the cost (approx. $3,000/week including airfare).

Surfability: Surfable for intermediate surfers when it’s small, but when Cloudbreak starts pulsing, you better be ready.

Grajagan

Nickname: G-Land

Location: Far from civilization, in the jungles of the southeastern tip of Java, Indonesia’s main island.

Breaks best: May-October

Type of wave: Extremely long, freight-training left. The wave has three sections: Kong’s is the mushy, shifty outside; Moneytrees is the consistent, barreling middle; and Speedies is the fickle, shallow end section that is most coveted for its twenty-second barrels.

First surfed: 1972 by Americans Bob Laverty and Bill Boyum.

Names synonymous with G-Land: Jim Banks, Bill Boyum, Gerry Lopez, Tom Carroll, Made Kasim.

Attention campers: G-Land was the original surf camp, founded by Mike Boyum in 1974. It only slept about a dozen guests at a time when it first opened.

Downside: Very sharp reef, tigers, malaria, and crazy Australians who run the lineup.

Surfability: Good surfers will enjoy themselves, but unless you’re confident with your ability, you can quickly find yourself in trouble at Speedies on an eight-foot day.

Sunset Beach

Nicknames: Sun-setch (Brazilian pronunciation)

Location: The North Shore of O’ahu, one mile up the road from Pipeline on Kamehameha Highway.

Breaks best: October-March

Type of wave: A shifting, complicated right that can be surfed from four to eighteen feet. There are several sections, including Backyards, Sunset Point, Val’s Reef, the Inside Bowl, and West Peak. Each section is completely different from the others, from mushy open faces to ledging closeout barrels.

First surfed: 1939 by Californians Lorrin Harrison, Gene Smith, and John Kelly.

Names synonymous with Sunset: George Downing, Buzzy Trent, Paul Strauch, Simon Anderson, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Jeff Hakman, Ken Bradshaw, Michael Ho, Tom Carroll, Gary Elkerton, Sunny Garcia, Pancho Sullivan, Peter Cole, Myles Padaca, Reno Abellira.

Back in the day: Sunset was the epicenter of modern, progressive surfing from the 1950s to the early 80s.

Downside: It’s got heavy localized crowds, wide-swinging west peaks, and a brutal rip current that will carry you out to sea if you aren’t a world-class paddler.

Surfability: Over four feet, Sunset is for experts only. Stick to Kammieland, haoles.

More Meccas

Bells Beach (Victoria, Australia)

Waimea Bay (Hawai’i, U.S.A.)

Malibu (California, U.S.A.)

Biarritz (Southern France)

Outer Banks (North Caroliynonymous with the Gold Coast: Michael Peterson, Peter Townend, Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Australian Surfing Life magazine, Munga Barry, Mark Occhilupo, Luke Egan, Ted Grambeau, Kelly Slater, DHD, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Dean Morrison, Serena Brooke.

Local residents: Parko, Dingo, Mick, Rabbit, Luke Egan, Occy, Jay Phillips, Sarena Brooke, Chelsea Georgeson, and about a thousand other big-name surfers live in walking distance to the Superbank.

Downside: Packed lineups, heavy northbound current.

Surfability: Infinitely surfable. The Goldy is fun between two and ten feet, and it’s always two to ten feet.

Tavarua

Nicknames: Tavy

Location: A tiny island just west of Fiji’s Viti Levu in the South Pacific.

Breaks best: February-October

Description: Tavarua is a surf resort island with limited capacity and the exclusive rights to two of the best left-hand reef breaks in the Pacific-Cloudbreak and Restaurants. On the right southern hemisphere swell, it can reel from six to sixteen feet.

First surfed: 1982 by Dave Clark.

Names synonymous with Tavarua: Clark, John Roseman, Scott Funk, Kevin Naughton, Craig Peterson, C.J. Hobgood, Kelly Slater, Tavarua boatmen.

Hollywood at Restaurants: Tavarua’s Restaurants was featured in the Tom Hanks film Cast Away, when Hanks’ character tries to escape the island only to be beaten back by pounding surf.

Downside: The sharpness and shallowness of the reef at Restaurants, the cost (approx. $3,000/week including airfare).

Surfability: Surfable for intermediate surfers when it’s small, but when Cloudbreak starts pulsing, you better be ready.

Grajagan

Nickname: G-Land

Location: Far from civilization, in the jungles of the southeastern tip of Java, Indonesia’s main island.

Breaks best: May-October

Type of wave: Extremely long, freight-training left. The wave has three sections: Kong’s is the mushy, shifty outside; Moneytrees is the consistent, barreling middle; and Speedies is the fickle, shallow end section that is most coveted for its twenty-second barrels.

First surfed: 1972 by Americans Bob Laverty and Bill Boyum.

Names synonymous with G-Land: Jim Banks, Bill Boyum, Gerry Lopez, Tom Carroll, Made Kasim.

Attention campers: G-Land was the original surf camp, founded by Mike Boyum in 1974. It only slept about a dozen guests at a time when it first opened.

Downside: Very sharp reef, tigers, malaria, and crazy Australians who run the lineup.

Surfability: Good surfers will enjoy themselves, but unless you’re confident with your ability, you can quickly find yourself in trouble at Speedies on an eight-foot day.

Sunset Beach

Nicknames: Sun-setch (Brazilian pronunciation)

Location: The North Shore of O’ahu, one mile up the road from Pipeline on Kamehameha Highway.

Breaks best: October-March

Type of wave: A shifting, complicated right that can be surfed from four to eighteen feet. There are several sections, including Backyards, Sunset Point, Val’s Reef, the Inside Bowl, and West Peak. Each section is completely different from the others, from mushy open faces to ledging closeout barrels.

First surfed: 1939 by Californians Lorrin Harrison, Gene Smith, and John Kelly.

Names synonymous with Sunset: George Downing, Buzzy Trent, Paul Strauch, Simon Anderson, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Jeff Hakman, Ken Bradshaw, Michael Ho, Tom Carroll, Gary Elkerton, Sunny Garcia, Pancho Sullivan, Peter Cole, Myles Padaca, Reno Abellira.

Back in the day: Sunset was the epicenter of modern, progressive surfing from the 1950s to the early 80s.

Downside: It’s got heavy localized crowds, wide-swinging west peaks, and a brutal rip current that will carry you out to sea if you aren’t a world-class paddler.

Surfability: Over four feet, Sunset is for experts only. Stick to Kammieland, haoles.

More Meccas

Bells Beach (Victoria, Australia)

Waimea Bay (Hawai’i, U.S.A.)

Malibu (California, U.S.A.)

Biarritz (Southern France)

Outer Banks (North Carolina, U.S.A.)

Padang Padang (Bali, Indonesia)

Puerto Escondido (Oaxaca, Mexico)

Steamer Lane (California, U.S.A.)

Raglan (North Island, New Zealand)

Uluwatu (Bali, Indonesia)

Jaws (Hawai’i, U.S.A.)

Lower Trestles (California, U.S.A.)

rolina, U.S.A.)

Padang Padang (Bali, Indonesia)

Puerto Escondido (Oaxaca, Mexico)

Steamer Lane (California, U.S.A.)

Raglan (North Island, New Zealand)

Uluwatu (Bali, Indonesia)

Jaws (Hawai’i, U.S.A.)

Lower Trestles (California, U.S.A.)