This is all about the Pipeline pioneers, surfing history, vintage surfing at its best.
Breakway covered surfing in ‘70s when memories of the first big wave riders at Banzai Pipeline were still fresh in our minds.
When you think of Banzai Pipeline you think of Lopez, Russell, Bertleman and the other latter day surf heroes. But what about the days when Pipeline was only ridden by a few? When Pipeline meant risking your life? When Pipeline wasn’t even ridden.
A nostalgic trip back into the “good old” surfing mags revealed the early days at the Pipe when surfers would stand for hours on the beach and watch in awe as these monstrous sucking giants threw out over a shallow coral shelf after travelling thousands of miles across the Pacific in huge swells.
Compared to Pipeline, Waimea Bay and Sunset were comparatively “safe” surfing spots. To even contemplate riding Pipeline was a long thought about affair.
Back in the early ‘60s Phil Edwards and a few of his hardy mates ventured out to the super-hollow lefthander followed by the ‘heavy’ of all big wave riders, the legendary Greg Noll.
And remember these guys rode cumbersome and heavy boards that lacked the speed of today’s guns!
However, back in those golden days, one man conquered the Banzai Pipeline like no-one else could – Butch Van Artsdalen. Van Artsdalen didn’t worry about those bottom- scraping wipeouts or huge drops down the vertical face at the take off. For every ride the ordinary person got at the Pipe, Butch got five. And four of them would be· bad wipeouts!
Van Artsdalen would slide down the face of a gnarly 15 ft. wall sideways, then push out through a spitting Banzai tube until he was speeding in front of the pursuing white water.
Pipeline held for Van Artsdalen what Everest must have nurtured for Hillary or America for Columbus. But although the Pipe is ridden by many these days, one can always reminisce about the “Good Old Days” when the long board surfers would paddle out at 15 ft. Pipeline, not knowing whether they would ever make it back to shore.
BREAKWAY JULY 1974