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Tag Archives: Sunset

Memories of the Pipeline pioneers

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

When Kanga Cairns jumped the opposition and won the Smirnoff

Ian ‘Kanga’ Cairns was just 15 when he first gained Australia-wide recognition as an aggressive surfer. It was around May, 1969, when the Australian Titles were held in his home state, Western Australia.

Even then he was regarded as an excellent big wave rider. During his first trip to Hawaii in 1972 he was acclaimed by many as being one of the hottest surfers on the North Shore. In November 1973 he became the third Australian to win the world-renowned Hawaiian Smirnoff pro contest. He received $A3361 for his trouble. It was a great achievement for the current Western Australian champion.

During a break in competition at the Bells Easter contest (1974), Ted Bainbridge talked to Kanga Cairns about Hawaii and his surfing

 

TB: How did you get into the Smirnoff contest?

Cairns: Well, I was second alternate and Clyde Aikau was the first – I was just there, you know, breathing down Fred Hemmings’ neck!, Clyde had got into it and Evo Honza, from Peru, didn’t turn up for his heat so I just went straight out.

I came third in my heat, second in my semi final and then won the final.

 

TB: Had you any idea you’d won it?

Cairns: I knew I had a really good chance. I knew I’d placed, there’s no way I couldn’t have placed because of where I’d taken off from and the waves I’d gotten. It was very close. The waves were 8 ft. most of the time, but I did get one that was 10 ft. It was probably 6 to 8 ft. but I got a couple of rare ones.

 

TB: Do those places (in Hawaii) work in the same way that Johanna works down here when Bells hasn’t even got a wave?

Cairns: Yeah. Except they all face the same way, but the type of reefs magnifies the swell different ways. Sunset is a really deep reef, but you can surf it down to 2 ft. near the point where it’s really shallow.

Rocky Point is kind of a ledging point which goes out under the water. The waves come in, hit the ledge and suck out over the really shallow reef. It’s because the reef’s so shallow that it makes the waves really rip off.

Then there are places no one ever surfs. We had a break with really a good left and right but no one ever surfed it.

 

Read the full Ian Cairns interview in BREAKWAY MAY 1974.