The Banzai Pipeline, one of the most famous surf breaks along Oahu’s Seven Mile Miracle, is known by wave riders the world over. This is no beginners’ break: Pipeline has earned its reputation as one of the most intense on the planet. The danger here is the same thing forms its ridable tubes—an abrupt and shallow coral shelf that causes the water mounds to topple quickly and very close to the shoreline. Experts try their luck when Pipeline pounds between October and April with waves heights averaging 15 feet.
As one might imagine, with surf crashing close to shore, Pipeline is a sight to behold even for landlubbers. Gawkers come out in droves to see the spectacular sunsets over the tropical waves, but especially to see the pros shred it. The Billabong Pipe Masters’ challenge—the final competition in the World Surf League’s competitive season and culminating event of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing—selects its winner here each December.
In the summer months, it can be hard to recognize The Pipe. The ocean pulls a 180, the wind and the waves die down and the waters off Banzai Beach become a popular snorkeling spot.
In typical North Shore low-key style, no signs blare “Pipeline this way.” If you weren’t looking for this world famous spot, you might miss it! The break is located off Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea, and most easily found by spotting Sunset Beach Elementary across the street. If you have a GPS, set it for the Beach Park at 59-337 Ke Nui Road. A small parking area fits maybe 20 cars, and when the waves are good it’s almost always full. Your best bet will likely be to park on the left side of Kamehameha Highway and walk back. Note even in the summer waves and currents can be finicky: If you plan to snorkel, check with lifeguard (daily 9 a.m. til 5:30 p.m.) to make sure it’s safe to proceed.