Pupukea, Hawaii, United States of America
Pipeline is the most famous wave in the world. To ride pipeline, when it’s big, defines what kind of surfer you are (most likely a professional or Hawaiian). Pipeline is famous, one because it is in Hawaii, the spiritual home of surfing, two because the Hawaiians and the entire surfing world acknowledge that it takes immense skill and courage to ride it, and three because it is a near perfect (merciless) tube breaking close to a golden sand beach making it the ultimate surfing arena.
Pipeline is actually 3 reefs; Third Reef Pipe is 200m offshore and only breaks on enormous swells. Normally, the swell is refracted off Third Reef, climbs skyward over Second Reef Pipe and begins lining up for the famous barrel across the inner First Reef Pipe. By this time it is only 50m from shore and exploding down the sharp craggy limestone reef. Backdoor Pipe is a right off the same peak, often dicey but considered a better barrel.
Originally called the Banzai Pipeline, the reef is just off the north shore of the island of Oahu. It only breaks in the Hawaiian winter from September to April. Outside of this time the Pipeline is deceptively calm. A northwest swell starts the Pipeline firing.
During November and December the professional surfing world descends on Pipeline and the north shore of Oahu. Many contests are held at Pipe and while it is a horrendous time to try and surf there it offers a good chance to see the best surfers in the world, up close and in action.
For average surfers the best time to visit Pipeline is after Christmas, when the professional surfing tour has moved on and the locals have had a chance to get a few days in, so will possibly be less militant.
Pipeline is located at Ehukai Beach Park (near Pupukea), North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
(Image from Flickr user SimonShaw)