The Legendary Surfing Pipeline Wave in Hawaii

Surfing Pipeline is considered one of the heaviest, most dangerous and technical waves in the world. Located on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii, Pipeline has been the setting for some of the largest and most pivotal surfing events in history. Read on to learn more about this iconic surf break and what makes it so special.

Location of Pipeline

Pipeline is situated on Ehukai Beach in Pupukea, directly in front of the famous Pipeline beach park. It’s roughly a 45-minute drive northwest of downtown Honolulu. The wave breaks over a shallow reef near the shoreline, making falls particularly hazardous.


The coordinates for Pipeline are 21°30’45.3″N 157°52’08.8″W. Knowing its precise latitude and longitude allows surfers to check live conditions from anywhere.

Natural Features That Form Pipeline

Pipeline is a beach break caused by the interaction of deep ocean swells with an offshore rock shelf and coral reef. Waves barrel and hollow out before rapidly closing out, requiring split-second timing by expert tube riders.

Shallow Reef

The very shallow, razor-sharp reef is only a few feet below the surface, making wipeouts potentially dangerous even for pros.

Seasonality of Waves at Pipeline

Due to its dependence on large winter swells from the North Pacific, Pipeline sees optimal surf only during the Northern Hemisphere winter from November to March when storms track closest to Hawaii.

Hourly Predictability

The waves display high tide reliability, breaking best insets roughly an hour before high tide during moderate to large swell conditions.

Pipeline in Pop Culture

Due to famous surf competitions like the Pipe Masters held there annually, Pipeline has risen to global fame. It remains cemented in surf lore legendary. Prominent surf films like The Endless Summer also showcase its power.

Inspirational to Many Generations

The wave’s gravity-defying tube rides have motivated surfers worldwide since the 1960s to progress the sport and push limits within the barrel.

Key Attributes of Pipeline

Wave TypeShallow reef break that barrels and shuts quickly
Skill LevelConsidered an expert’s wave only for the world’s best
Break DirectionSoutheast swell direction around 400 yards offshore
Wave SizeOn large swells can see faces over 20 feet tall
Best MonthsNorthern Hemisphere winter from Nov-Mar
Tide RelianceBreaks best on high tide around 1 hour before

Frequently Asked Questions

Can amateurs surf Pipeline?

Absolutely not. It demands the highest skill level possible and is a very dangerous wave for all but the world’s elite professionals.

How big do waves get at Pipeline?

Wave faces measuring 20 feet tall or more are not unheard of during large North Pacific winter swells.

What are the most famous Pipeline events?

The Billabong Pipeline Masters competition each January-February and various pro surfing events throughout the winter season.


Located on Hawaii’s famed North Shore, Surfing Pipeline is considered the holy grail destination for professional big-wave surfers worldwide. Its razor-sharp topography, enormous winter swells and notoriously picky conditions have cemented its legendary status as the most technically challenging surf break on Earth.

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