The Drop

“The drop at the Pipeline is even more intense than the tube ride that might come afterwards if everything goes right. The right attitude is the first necessity of a successful takeoff. Without a great degree of confidence even the most skillful may fall victim to the spector of the Pipeline’s reputation long before they even begin to paddle for a wave.

Wave selection is, of course, another huge variable that comes into play because there are waves on any given day that are simply not meant to be ridden. The surfers who are familiar with the break know when to get out of the way and just let those waves pass by. Positioning and timing are critical in just about any endeavor in life and more greatly magnified when trying to line up and catch a good wave at the Pipe. This photo is interesting for a number of reasons. The drop looks in good shape, my edge is set, my foot placement good, my eyes looking at what’s up ahead.

The wave in front masks the entire lower portion of the wave so it’s difficult to tell exactly how big the wave is but from the position of the two guys caught inside and paddling for their lives, it is definitely a set wave. The one guy looks like he has made it over okay but is probably getting a look at the wave behind that might be bigger, in which case, the terrifying moments that comes from being here are not over.  The other guy, depending on how hard he is paddling and it looks like he had a good head of steam if his wake behind is any indication, is right at that critical point where he will either penetrate the lip or he won’t.

I would have to say his degree of terror is even greater than his friend’s and there will be some heavy, weightless moments [nice oxymoron…] before his fate is decided.  If he makes it through, there will be the next wave to deal with. If he doesn’t make it.. well, looking at the straight line of the top of this wave means it’s a long wall of a very powerful Pipe wave as opposed to a more peak type wave. If the guy gets sucked back over the falls, it won’t be pretty. But these are some of the risks anyone who paddles out at the Pipeline expects to encounter. So while they may hope for the best, it’s always prudent to plan for the worst … just in case.”

- Gerry Lopez

Gerry Lopez shot by Dan Merkel

1979