[This photo feature, where we break down our ever-shifting definition of the perfect wave through the last six decades, originally appeared in our April 2017 Issue, “Evolution,” on newsstands and available for download now.]
As the shortboard revolution took hold in the late ’60s, shrinking boards to a size that could fit more easily inside the curl, surfers all around the world became obsessed with innovating tube riding. And, of course, no wave offered more-impressive tubes than Pipeline—the thundering Hawaiian reefbreak pioneered by Phil Edwards, which literally shook the beach on big winter swells. No one would ever accuse Pipeline of being a user-friendly wave, but the perfect-looking lefts on offer were enough to coax countless surfers into tempting fate at the infamous reef. In the 1970s, the break became the foremost proving ground for would-be surf stars, and those who excelled there—like Gerry Lopez, Rory Russell, and Jackie Dunn—became instant icons for their heroics. As the decade wore on, growing crowds and news of similarly perfect lineups in Indonesia would drive many of Pipe’s early standouts to strike out in search of the world’s next great tube, ushering in a new era of surf exploration. But in spite of the countless high-quality breaks discovered during the travel boom of the ’70s, Pipe remained the yardstick of perfection by which all other waves were measured.
[Check back on Thursday to see our selection for the perfect wave of the 1980s]