Backdoor. Gotta be wrong on this one, but at the moment, I can't think of another break where the right off the peak has a different name than the left. Pipeline, Backdoor. Sometimes Backdoor Pipe, but usually just Backdoor. Same break, two names, and it occurs to me that this is odd, possibly unique.
Two of the best names in surf, in any event. Pipeline, I mean, is just flat-out surf-name perfection. "Banzai Pipeline" not so much, too long, although the prefix is fun. "Pipe" works fine as shorthand. But "Pipeline" alone is an eight-letter slice of nomenclative heaven, the word fitting the thing it describes tighter than latex, the descriptor conjuring the described and vice versa, the consonant-vowel pairings stacked up like a four-wave set.
Backdoor? Not as poetic, but it makes up with a sense of humor. Watching the Masters this week, my smile reflex will be lightly tapped each time an announcer unwittingly—I think unwittingly? do I discredit Pete, Potts, Joe, and the rest?—makes a double entendre.
"Backdoor is wide open."
"If you get a choice, you gotta go Backdoor."
"Strider, looks like Backdoor is out of play this morning."
"Nobody in the event has as much Backdoor experience as Kelly."
"Kelly, sniffing around Backdoor."
"Kelly tries to go Backdoor. Denied!"
Mike Diffenderfer claimed to have named Pipeline. Or it was Diff and Bruce Brown together. I never thought about who named Backdoor until a couple mornings back, but I did a search, got lucky, and maybe figured it out.
In 1968, Florida surfer Bruce Valluzzi wrote a Petersen's Surfing feature called "Pipeline's Back Door." Valluzzi is a first-generation Cocoa Beach surf legend—a natural in big waves, blond and rugged, moody and funny, smart as hell. Two-thirds Kieren Perrow, one-third Owl Chapman. Reckless to a fault. Died at 39 of a drug overdose. For 20 years, on and off, Valluzzi wrote surf mag articles, and some were excellent. "Pipeline's Back Door" is not one of those. Flowery and obtuse, a few misfired one-liners, kinda smirky. But it takes us back to the winter of '67-'68, and the dawn of the shortboard revolution in Hawaii, and maybe the christening of a surf break. Here's a trimmed-down version.
Neptune was bored. Not much to do between summer and winter in Hawaii, you know. Even though he's constantly surrounded by mermaids, a steady fish diet can get tiring. No company to speak of, just the usual sirens, always bragging and quarreling about who led the most sailors astray. With all that turbulent force and uncontrollable power simmering just below the surface, something had to give, and it did. Raging power and surging strength exploded with a mighty order blasted to the wind, resounding 'round the Islands. "Patty cake, patty cake, baker's man. Make me a 'right' as fast as you can."
Roaring Kona winds and a wild seething ocean jump to do their master's bidding. No better target than Banzai Beach, with its loose tons of sand. When the mortals awoke the next morning, they found a right breaking where the mighty Banzai Pipeline had been.
"But Pipeline is a left," cried all the performers, adjusting their polypropylene personalities. Silly rabbit…Pipeline is a right.
For five days, a smiling sun looked down upon an eight-foot swell, the remnants of Neptune's winter wrath, and saw those waves kissed by the gentle trades. The tubes sweep down from the north and die violently, their crystal blue throats slashed by vicious intruders—water-going assassins, vandalizing nature's momentary sculptures, playing tag with wet fingers, trying to make them "it!"
These happy hours wasted in nature's playground belong to Oahu's sea-going hippies. A tight band of merry men who steal from the ocean and give to themselves. The chosen few whiled away daydreams under a sapphire canopy, laughing occasionally. Not a board over 8'6", with maneuvers produced that were unthinkable a few years ago.
Wicked and jagged fingers protruded through the sand, beckoning to some foolhardy novice, while thick eight-foot waves broke in chest-deep water. The protruding coral was blinking neon warnings that this is a spot for the accomplished alone.
Peter Pan's North Shore colony tromps on. After they pick the chicken bones out of the chocolate pudding, they toe-wrestle over the latest issue of Lois Lane comics. They sing "Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35," and watch the calendar rot, while waiting for another anonymous day in Pipeline's Never-Never land, Pipeline's back door.
Kids, we had to eat that prose on the regular back in the late '60s and early '70s. Take a moment and give thanks to Phil Jarratt and Kevin Naughton and all the other next-generation stringers who put some much-needed spine back into surf writing.
But to the question at hand. That final sentence, "waiting for another anonymous day in Pipeline's Never-Never land, Pipeline's back door." Notice: two words, instead of one—"back door." Lowercase. Valluzzi liked the sound of it, is my guess, and went out on that nice double-syllable punch, who knows, "Backdoor Man" playing on the turntable. Good enough for The Doors, good enough for us. So I'm 90% sure we're looking at the origins of the name Backdoor.