Pipeline is arguably one of the hardest waves to master. It takes years–if not decades–to really become a maestro of the fabled break, even for those who were born with talent and pluckiness pulsing through their veins. Gerry Lopez, Ronnie Burns, Sunny Garcia, Bruce Irons–each Pipeline standout of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s had to earn their way to the top of the pack, after sessions upon sessions of studying the reef’s intricacies (and surviving brutal wipeouts).
According to North Shore legend and 1982 Pipe Masters winner Michael Ho, the learning curve of Pipe is steep. There’s no going around it. But every few years, there’s a crop of young chargers who standout from the rest of their cohorts, inching further along the road to Pipe mastery. This year, we asked Ho to pick out a handful of young guns who he believes are the most talented up-and-coming Pipe specialists of this generation. Some of these surfers are already starting to make their mark, landing magazine cover shots and starring in viral Pipe clips. But, according to Ho, becoming a force out at Pipe is “a lifelong journey,” and these up-and-comers are far from reaching their peak.
“Barron is definitely in my top 5 right now,” says Ho. “I think he's only 17 so he's probably the youngest of my picks and he's just so aggressive in both small and bigger waves. He's got that right-under-the-lip style like John John. He reads the wave really well out there, whether it's frontside at Backdoor, backside at Pipe, big, small. His dad, Berry, is a really good friend of mine and is a really good surfer. His dad is probably one of the original backside rail grabbers and probably one of the best underground backside barrel riders himself. But the way Barron is handling himself both in big waves and above the lip, he's going to go a long way.” Photo: Craig
“John John is in a different league than everyone, but I don't think his brother Nathan is taking that for an answer,” says Ho. “I think they're pretty similar at Pipe--they both have a big ol' smile on their face, taking off anywhere they want, pulling in, coming out, not really bullying their way out there or trying to take all the waves, just reading the ocean well. It's really something nice to watch how the kids are doing it, taking turns out there. I'm pretty psyched on the kids I see charging right now.” Photo: Laserworlf
“A lot of the guys I picked live on the North Shore and they're the ones I see charging the most. But out of all the guys around the world, the one who I think is absolutely charging would be Jack Robinson,” says Ho. “Ever since the first time I saw him surf there, I was amazed at some of the waves he catches. I think coming from West Oz–which is so raw and near so many types of different waves, just like Hawaii–helps him a lot. You can notice the difference in guys who show up here from West Oz versus guys that show up who just live near beach breaks. You can see the difference of his attack mode. He's always ready to put himself in the pit. It's not easy to put yourself in the pit at Pipe when it's 10-foot plus, really west and there's a lot of water moving.” Photo: Ellis
"I've seen Koa chuck himself over the ledge a few times where I've told him not to," laughs Ho. "When he was younger, he was just a surfer–I don't think he started competing too much at an early age. Most of the kids did the NSSA, but he wasn't an on-the-road competitor. He always had a knack for riding good, big waves, though. Obviously watching his brother surf helped a lot. We're going to see him around for awhile. He's going to be one to watch in the future.” Photo: Paul
"Seth and Josh are both on my list. Somehow they have the same approach to Pipe–they'll take chances and they'll pull it off," says Ho. "Whether Pipe is big or small, they just want to catch waves. I think there's a lot to stay about brothers pushing each other to become better. Looking at the Hogboods, Lopez', the Coffins, my brother and I–in every sport, whether it’s surfing or football, when there are two brothers that do the same sport they usually do pretty well when they're around the same age. Josh and Seth, they're just trying to push each other to get the best waves at Pipe, and that's probably why they're so good already. Their two brothers charge just as hard, too. They're goofyfooters and they're just as gnarly, so I'll probably hear about it not putting their names in [laughs].” Photos: [Seth Moniz, left] Laserwolf, [Josh Moniz, right] Craig