Jamie O'Brien, wrapped tight in water at Pipeline


It’s been 10 days on nonstop rogue swell here in Hawaii. Pipe has been working most days but last night was a standout session. Waves were 8-10 (These pics probably don’t do the size of the day justice)…and some freaky 2nd reef and 3rd reef wash throughs…which I don’t know how to quantify…but they felt like they could have drowned me. Heaps of talent paddled out…Tom Curren, Dan Malloy, Wiggolly Dantas, Mark Healey, Randal Paulson, Jamie Obrien…but still no Slater (even though his house is 100 metres from the main peak).

Someone wrote on my site the other day that I’m obsessed with the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore. Well, I am. It’s one of the best waves in the world to shoot. Swells creep in from the deep pacific up onto a shallow platform of reef throwing huge cavernous barrels. On a good day, like last night, 90% of waves tube. The take-off is a extremely vertical drop eliminating the average surfer (that’s if you get one off JOB). I reckon a healthy statistic of 1 wave per hour out there for the patient man. Sure you can get plenty of scraps on the shoulder or take closeouts…but when it’s big that’ll get dangerous and you’ll end up in Kahuku hospital.

Swimming out there with a camera is always fun. Keeps the adrenalin pumping. It’s the sneaky west swells that catch you by surprise, push you into the impact zone, and pin you to the shallow reef. Most photogs hide in the cracks of the reef under a super-sized set…I do…you can see a mad scramble for a crack when we’re all stuck inside and the water has drained off the reef (Mum, I hope you’re not reading this). Shooting with a fisheye when it’s 10-12 foot plus is not really an option – haven’t seen anyone do it but know it’s been done. The peaks shifts and slabs in different spots, making it hard to read for such a wide angle lens. When’s its 6-8 and a dropping swell I’m sure Fishy will do the biz, but you’ve seen that shot a million times.

Now that’s the longest daily email I’ve written in some time!

Seeya:: uge

This man is a freak at Pipe, Mark Healey

Jamie O'Brien, lining up some Pipeline perfection

Pipeline, grab face, drag bootie, pull in

Sunset peak

The curl at Banzai Pipeline

Dan Malloy frustrated with the crowds, opted to go body surf

Wiggolly Dantas pullin' into a sweet lil' nugget

Makaha, the west coast, very chilled.

24 thoughts on “Cavernous

  1. Uge, thats crazy hiding in the cracks of the reef! Try and snap a shot of u and all your photog bros down there, that would be sick!

  2. It is the longest email you’ve written – and one of the best! I’m not even a surfer – but I do take photographs – makes me shudder thinking of how full on it must be to be out there with a camera. Well done Uge! And I LOVE ‘Sunset Peak’ – just beautiful. x

  3. I’ve seen Pipe do it’s thing. Watching the surfers was amazing but the photographers really blew me away. Anyone who swims around out there in that impact zone is a maniac, especially holding a camera. Respect Uge.

    1. Strange that I missed him.

      I suspect he paddled out for 1 wave only.

      I am staying on pipe and swam most of the arvo…the man is a mystery to me!

      Good sequence too. But seriously, saw better waves than that yesterday.

  4. Hey Uge,
    love your description of diving in the reef cracks during the crazy sets, any chance you
    got some pics of that? Y’know, the view from that position looking up at the mayhem overhead?

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