13 Best Pipeline Surfers Ever

Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii (Oahu) can be described with some fitting adjectives like beautiful, desirable, fierce, dangerous, challenging, perfect, iconic, and so on. Regardless of these contrasting attributes, it’s still a dream destination for surfers all over the world. One cannot deny its special offering of waves that are bound to shoot any athlete that conquers them into the limelight.

It wasn't until 1961 that the first wave was surfed at Pipeline by Phil Edwards. Now, the surfing world considers this spot and the North Shore as their epicenter. The Pipe Masters is the most desired title of all surfing titles and it’s achievable at Pipeline in a yearly Event also called Pipe Pro. The first one took place in 1971.

You’re about to see lists of the best pipeline surfers of all time featuring athletes that were curated to fill in the men’s and women’s categories. This is the updated selection for 2024 after long and careful research.

Top 10 Male Pipeline Surfers Ever

This section is for the men’s classification and it has 10 names that were chosen after looking at over five decades of Pipeline glory. The athletes have been listed in no particular order.

1. John John Florence

John John Florence has been described as a North Shore prodigy who grew up surfing the Pipeline, understanding its nature, and becoming one with it. He's known for his power, control, perfect timing, and finesse on the wave. Florence has achieved many world titles including the Pipe Pro, of course.

2. Jamie O’Brien

Jamie O’Brien AKA JOB is famous for his daring stunts on the wave which includes a lot of risk-taking. But this has earned him various accomplishments such as being able to complete tricks that were formerly regarded as extremely difficult to execute. Also, he's a pioneer of new moves.

JOB has been able to establish a niche for himself in the area of free surfing. The surfing world sees him as a genius, trailblazer, and icon!

3. Andy Irons

This is no doubt one of the best surfers of the North Shore ever. He’s a special one on the waves with his intense approach and rivalry with surf legend Kelly Slater. Andy Irons had an untimely death but he’ll be remembered for his love and passion for surfing, especially at Pipe.

4. Bruce Irons 

The pressure of being the brother of a renowned surfer like Andy Irons didn’t stop Bruce Irons from making a name for himself. Andy’s younger brother took the waves courageously, particularly Banzai Pipeline’s familiar intimidating swells. He proved his skillfulness and agility by finishing risky maneuvers in the large barrels of the Pipe.

5. Rory Russell

Hawaiian Rory Russell is a well-respected Banzai wave-rider who first rode Pipeline as a 12-year-old. He knew how to rip through those wild tubes like they were nothing. You could even compare him to Gerry Lopez during the 70s, especially between 1976 and 1977 when he won the Pipe Masters twice in a row.

6. Tom Carroll

Here’s another valiant and gifted surfer who stood out with a few others in the last two decades before the 21st century. His legendary feats and perfectionist determination earned him three Pipe Masters titles within a space of five years (1987-1991).

7. Derek Ho

Derek was born into a family of surfers who later produced more professional surfers like Coco Ho and Mason Ho. He became the first-ever professional world champion from Hawaii, apart from being a two-time Pipe Masters winner. Using his understanding of the wave’s nature; he was able to maintain consistency throughout his Pipeline wave-riding years.

8. John Boy Gomes

There are very few surf legends who could ride the Pipe backside, as well as Gomes, did. He was a force to reckon with in the 80s and 90s with his bold and aggressive approaches that somehow managed to result in unthinkable stunts and a Pipe Masters victory.

9. Kelly Slater

Kelly Slater is referred to as the greatest of all time for valid reasons. One of them is that he has attained more Pipe Masters titles than any other professional surfer! That’s a total of eight in 2022, 2013, 2008, 1999, 1996, 1995, 1994, and 1992. His first was as a 20-year-old and his last was as a 50-year-old! Long live the king of the Pipe!

However, Slater didn’t find it easy to conquer the wave growing up. He and his buddies were always defeated by the Banzai Pipe until they were able to overcome it with determination and experience.

10. Gerry Lopez 

Fondly called “Mr. Pipeline” by surf enthusiasts, Gerry Lopez ruled the Pipe in the 70s with a finesse that always amazed spectators. His mastery of the wave gave him a legendary status that can’t ever be disputed. This is in addition to the philosophy and board designs that the sport has benefitted from him.

Top 3 Female Pipeline Surfers Ever

This section has only three names because the women’s Championship Tour event at Pipeline has only been conducted a few times. We have decided to mention three notable female surfers who are women's Pipe Masters title winners.

1. Moana Jones Wong

Wong is regarded as the best female Pipeline surfer ever and her style has been compared to that of Pipeline legend Gerry Lopez.

2. Carissa Moore 

Surfers’ Hall of Fame inductee Carissa Moore just had to be on this list. She's one of the few female athletes who can ride right or left at Banzai Pipeline and she knows how to surf the Pipe backside well.

3. Molly Picklum

In 2020, Molly Picklum became a teenage surf prodigy. She later went on to win a Pipe Masters title and grab the No. 1 spot on the world women’s surfing rankings as well.

Conclusion

You’d surely find your known surfing legends or role models on the above lists. And you may be dreaming of being on an updated list as well. Just keep Banzai Pipeline in mind because it’s the ultimate proving ground for any upcoming athlete who wants to make a name in the surfing world.

James Davis

Written by James Davis

I'm a true California local, and I've spent my life riding the waves along our stunning coastline. Surfing has always been my greatest love, and in my writing, I try to capture its genuine essence. My words aim to transport you into the heart of the surf culture, where the ocean and surfers come together in perfect harmony.

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