Corky on the Pipeline Chargers
by Corky Carroll
In the early 1960’s the spot known as the “Banzai Pipeline” was board surfed for the first time. It had been body surfed for a number of years but most people thought it was too steep and dangerous to ride on a board. Phil Edwards rode it the first time with Bruce Brown filming. He got one great ride and left it at that. The next day John Severson showed up and filmed a session with a crew that included Dave Willingham, Loren Swan, Mike Hynson and Danny DeRohan. This was 1961.
The next winter more people started surfing it and the real standout was the infamous Butch Van Artsdalen, the original “Mr. Pipeline.” Butch was a fearless goofy-foot from La Jolla and took to the place like a fly on honey. A shot of him getting a perfect tube ride in which he would wind up sitting down at the end and rubbing his hands together made all the surf movies and is a huge part of surfing history.
In the next few years there were a number of guys who rode the place well including John Peck and a little-known guy named Mike Turkington. John was the first “regular foot” (left foot forward) to really excel backside in the cavernous barrels that made the place famous. I rode it for the first time in 1963 on my 10’ Phil Edwards shaped Hobie. From the first scared outta my mind wave I fell in love with the place. It remained my favorite surf spot up until the time I rode “Restaurants” on the island of Tavarua in Fiji. I was older then and the dangers of getting pounded at Pipeline were getting too great for my older body
Going into the mid to later 1960’s the duo of Jock Sutherland and Rory Russell took over and ruled the spot. There were others, but these guys were the top dogs. Also of note were a small crew of chargers from the Huntington and Newport Beach area that included Sam Hawk, Craig “Blind Owl” Chapman and George “Little Weavo” Weaver. These guys were the guys that were out there on giant days when nobody else was either around or wanted to paddle out, after the crowds and cameras left the beach. They held an “Expression Session” one year and Sam Hawk probably would have won it if it had been a competition.
Then came the era of the all-time King of the place, Gerry Lopez. I am pretty sure it can be agreed that he ruled it like no other ever did or ever has since. He was and will always be, well never say never because you “never” know, THE “Mr. Pipeline.” First Butch, then Gerry. Only two on record.
How can I describe Gerry at Pipeline? The best and most stylish Bull fighter ever going against the biggest, most gnarly and angry bull? Kinda like that. He just got steeper and deeper than anybody and did it with a totally relaxed style that made it look a lot easier than it really was. Gerry was the surf photographers dream child and all the movies and mags were full of him way back inside screaming tubes and flying out with a little grin on his face like he just got away with stealing a cookie from the plate when mom wasn’t looking. The dude was the best, period.
As the 1970’s came in there were a few other standouts which would include Jackie Dunn, Jeff Crawford from Florida and Joey Buran. These kids could all hold their own out there and held respect in the lineup. Commandos of the early years, first decade if you will, of surfing the Pipeline.
Now I watch the new crew out there and am amazed at how steep they can take off with the new equipment and how fast they go. Guys like Kelly Slater and John John Florence who just defy gravity at times and I find myself continuously letting out loud “wows.” But these are no greater reactions than the same ones we all had from watching Butch Van Artsdalen, Jocko, Rory, Sam Hawk and especially Gerry Lopez.