backside attack, Pipeline


The notoriously steep, hollow surf at Pipeline has traditionally been more difficult for regularfooters, who take on the left-breaking waves backside—that is, with their backs to the wave. Goofyfooters long held the advantage here as they faced the wave while riding frontside. In the winter of 1975–76, a small group of regularfooters led by Shaun Tomson, Michael Tomson, and Wayne Bartholomew made a sudden leap in progress at Pipeline, and closed the performance gap with the goofyfooters; Surfer magazine soon labeled the movement as the "backside attack."

As Pipline guru Gerry Lopez later recalled, much of the groundwork for the backside attack came during a freaky period in late December 1975, when the usually fickle Pipeline surf broke with near-mechanical repetition for more than two weeks. "Just one swell after another," Lopez said, "and it gave those guys enough time to really figure the place out."

The backside venture was crowned off at the end of the season when Shaun Tomson won the 1975 Pipeline Masters, beating five goofyfooters, including Lopez, in the final. Backsiders made steady gains from that point forward, until the gap between the backside and frontside surfers at Pipeline was all but erased. The backside attack, although not labed as such, is a highlight of Bill Delaney's Free Ride (1977); it's also featured in the 2008 documentary Bustin' Down the Door.