By Aukai Ng
The Banzai Pipeline is touted by many as the most rewarding yet consequential wave on the planet. Over the decades, only a very few have mastered this world famous surf break and those who have, certainly made names for themselves. But how does one master Pipeline and how does a surfer make riding the wave look effortless? Putting your time in is one factor and living right near the break lends advantage.
Top performers like Jamie O’Brien and John Florence grew up right on the beach at Ehukai but there are other North Shore locals who have Pipe, Backdoor and Off The Wall pretty wired. One in particular is Pupukea resident, Lucas Godfrey. Lucas has been on an absolute tear the past few years and scoring some of the longest tube rides on almost every good swell has earned him the reputation as one of the most barreled men on the planet. No matter the size or conditions, Godfrey is always finding a great ride.
So, who is this talented tube rider and where does he rank among his generation? With the massive crowds and tight pecking order, how is he able to get the most perfect waves almost every good day? We sat down with the North Shore local to hear about his humble beginnings, progression, and the evolution of his surfing.
How did you get into surfing, did anyone teach you?
I definitely have to credit my father because if it wasn’t for my father, I probably wouldn’t be a surfer today. So it was kind of natural. I’d see him going surfing every day. And then eventually I wanted to go with him. He didn’t really push me to be a surfer, but I think I just wanted to be included with whatever he was doing and it took me a minute. I didn’t really catch on immediately, but I think around nine years old, I had a good surf session finally, and I was just like, ‘Okay, I wanna do this for the rest of my life.’
People can see from your tube riding that you are one of the best at Pipeline. What did it take for you to get out to Pipeline?
Yeah Pipeline’s a very tricky surf break because it’s really heavy, it’s fast, almost every wave barrels. It’s definitely hard to break into that mentality of trying to surf a wave like that because it takes a lot of commitment, the right equipment. You gotta be willing to risk your safety in order to get a good wave because there’s a lot of consequences out there. I think I became hypnotized from riding barrels. I remember at an early age I pulled into a couple barrels at other waves and was just like, ‘Wow, this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.’ The view was insane and the feeling was great. So then you get in that mindset where you start looking for barrels. And then you stumble across this wave Pipeline and it’s just the most insane barrel that you could imagine.
So I just started surfing out there whenever it was good and I slowly got used to it over the years. I became more and more comfortable, had a lot of bad wipeouts, learned where to be and where not to be, and how to choose the best waves out there. Yeah, it definitely takes a lot of time.
There’s a bunch of your waves at Pipeline where you are super deep and somehow make it out. People could say that’s luck, but how do you think you got to that point of riding the wave so well and getting spit out of the barrel?
I would say a very important thing of surfing waves like that is positioning and knowing how to position yourself and being in the right spot. And then once you’re in that right spot, you need to know how to act upon it. You need to paddle really hard, you need to fully commit, you need to give it a couple pumps, To get a good wave you wanna be determined and, get in, get out, get as deep as you can, but you also want to make it. I try to do my best. I feel like I’m getting better and better at it. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting a super insane deep barrel, especially on a bigger wave. I think I’m just chasing after that feeling and trying to duplicate that feeling as many times as I can, just keep it rolling.
Can you explain that feeling in the barrel?
eah. There are multiple sensations in the barrel. You know you got a good barrel when it feels like there’s like a suction force, like a vortex, sucking you backwards in the barrel. You have the wind blowing on your face. You’re like thinking you’re gonna fall at any moment. You got white water under your board. You’re caveating, sliding all over the place. All of a sudden momentum starts coming from behind and you feel the spit and all you, you just trying to hold on for dear life. It’s a crazy sensation, it’s an adrenaline rush. You’re probably scared, happy, excited, angry if you end up falling. It’s a list of emotions that could go on and on–I think it’s the whole spectrum. Yeah, it’s just, it’s insane.
When was it when you felt like you were now part of this elite class of Pipeline surfers?
Growing up on the North Shore, you’re surfing with pretty much the greatest surfers in the world because they all come here to surf. I remember when I was young looking up to guys like Jamie O’Brien, Chris ward, Kalani, Chapman and Evan Valiere.
I wasn’t always getting the best waves, but I remember at a certain point it just kind of clicked. Maybe it was just because my skill level was getting better and I was putting more time out there. Then I actually started getting compliments from all the people that I’d idolize. I’d come flying out of a barrel and they’d be cheering, like “wow!” “You know, Lucas, that was insane, that was a really good wave.” And then inside you start feeling like, ‘Wow, I’m out here surfing with my favorite surfer and he just complimented me on a sick wave that I got. That must mean I’m doing the right thing or doing what I’m here to do.’ So I feel like that’s kind of what clicked was just when I started getting good waves and receiving compliments and support from all the people who I looked up to.
What are some of your other favorite breaks on the North Shore? Besides Pipe, where else is your second home?
My second home would be Laniakea just because it’s always been my dad’s favorite wave and pretty much every day growing up as a kid, if I wanted to go surf I would go to Laniakea with my dad to go surf. I fully enjoy surfing there even to this day. And I’m stoked that my dad had such a love and passion for a sick surf spot.
And besides there, I would say Sunset–I have a really special connection with Sunset. It’s where I broke into riding bigger waves because it holds pretty big and it’s very powerful and it has big barrels. I think it’s just a great training wave. Sunset can sometimes be someone’s favorite wave not be someone’s favorite wave, especially if you don’t put in the time. Sunset can either be your best dream or your worst nightmare; I’ve had horrible experiences out there and I’ve also had great experiences out there.
What’s your go-to place when you travel outside of Hawaii?
I’ve really fallen in love with Mexico. It’s a lot different from where I come from– I just love everything about it. There are big, powerful waves. There are long, perfect waves. There’s great food. I just generally enjoy it and I have a lot of good friends there, so I’ve just grown to like it there.
Recently, it was my second time to Tahiti and I love it there. I love the people. I think the people are super welcoming, super nice. They remind me a lot of the Hawaiian people. I feel at home there and I have a lot of good friends there too. Like Teahupoo is insane; it’s just a crazy wave. It’s good when it’s two feet and it’s good when it’s 20 feet; all faces of it are beautiful. I’ve had a lot of fun on smaller and medium sized days. I feel like I need to go back for some bigger swells and try to push the limits for myself.
People have been talking about wave pools. Have you been in a wave pool yet? Have you experienced wave pool technology?
I actually went to the Waco Surf Park right when it first got built. I went with Jamie O’Brien and we were filming a web series for Red Bull, the last series of his Who is J O B show before he started his own YouTube blog. We got to go test it out and were some of the first people to ever surf it. There were no facilities around it and it was literally like a construction zone and just the wave pool. The one thing I did missed out on, they didn’t quite have that air section. I really want to go back because ever since they made that air section, I’m like, ‘Wow, maybe I can go practice my airs over there because I definitely need some practice on those.
Yeah, I think wave pools are really cool and I think they’re the future because I feel like surfing was really only for people who lived close to actual good waves.
To be a surfer, you gotta live relatively close to the ocean or close to a surf spot. So that wave pool is gonna kind of bring in a new era of surfing where you could literally live in a landlocked place and grow up surfing a perfect wave pool. I think that’s gonna open a whole new world of possibilities and it’s kind of breaking down some barriers that stopped a lot of people who probably dreamed of surfing and never got to do it. Now they can go to a wave pool, pursue their passion, and have a lot of fun.
Is surfing an art?
100% surfing is an art form because you have a lot of style coming into play. Everyone has a different style and everyone has a different approach. If you see a guy surfing a wave beautifully, you’re like, ‘Wow, that was like a masterpiece.’ Some people just wanna stop and just watch someone surf because it’s just beautiful; it’s impressive. I’d say surfers are definitely artists: they’re very creative and the way they place their maneuvers and the way they kind of flow with the wave.
What are your future goals? Do you have any big aspirations for the coming future?
I feel like I’m on a really good track right now. I just wanna be able to keep pursuing what I love to do. It’d be sick to get into more contests, especially at Pipeline and do well in them. That’s always been a dream of mine. I just want to get bigger and better waves and just focus on doing what I do best and try to get good barrels at Pipe every year because that’s my true passion.
Anyone that you want to thank, anyone that’s helped you along the way to get to this point in your life?
A big thanks to my father. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be in this situation, to grow up and live in this perfect location. Huge thanks to the rest of my family, my mom, my sister, always pushing me.
I’d also like to thank my girlfriend too. She always supports me and is always there for me and lets me go on surf trips and lets me go surfing every day. All my friends, especially Jamie O’Brien, I feel like a lot of my success is from him helping me out. Helping me figure out how to surf Pipe, taking me on trips, and letting me hang out with him. I’m extremely grateful for him and for believing in me and supporting me along the way. I feel like it helps to have a sense of direction.
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