In the North Pacific, October arouses the season’s first storms, which in turn generate the swells that bring life -- and crowds -- to Pipeline, the famously shallow and hard-breaking surf spot on Oahu’s north shore. Ghastly wipeouts commonly occur here, but newcomers to the iconic break have more to worry about these days than merely blowing the drop and bouncing off the flesh-eating reef.

In recent years, locals stationed at a house overlooking the break have taken it upon themselves to enforce, through intimidation and sometimes fists, the unofficial rules designed to maintain order at surf zones worldwide. Visiting surfers who interfere with (or, heaven forbid, endanger) a Pipeline regular often end up getting chased off and/or smacked around.

The enforcers call themselves the Wolfpack, and most of them come from Kauai. The pack’s alpha male is Kala Alexander, a buff and accomplished surfer best known for his role as the tattooed heavy in the 2002 date movie “Blue Crush.”


He regularly justifies his beachfront vigilantism in print and video interviews. With a relatively tight takeoff zone, Alexander says, Pipeline can safely accommodate only about 20 expert surfers at a time. But up until a few years ago, 60 to 80 surfers and bodyboarders, many of them novices, routinely overran the place. World-class surfers would stroke into breathtaking barrels only to have an arm-flapping wannabe cut them off and force them into the break’s treacherous shallows.

In the unwritten book of surf etiquette, such a right-of-way violation qualifies as a capital offense, and the guilty party’s punishment nowadays is a good licking. So far, no one has pressed charges.

“You need people like me,” Alexander recently told Surfer magazine, “or it would just be even more crazy.”

Despite its apparent lawlessness, the presence of beachfront bouncers has clearly reduced chaos at one of surfing’s most photogenic spots.

“I don’t want to condemn it or praise it,” said Surfing magazine editor and surfer Evan Slater. “But the lineup [at Pipeline] is absolutely a lot more orderly and less crowded than it used to be.”

-- Steve Hawk