Capturing The Power Of Pipeline

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - December 21, 2011
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It was an epic day to be at Pipeline. Jamie DeMatoff photo

Banzai Pipeline is more than just a world-famous surf spot. For many, the bone-crushing break is a destination. For a select few, it is the ultimate proving ground.

Earlier this month, the world’s best surfers gathered at Pipeline for the sport’s prized jewel a victory here and you earn the title “master.” It’s that excitement that draws hundreds of photographers to the North Shore every winter, including former radio personality, local business owner and longtime surfer Jamie DeMatoff. When he’s not in the water on his surfboard, DeMatoff can be found on the beach with his camera. The amateur photographer recently shot some of the best surf at Pipeline in years.

“The waves this year are not the biggest ever, but the quality of the sets combined with the size, the only word to accurately describe it is epic,” he says with excitement. “Definitely one of the better surf seasons I have seen.”

DeMatoff has called the Islands home for nearly 30 years. He moved to Hawaii from Southern California in 1982 at the age of 19 to attend the University of Hawaii. He fondly remembers living “walking distance to South Shore surf spots.”

But there was something about the North Shore that captured his imagination.


“When there was a moment of free time, I would always find myself driving out to the North Shore to surf or check out the waves,” says DeMatoff. “Eventually, I found myself moving to the North Shore for 15 years.”

After college, DeMatoff went on to have a career in broadcasting as an on-air personality at several local radio stations. He eventually hung up his microphone to open Storto’s Honolulu in Kaimuki. When he’s not making customers smile at his deli, you can almost always find him near the ocean.

“When I have time, I try to get to the beach and surf or dive or anything just to being there, I have always loved it,” says the successful small-business owner who hopes to take his franchise to the Neighbor Islands. “Everything about being in or near the ocean, you just have a feeling. When I watch others in the water, I understand what they are feeling.”

Jamie DeMatoff

That probably explains why he has a fantastic eye for surf photography. Those who do it for a living will tell you it’s not as simple as “aim and fire.” There is a tremendous amount of preparation and anticipation needed to capture a memorable image. DeMattoff is one of those “amateurs” who has a gift.

“I don’t have any formal photography training but I have always felt an affinity with the water,” he says. “Once I get to the beach and get settled, I like to watch what is around me, snapping beauty shots and landscape. Eventually I end up scanning the horizon to see who is in the water. I find something or someone that captures my attention. If it is someone in the water and I see they are enjoying themselves and in the zone, I almost feel like I am in the moment with them. Suddenly my camera is snapping away.”

And in early December he snapped away photographing some of the biggest and gnarliest waves Pipeline has seen in years.

“I saw 12 broken boards, bloody body parts and a dislocated shoulder, and that was before lunchtime,” he chuckles.

He says the day reminded him of his first visit to the famed break.


“I would hear stories and watch footage of people dying at the Pipe, and the first day I was here I saw a surfer named Steve ‘Beaver’ Massfeller drop in and go head-first into the reef.”

Massfeller survived a massive head injury, and it was at that moment that DeMatoff knew Pipeline’s reputation definitely preceded itself, and he wanted in. He’s been all in since and his love for surfing eventually translated to a love for photography.

“When you love something you just end up finding different ways to express yourself. For me, it is being behind the camera.”

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