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Vol. 17, no. 2
April / May 2014


Massive Pipe 

Story by Tiffany Hervey
Photo by Olivier Koning

A perfect Banzai Pipeline wave peaks, shooting arrows of light from its belly up to a pitching lip. People watch from the beach. A sign with a cautionary flag stands near them in the sand—but instead of the usual warnings, it reads: “The Largest Wave Mural in the World.” This is not O‘ahu’s North Shore, it’s Honolulu’s Kalihi neighborhood, and this particular Pipe wave is breaking on the wall of a five-story, four-hundred-footwide industrial building overlooking a parking lot. And this portrait of the most famous wave on the planet is indeed, at 14,080 square feet, currently the largest wave mural in the world.

“I chose Pipeline as the first because it’s the wave I admire most,” explains Hilton Alves, who created the mural last October. By “first” he means first in his 101 Perfect Waves International Mural Project. Alves, an artist-athlete who thrives on pushing himself, intends to travel the globe re-creating waves on public surfaces and in the process raising awareness of social causes. He created his second wave mural at the Alma Surf Festival in Brazil, and the third is planned for Huntington Beach, where he will collaborate with a foundation to promote pediatric brain cancer research.

Brian Wyland, owner of Wy’s Galleries and nephew of that other famous muralist, drove the lift in Kalihi while Hilton painted with an airless sprayer, spray guns, paintbrushes and 150 gallons of paint. “Hilton first noticed the wall while driving by and then used Google Earth to figure out how to turn it into a cement canvas,” Wyland recalls. “It took months to plan. The building owners gave us eight days to paint. We finished in five.”

The process was not entirely new to Alves. Fourteen public school walls on O‘ahu already feature his work: He creates underwater scenes as he teaches students to paint alongside him. “Most want to learn to paint a clownfish because they all love Nemo,” chuckles the Kahuku resident, who discovered his natural talent while painting henna tattoos at a shop in his hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil. “That’s when I decided to become an artist,” he recalls. “I never went to school for it. I’m still learning.”