The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons ran a marathon 22 heats on Sunday, completed in six-to-eight-foot (2–2.5-metre) waves at the Banzai Pipeline, Oahu/Hawaii.
The final stop on the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), the Billabong Pipe Masters, ran its second consecutive day of competition with the event’s top seeds hitting the water and the 2012 ASP World Title on the line.
Local hero Adam Melling from Lennox Head was unable to back up last Wednesday’s win at the World Cup of Surfing, which was held on Sunset Beach. Adam exited wave left when Miguel Pupo from Brazil surfed a 15.66 to Adam’s 9.90 in round 2.
Kelly Slater (USA), 40, current ASP WCT No 2, was methodical in his round 3 heat, navigating both Pipeline and Backdoor with precision for a commanding win over wildcard Billy Kemper (HAW). Slater earned the day’s highest heat total, an 18.63 out of 20, for his efforts.
‘It drives you nuts when you’re in the event and the waves are so good on the opening day,’ Slater said. ‘Backdoor got a little better today because the swell got a little more north, but last night was A-plus Pipe and everyone knew about it. There are really good waves out there. We were scraping to get anything going and I just got in sync. Billy (Kemper) and I were scraping for sure and he let me know he wanted to win that heat as badly as I did.’
Slater, who is currently in contention for an unprecedented 12th ASP World Title, stressed the importance of focusing on each heat at the Billabong Pipe Masters rather than the distractions that come along with the ASP World Title Race.
‘We’ve had enough time to think about it,’ Slater said. ‘We’re all processing it in our different ways. Mick (Fanning) is probably the most relaxed because he’s a long shot. He knows what he has to do, he needs to win heats, whereas if I make it through the next heat then Parko (Joel Parkinson) has to beat me, but Joel and I aren’t going to come up against each other unless we’re in the final. If you’re thinking about that during your heat, you’re not thinking about what’s going on in the water. You have to be clear minded from all of that stuff.’
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 31, current ASP WCT No 1, improved his chances of clinching a maiden ASP World Title, taking a round 3 win over deadly wildcard Kalani Chapman (HAW), 30, with textbook barrels at Backdoor.
‘It’s good to get in the water and start the game,’ Parkinson said. ‘It was torture watching yesterday, but it’s a nervous frustration. You’ve got to scramble at the start and stay patient at the end. I tried to get a couple of early ones and then wait. I got folded on a crazy left and then found that perfect drainer on the right. Backdoor can offer the best section to lay one over and it had the perfect part to lay one over. It felt so good to do that.’
Parkinson would go on to blitz his afternoon round 4 bout, advancing directly to the quarterfinals of the Billabong Pipe Masters. Slater will contest his round 4 heat when competition recommences.
Mick Fanning (AUS), 31, who was in contention for the ASP World Title heading into the Billabong Pipe Masters, was eliminated from competition by wildcard Shane Dorian (HAW), 40, this afternoon, ending his chances of a third ASP World Title at the Banzai Pipeline.
‘Shane [Dorian] has been a hero of mine since I learned how to surf and I wanted to be in the water with him,’ Fanning said. ‘We said we’d make it a fun one out there. We were going tit-for-tat and I was close on the last one but it got me at the end. I was relaxed going into this event because it (the ASP World Title) was a long shot. There was no pressure on me and I wanted to give it my all and finish well. I had a good heat and threw everything I had at it.’
Sebastian Zietz (HAW), 24, went on to deliver a massive upset of his own this morning. Riding high after clinching the Vans Hawaiian Triple Crown of Surfing in round 2, Zietz went on to eliminate ASP WCT rookie and local favourite John John Florence (HAW), 20, in their round 3 match.
‘I kind of wasn’t ready for it,’ Zietz said. ‘I was still celebrating it with two minutes left. John John (Florence) is my favourite surfer at the moment. He missed that first one and I got priority from him. He was looking at that backdoor one, so I knew it must have been good. I saw him fall on that last one and it was lucky for me and unlucky for John. I’m still focused on the contest; this all hasn’t really sunk in yet and I’ll celebrate everything after it’s over.’
Zietz would go onto claim the opening round 4 bout over Damien Hobgood (USA), 33, and Dane Reynolds (USA), 27, advancing directly into the quarterfinals of the Billabong Pipe Masters.
In addition to the ASP World Title Race drama and the culmination of the Vans Hawaiian Triple Crown battle, the world’s best surfers put on a show in the classic Pipeline conditions, posting the event’s high scores while battling for their respective rights to win the coveted Billabong Pipe Masters.
Reynolds, a wildcard into the event, posted the first perfect 10-point ride of the Billabong Pipe Masters, driving through a deep backdoor barrel en route to eliminating Adriano de Souza (BRA), 25, in round 3. Reynolds’s perfect score came in his second heat victory of the day after besting Kai Otton (AUS), 32, in round 2 in their morning match-up.
‘There weren’t any rights out there,’ Reynolds said. ‘It just looks like the right swell and size for the rights but they weren’t coming in. On my right, it was crumbly and I was trying to get under the lip. It crumbled and I just got under the whitewash. I was deep and just pushed through it. It’s the first 10 I got out here. I’ve been competing a lot this year still. I don’t think there is a shifting of gears; you’re just trying to make do with what comes to you.’
After an impressive run this morning, Reynolds fell short against Zietz in his afternoon, non-elimination round 4 heat and will take on CJ Hobgood (USA), 33, in round 5 when competition resumes.
Gabriel Medina (BRA), 18, led the Brazilian charge while getting the best of Kolohe Andino (USA), 18, in an incredible round 3 rookie battle. Medina, who is often cited for his aerial game, looked comfortable in Pipeline’s heavy conditions and earned one of the event’s high-heat totals of 18.50 for two immaculate Pipeline bombs.
‘It felt so good to get two waves at Pipe,’ Medina said. ‘I’ve been watching the wave since this morning and rode a 6′ 6″. I’m just stoked to make it through, I’m pretty happy. Where I come from is a barrelling wave. I’ve surfed there all of my life and I think it helps me out here. I’ve heard people saying things about my not being able to surf on my backhand and that I can’t get barrelled, and it’s good. I’ve been practising and I think I’m getting better at it.’
Event organisers will reconvene tomorrow at 6.30am local time for a possible 8am recommencement to competition.
Surfline, official forecasters for the Billabong Pipe Masters, have said a solid NW swell from Monday will ease through the week. Looking further out, a much smaller NW swell will move in Wednesday with a larger WNW swell for Friday December 14.