ROUNDS RUN: Round One (but not your normal Round One)
CONDITIONS: Classic 6-8 foot Pipe
NATURE’S CALL: OK, you’ve waited long enough
PREDICTION: Waiting for da perfect days to finish
Finally. A Pipe Day.
Today wasn’t just Round One of the Rip Curl Pipe Masters — today was Round One of the whole damn North Shore winter season. And for a while, everyone was jumping around going, “Finally!”
For a while.
After a few hours of staring into the gaping joy/doom of perfect Pipe, it seemed like this is all there ever was. How easily we forget.Like opening day at any world-class break, the scene was dominated by the locals. Guys like last year’s wild card finalist Kalani Chapman, recent Xcell Pro winner Evan Valiere and Maui upshot Hank Gaskell all won their first round heats, while Tory Barron, Dustin Barca, Tamayo Perry and Nathan Carroll all placed high enough to advance to the next round. And yes, we are talking about a WCT event here. There’s a new format for the Pipe Masters this year. No Trials. Just a 64-man field and heaps of carnage. Loser of the first four-man heat is out, while second and third go to the Round Two losers-bracket heat, and the winner skips along to Round Three. WCT guys like Tom Whittaker, Damien Hobgood and Chris Ward all skipped along just fine, but plenty of ’CT guys were heading home after just one failed heat (something they’re not really used to). Phil MacDonald, Toby Martin, Jarred Howse, and Mikey Picon not only lost their heats today, but also lost their spot on the WCT tour. Gone. Done. Heavy.
For others, however, it was business as usual. AI dropped a couple 8s and 9s for an easy victory. Bruce followed suit, upping the ante with a 9.9 and a 10 — the highest heat score of the day. But what would you expect? It’s big, perfect Pipe. Of course, the Irons are gonna dominate. And Pancho, too. And Slater surfed great, too, posting 8s and 9s. However, five-time Pipe Master Slates was up against Jamie O’Brien in perfect Pipe, and JOB’s been waiting all winter for waves like this. Jamie clocked four 9s and an 8 early in the heat and started goofing off, even teasing Kelly a bit. “Switch,” he told Slater in the lineup.
“Switch boards?” asked Slater
“No, go switchstance,” egged O’Brien.
Slater scoffed, so Jamie went, taking off goofyfoot on a macking Pipe-bomb. He ate it. Hard. But you have to admire his balls. He later claimed it was one of the best heats of his life — and with scores like that, with waves like that, how could it not be?
But shoots, brah, it’s only Round One. And with this new format, it’s gonna get messy, like, fast. Everyone synchronize your watches, cause there’s only a day and a half of contest left to go. Sixteen will be packing their bags in the next round, and sixteen more in the next.
For now, the final buzzer has buzzed, and the frothing locals are ready to take their turn on the first day of the season. Ho, it’s packed out there. Take one numba.
[Special thanks to Tradewinds U Drive car rentals. tradewindsudrive.com.]