Consolation Prize: 2014 Billabong Pipeline Masters Trials

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John John Florence at the 2013 Billabong Pipeline Masters. Photo: Brent Bielmann

The ASP has done a lot of growing up this year. It went from boy to man and from man to god, then from god back down to professional sport because nobody could rally behind worshipping Raoni Monteiro. The prize purses became more fashionable. The webcast was completely renovated. Business decision gavels were slammed with the intensity of John D. Rockefeller. Everything changed, and it changed for the better. But not without growing pains.

One such pain: the Billabong Pipe Masters. In 2014, the ASP has allotted two wildcard slots for each of its 11 events. In the past, Pipe Masters has always been given an extra slot or two… or sixteen. That’s because Pipe is a special wave, Pipeline surfers are a special breed and the Pipeline Masters is a special event. Winning at Pipe means something beyond points and pay — it’s not like winning Rio. There’s more glory in it, more prestige. It takes more grit and it earns more glitz. Not to mention the chance for a Triple Crown.

But things have changed.

Earlier this year, news broke that the ASP would only be allotting two wildcard slots to the Billabong Pipeline Masters. Hawaii was none too thrilled. And when Hawaii is unhappy, everyone is unhappy. Eddie Rothman had some thoughts on the matter in this clip on Vimeo. Like we said, unamused. The ASP was well aware of the bear they’d inadvertently poked and came up with a consolation prize in the form of the new and improved 2014 Billabong Pipeline Masters trials.

It’ll feature 32 men surfing 4 man heats on the first worthy day within the Pipe Masters waiting period. The whole thing will be webcasted to the entire universe and — here’s the kicker — there’ll be a $100,000 prize purse. The winner and the runner-up will collect their checks and go on to collect another in the main event.

A fair trade? Maybe. You’d have to think that if someone’s going to beat John John or Kelly and win Pipe Masters, they’d easily be able to beat 30 of their closest friends in the trials. And the fact that they’re webcasting the trials and throwing an additional $100K at the thing is a testament to the ASP acknowledging Hawaii’s importance — at Bells, trialists only get a free kebab and their photo on the sports page of the local newspaper. But will Hawaii’s consolation prize be embraced with open arms? With love? With aloha? We’ll just have to wait and see. —Brendan Buckley