The iconic drop-to-barrel ride of the Banzai Pipeline was not the death-defying monster it can be today, with wave face heights coming in at six to eight feet for the opening day of the $50,000 Monster Energy Pipeline Pro, presented by Billabong.
But despite the absence of ’Goliath’, two Davids still dominated, with local lifeguard David Wassell, 34, producing the highest heat score of the day - 16.75 out of 20 in round one, and Mexican Pipeline’s David Rutherford coming up with the highest scoring tube of the day - 9.6 points out of 10, in the same round. While Wassell’s score stood the test of the day, he, unfortunately, did not, losing out in a late afternoon round two heat.
"At any size Pipeline can be a tough character," said Wassell, after going down in round two. "It can make you or break you, all in the same day, as I just found out."
Wassell suffered a broken surfboard and a heavy onslaught from round two rivals Ricky Whitlock (USA), Wiggolly Dantas (Brz), and Dane Ward (USA), who left the local in need of a combination of scores before forcing him to call it a day.
"It takes a lot of luck to find a good one on a day like today - it’s so shifty. Then it takes a little luck and a lot of good surfing to make it happen once you find one."
Rutherford, on the other hand, lives to see another day. His second round heat was not held today.
"Today it’s really hard to get the right wave, to be in the right place at the right time," said Rutherford. "There’s a lot of power and it’s not even big."
It was precisely the small, fickle nature of today’s mixed batch of swell that produced the challenge: shifting the take-off zone into super shallow water while demanding a more intricate weave to successfully ride the tube.
The results proved to be as random as the peaks that appeared from Pipeline to Off-The-Wall, with former event champion Tom Dosland (Maui) and revered Pipeline Master Derek Ho (Haleiwa) being eliminated in their opening heats. In contrast, renowned big-wave riders proved to be some of the toughest to beat despite operating outside of their usual element, among them Santa Cruz’s Peter Mel, and local heavyweight Pancho Sullivan.
Round one was run to completion today, along with the first four heats of round two. Other standouts included Hawaii trio Torrey Meister (Big Island), Clay Marzo (Maui), and North Shore teenager Kiron Jabour, and former event champion Rob Machado (Cardiff, CA).
Machado was as intriguing as a magician in both heats he surfed today, conjuring up a number of pristine tube rides while his rivals were left to watch on.
"He reads this place as good as any," said event official and Pipeline specialist Liam McNamara. "He’s twice as good as most guys who surf out here and he’s got at least as much experience. Days like this are deceivingly hard to surf. The difference with Machado is that he can clearly read the potential of a wave before it even breaks, and then he can ride it better than most."
Two more days of competition remain for this, a 3-star rated Association of Surfing Professionals World Qualifying Series event. Competition will resume tomorrow, waves pending.
Complete results and heat scores can be found at www.billabongpro.com.