The $75,000 Monster Energy Pro, presented by Billabong, experienced the largest contest surf of 2007 at the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii yesterday, with waves in the 12-15-foot range. Australian Mark Mathews won the respect of his peers with a perfect 10-point tube-ride in round three that has been called one of the all-time great rides at Pipeline.
He went on to win his fourth round heat late in the afternoon, despite a horrible wipeout in surf that grew monstrous with an onshore wind. He is now through to the round prior to the quarter finals. Mathews also shared the day's second-highest heat score with Hawaii's Chad Chidester - 15.75 points out of a maximum 20 points. The top heat score of the day, 17.5 points went to Los Angeles' Dane Reynolds.
A virtual unknown to Pipeline's high profile riders before today, 24-year-old Mathews has stamped a mark that won't soon disappear. Mathews has been coming to the North Shore of Oahu since he was 16, but missed the past two seasons due to injury.
"Coming out of the barrel was the best feeling I've ever felt," said Mathews, who comes from the blue-collar coastal town of Maroubra, in Sydney. "I was just holding on and hoping for the best. That barrel was like a giant room of water spinning around me. As it opened up it sucked all the air in and was pulling me backwards, deeper into the barrel, before it blew me out in this massive shot of water. It was just an amazing feeling."
Mathews won the Makita Wave of the Day Award for his 10-point ride. The swell continued to pour in, growing even larger as the day went on. Huge sets of waves made many of the 20-minute heats a literal wash-out, and scores rollercoasted accordingly, offering record scores and epic tube rides in some heats, and almost nothing decent in others.
There were four broken boards, two surfers who had their competition shirts ripped from them during wipeouts, and a couple of surfers who battled to even make it out into the lineup after being smashed on the inside reef repeatedly by monster sets of waves. Casualties of the competition included a slew of Pipeline specialists, including Hawaii's Derek Ho and highly seeded surfers Sean Moody, and Marcus Hickman. Six of the 16 fourth round heats were completed before competition was called for the day.
Standouts of the day included Japan's Shinpei Horiguchi, and Hawaii's Flyn Novak and Chaz Chidester. The twelve surfers to advance through round four are: Carlos Cabrero, Kai Barger (Haw), Dane Reynolds (CA), Mikala Jones (haw), Horiguchi, Daniel Ross (Australia), Mathews, Raymond Reichle (Haw), Novak, Gavin Gillette (Haw), Tory Barron (Haw), and Kyle Garson (CA). Defending event champion Rob Machado (Cardiff, CA), and Monster rider Shane Dorian (Hawaii) will hit the water this morning.
Organizers expect to resume today with the remainder of round four and run as far as conditions permit. Beyond Wednesday, they expect a Friday final.