A 100-yard stretch of reef and sand on Oahu’s famed North Shore was a surfer’s playground for day two of the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro, presented by Billabong today. Wave face heights remained consistent at 6-8 feet and competitors had their pick of peaks from Off-The-Wall to Backdoor and Pipeline. The result was the first two perfect 10-point rides of the event, and the highest heat score of the contest so far. But a good time was not had by all. Three-time world champion and the event’s No.1 seed Andy Irons headed up the growing list of eliminated surfers.
Kauai’s Kawika Stillwell set the pace in the second heat of the morning, finding a long, double-barrel at Backdoor in round two. He went on to advance through round three in the afternoon.
Round two also saw Floridian Devon Tresher make his mark with the second perfect 10 of the day – a tube ride as equally long and impressive as Stillwell’s. Already carrying an excellent score of 8.0 for an earlier ride, Tresher’s 10 contributed to the highest heat score of the contest to date: 18.0 points out of a possible 20.
Round three opened up with what might well have been the final of the event, featuring four proven champions in Pancho Sullivan (HI), Roy Powers (HI), Rob Machado (CA) and Myles Padaca (HI). Sullivan headed out looking for open face to gouge but surprised himself with a succession of tubes at Backdoor that saw him bolt away with the lead. He went on to win with a total of 17.1 points (rides of 8.75 and 8.35), followed by Powers in second. Both Sullivan and Powers are members of the elite ASP World Championship Tour, thereby being two of the most accomplished competitors entered in the event.
“Everyone in that heat was of such a high caliber that I knew I’d really have to step up my performance,” Sullivan said after his heat. “I was hoping to build rhythm and pace myself throughout the event but that was the kind of heat where you’ve got to turn up the performance level.”
Sullivan, who won this event back in 2005, has surfed his way through from the trials, having not officially registered for the event on time. Normally he would have been seeded directly into the third round.
“I verbally entered the event but got lost in the shuffle,” Sullivan explained. “The ASP offered me a wildcard (as a former champion) but I declined. My motivation was to surf Pipe as much as possible.
“It’s not real Pipe but it’s still really fun and high performance nonetheless. I was a little bit surprised. I headed out there expecting face turns to offer the good scoring rides but I lucked out, got in rhythm and got the barrels.”
The day never tapered in intensity, ending with a short-lived run for three-time world champion Andy Irons. In what turned out to be an incident-packed match, Irons took an uncharacteristic spill exiting from a tube at Backdoor on his first ride and appeared to lose all momentum in that instant.
Paddling back out he was run over by Californian Matt Mohagen, who went on to win the heat. Mohagen accidentally rode over Irons as he exited his own barrel ride. Irons emerged from the incident uninjured.
For his second ride, Irons took off together with Puerto Rico’s Alejandro Moreda. Both surfers fell and Moreda incurred an interference penalty. After that, Irons went over the “falls” after pulling back from a take-off then found himself on a left-hander that offered nothing. Clearly out of rhythm by now, he elected to paddle to shore with two-and-a-half minutes of the 20-minute heat remaining. Pipeline had deserted her old pal and Irons knew better than to force the issue. He scored more points signing autographs for fans on the beach than he did in the water, where he posted just 2.51 points – likely the lowest heat total of his career.
What started out as a field of 136 hopefuls has now been whittled down to just 48. With eight of 16 round three heats completed, 16 surfers have sealed berths in round four – the round prior to the quarter finals, and an additional 32 surfers will contest their third round heats when competition resumes.
There will be more than one winner in this event; while first place will receive the lions’ share of the $50,000 event purse ($7,000), the real prize is an entry into the world’s most prestigious event: the Billabong Pipeline Masters, to be held here in December as the final event of the ASP World Tour and the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Sixteen surfers out of this event will win their way into the Billabong Pipeline Masters.
One more full day 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.