The opening rounds of the Volcom Pipe Pro got under way yesterday in picturesque Pipe and Backdoor waves, as competitors were allowed exclusive access to their favourite playground. The medium-sized swell remained unaffected by the wind throughout the all-Hawaiian first round, which was given the go-ahead for an 8.00am start. It was little surprise to see Reef McIntosh and Jamie O’Brien notch up the two highest heat totals of the round; Makai MacNamara also impressed.
The wind refused to play ball for Round 2, and only four heats could be completed before the contest was put on hold for the day. Brazilian Hizunome Bettero, surfing in the third heat, was nonetheless able to pick off what proved to be one of the day’s highest-scoring waves, earning himself a 8.93.
The highlight of the day without question though was the VLQC, a 40-minute 8-man heat contested by seasoned Pipe veterans Gavin Beschen, Bruce Irons, Alex Gray, Kawai Lindo, JD Irons, Kaimana Henry, Derek Ho and Makua Rothman. At stake was the one remaining wildcard spot in Round 3; jettisoning the standard two-wave total format, the winner was to be determined by the heat’s single highest wave score.
Bruce stroked into the wave of the day and accordingly posted the day’s highest score — a 9.0 — meaning we’ll have the pleasure of watching him surf again later in the event. He’ll be joined in the third round by fellow wildcards Balaram Stack and Parker Coffin, along with reigning champ Kelly Slater, three-time winner of the event John John Florence and the other big names from the world tour.
You may remember that Bruce’s omission from December’s Pipe Invitational, where two wildcard slots for the Pipe Masters were up for grabs, was the subject of some controversy. Bruce was clearly pumped about his win yesterday, and reading between the lines the setback he suffered last month would appear to be proving a source of motivation. “I want to win this contest,” said Bruce Irons yesterday. “I want to win again out here. I want to win the Pipe Masters. I want to get in the Pipe Masters. I want to win, period, and out here is the place I want to do it. That’s why I’m here.”
“Pipeline has been my favorite wave since I was a young kid growing up,” Bruce continued. “Something about this wave is amazing. It’s a mesmerising wave. I love it. I liked the one-wave format (of the one-off wildcard heat). You’re out there with a bunch of friends and you just want to get the best wave. All or nothing. Balls to the wall. I like it.”
Keep going for more photos and the video highlights…