North Shore resident Jamie O’Brien won his second Monster Energy Pro, presented by Billabong,
title at the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii this weekend. Finding form in the toughest
conditions of the event, the 23-year-old bolted out of the gates to
establish a lead that served him well the duration of the 30-minute
final, earning $10,000, a Makita Power Tools pack, a Kicker stereo and
a set of KMC wheels. Runner-up was Australian dark horse Mark Mathews, with defending champion Rob Machado taking third, and Kauai rookie Gavin Gillette coming in fourth.
Conditions ranged throughout the day from clean six-to-eight feet in
the morning, to a ravaging 10-foot mix of swell directions by the
semi-finals and final.
Having struggled to find form during his first two rounds in the event,
O’Brien turned it all around in the quarter finals,
posting the highest two-wave heat total of the entire event – 18.25
points out of a maximum 20 with individual rides of 9.5 and 9.25. His
winning groove continued through the final with O’Brien posting the first
score of the heat – an 8.0 point ride for a backside barrel at Pipeline –
that remained the highest scoring wave of the heat. Backing it up with
a solid score of 7.25 by the mid-way mark, the final had essentially
been wrapped up.
“I thought I might have peaked to early after the quarters,” said
O’Brien, “but then I got that 8.0 straight away, backed it up first
with that 5.75, and then the 7.25. I think the most stressful moments
were counting those last 15 minutes down.
“Today was an amazing day,” he continued. “I knew it was going to be tough. Rob’s
beaten me a lot out here and I thought he had my number. Mark’s an
absolute mad-man and insane at going right at the Backdoor, and Gavin
was surfing great. You just have to have the right moves – hold the other guys off the
better waves and find the right one for yourself. It’s so hard to make
a final at Pipe, so I’m stoked to have won this a second time. It
definitely helps that I live right here and surf the wave every day,
For those who back the underdog, the fact that Australian Mark Mathews
didn’t win was almost inconsequential. Mathews forged a name for
himself during his first appearance in the event earlier this week,
scoring a perfect 10-point ride on a solid 15-foot wave that was still
being talked about today. As far as his supporters were concerned, the
guy was already a winner. The fact that he surfed through five rounds and eliminated household surfing names the likes of Shane Dorian,
Dane Reynolds, and Fred Patacchia proved beyond any doubt that he
wasn’t just a “flash in the pan”.
Had there been an award for valour, it would have been his. Catching
more waves than any other surfer in the final, Mark put it all on the
line with a display of totally committed tube-riding on the two biggest
waves that came through at Backdoor Pipeline. Prepared to gamble on the
knife-edge between a perfect 10 or disaster, he survived late
take-offs, pulled deep into the tube and rode for yards, each time
coming within mere inches of what were almost epic scores. His best two
rides earned 6.25 and 4.0 points.
Mathews found his motivation in the 50-plus friends gathered at his
home in Maroubra, Sydney, watching the live on-line coverage of the
event and text-messaging him between heats.
“I want to thank the guys back home,” said Mathews. “They’ve helped my
career so much – pushing my surfing and keeping me straight. I really did want to win and I had a feeling in my gut all week that
it could happen, but it just wasn’t my day. It almost was… those two
waves came sooo close, so close! I just got pinched at the very end.
But it’s been amazing. It’s a dream to surf perfect waves and this is
one of my favorite waves in the world.”
Leading up to the final, Machado was a picture of calm amid a growing
sea of chaos, holding onto his trademark cool and collected tube riding
while the ocean began to rise and seethe around him. Unfortunately, the
tide turned during the final. His most memorable ride was a tube that
earned him 6.0 points. But he came under the axe edge of a cascading
wall of water on his third ride and broke his board and his momentum.
Machado’s surfboard was the 25th to be snapped in this event.
For Gillette, today was his first taste of Pipeline stardom, reaching
the final here for the first time in his career. He had an incredible
run to the final eliminating a host of far more experienced local
riders. Along with fourth place, he also received the Todd Chesser
Perhaps the most esteemed prize up for grabs in this event for local
Hawaii surfers were the 13 wildcards on offer into the prestigious
Billabong Pipeline Masters – the ultimate event in the world that
rounds out the annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing in Hawaii each year.
At this point, the following 13 local riders have qualified through an
intricate selection process during the Monster Energy Pro to get a
start in the Billabong Pipeline Masters: Jamie O’Brien, Gavin Gillette,
Danny Fuller, Flynn Novak, Gavin Beschen, Mikala Jones, Shane Dorian,
Tory Barron, Myles Padaca, Makua Rothman, Ian Walsh, Dave Wassell, and
Remaining places will be awarded to the Top Tahitian from the Tahitian Billabong Pro trials, one
spot held for a possible Hawaiian Vans Triple Crown contender, and one
more spot that will be voted upon.
1. Jamie O’Brien (Haw) – $10,000
2. Mark Mathews (Australia) – $5,000
3. Rob Machado (Cardiff, CA) – $3,000
4. Gavin Gillette (Kauai) – $2,400