It might have only been head-high at Pipeline today, a venue better known for its life-threatening, monstrous tubes, but a handful of the break’s most accomplished riders proved that skill still overrides luck here. Whether the tube is two feet or 20 makes no difference to dedicated tube-rider. Two-time and defending champion of this event, Jamie O’Brien and fellow locals Dustin Barca, Fred Patacchia, Nathan Carroll and Dustin Cuizon proved themselves in round four of the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro, presented by Billabong.

Just four heats of the fourth round (heats 9-12) were held today, leaving one full day for final action tomorrow, which will decide the winner and recipients of wildcards into December’s coveted Billabong Pipeline Masters.

Today offered clean waves at Backdoor and Off-The-Wall with plenty of tube-riding potential for those willing to ride the knife-edge of the reef. Given the small height of waves, swells only broke when they hit the shallows, leaving little margin for fins or error.

Winning a heat today had a lot to do with knowing the reef and the sections of the wave and not being afraid to assert dominance in the four-man lineup. The highest wave score of the day went to Florida’s Spencer Sterling - a 9.5 for a pristine, ultra-long peeler, but without a solid second score, Sterling was unfortunately eliminated by Nathan Carroll (HI) and Dustin Barca (HI). Barca came through in the final 20 seconds of the heat with the next highest scoring ride - an 8.35, to surge to second.

The top heat score of the day belonged to Dustin Cuizon, from Ewa: 17.85 points out of a possible 20, with top rides of 9.35 and 8.5 points.

Close behind Cuizon’s top score was defending champ O’Brien, who opened up the day’s events with a 20-minte tube fest that mustered 16.25 points (wave scores of 9.0 and 7.25). His best ride was a six-second barrel at Backdoor that clearly illustrated his intimate knowledge of the wave and supreme technical tube-riding skills.

"It becomes a lot more about luck when it’s this small, but you can still put yourself in the right position to make the right thing happen," said O’Brien.

"I definitely forced that wave. I made sure I stayed in there as long as possible, stuck my arm into the wave to slow down in the barrell and released it when I needed speed. I surf here every day, regardless of what size it is, so I know the reefs, know where it’s shallow, know where to be. You spend enough time out here you can see a good one coming in and pick it from the bunch."

The prevalence of rights definitely favored the regular-foot surfers today, evident in the elimination of goofy-foot surfers like Mark Healey (HI), who is a feature out here when the lefts of Pipe are doing their thing. Regardless, there was plenty of opportunity for a vertical backside attack, as proven by Fred Patacchia, who advanced alongside O’Brien.

The winner and recipients of wildcards into December’s coveted Billabong Pipeline Masters will be determined tomorrow following a full day of competition that will get underway at 7 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Tomorrow is the final day of the holding period for this event, a $50,000 3-star rated Association of Surfing Professionals World Qualifying Series event.