Pipeline was not friendly yesterday with its grey skies, an unusually chilling wind, and a gnarly lineup of shifty waves. There were the occasional flashes of blue, but it was the kind of day that could only appeal to warriors of the $130,000 Volcom Pipe Pro, and they had no hesitation getting things rolling after four days of waiting for a start. The Volcom Pipe Pro is an ASP 5-star event that runs through February 7.
Conditions were temperamental, ranging from head high to more than double-overhead, and delivered everything from mean wipeouts to a perfect 10 tube ride. Wave selection was critical and more than a few athletes struggled to find their two mandatory scores.
Waialua’s Kawai Lindo experienced both sides of Pipeline’s hand today, finding the only $1,000 “Electric Perfect 10” score of the day for a barrel that reeled off flawlessly. But at the end of his battle for a wildcard in a stacked heat that included Mark Healey (HI), Dave Wassel (HI), and JD Irons (HI), it still wouldn’t be enough. Kauai’s JD Irons trumped him to move on.
North Shore local Makuakai Rothman posted the highest two-wave heat score of the day: 16.86 points out of 20 (8.93, 7.93). His backhand tube riding was brilliant and delivered a satisfying return to the water after a recent torn calf muscle that had him couch-ridden.
“It felt great, actually,” said Rothman. “It was a pretty heavy tear, blew it up, but no problem today so I’m heading home to rest up.” Rothman’s younger brother Koa also advanced today.
Ex-pat Australian Anthony Walsh first surfed here at the Pipeline more than a decade ago, at the age of 16. He says he was hooked from that day on and is now married to a local girl and surfs Pipe whenever he can. His experience showed today and gave him an early round win.
“There’s definitely good ones out there, there are tens,” said Walsh “But with this wind, the backwash and a rising swell, it’s definitely tricky. Putting in time out there definitely helps with knowing where to sit when it’s like this or bigger.”
Other top scorers today included JD Irons (Kauai) – 14.93 (9.0, 7.93), Nic Von Rupp (Germany) – who came close to an Electric Perfect 10 with a needle-threading tube ride of 9.93 points, and a similarly satisfying grab-rail backside tube for Brazilian Sidney Guimaraes that saw him throw the biggest double-fisted pump of the contest so far (8.0).
With waves still rising late into tonight, organizers will reconvene at 7am tomorrow morning for a call on whether competition will resume. Seven days of the holding period remain, with three days of surfing remaining. Surfline.com reports that Pipe will be maxed out Friday morning with some sets washing through, but gradually becoming more manageable through the day as the swell eases.
Top seeds will enter the draw in the Round of 64 on the next day of competition: Kolohe Andino (Ca., USA), John John Florence (HI), Tanner Gudauskas (Ca., USA), Nat Young (Ca., USA), Jamie O’Brien (HI), Alex Gray (Ca., USA) & Josh Kerr (AUS).