This year saw only the second ever elite-level women's invitational held at Pipeline.
The first was the Vans Duel for the Jewel in 2010
. I don't know why they called it a duel - probably because it rhymes with jewel, now I think about it, but it wasn't a duel at all. The one-off heat was in fact contested by four women -- Steph Gilmore, Coco Ho, Tyler Wright and Alana Blanchard -- and it was excellent.
There's also something called the Pipeline Women's Pro, a 1-star event in which the CT girls tend unsurprisingly not to compete. It isn't held until March, and for the last few years has run in poor conditions.
Why this has to be the case is a mystery, for there are women willing and able to surf Pipe. Bethany Hamilton, equipped with just one arm, is willing and able surf Pipe. She was joined in the Women's Pipe Invitational by the three top finishers from the tour - Steph Gilmore, Tyler Wright and Carissa Moore. The ASP had billed it as a "specialty heat" or "highly anticipated specialty event" - the specialty presumably being the possession of a vagina, which is hardly niche.
Steph looked smooth and graceful as ever, but she never managed to impose herself on the heat. She had in fact undergone surgery just a day or two earlier, having her wisdom teeth removed, and when she snapped her board with six minutes to go you sensed it wasn't going to be her day.
[caption id="attachment_39147" align="alignnone" width="544"]
Tyler Wright at Backdoor. Photo: ASP / Laurent Masurel[/caption]
Wright excelled, styling with a two-handed stall for the highest-scoring wave of the heat, and also falling victim to an almighty beating
(the level of commitment from all surfers was high throughout). Moore's positioning was intelligent, her technique in the barrel flawless
, negotiating difficult sections with ease and fully deserving her victory.
But the way Bethany Hamilton surfs Pipeline is nothing short of astonishing. This is a break, don't forget, where every pro will tell you
paddling as hard as you possibly can is of the essence, where the take-offs are about as critical as they come. Yet somehow she generates the speed to catch waves without getting hung up in the lip; not only that, she does so without hesitation and with no visible sign of fear
, and makes the whole thing look effortless.
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Photo: ASP / Laurent Masurel[/caption]
Nor had she been awarded her place in the heat merely as a novelty, or "specialty": she won the aforesaid Women's Pipe Pro earlier this year, and in October won the Battle for the Breasts - a charity event in which Tyler Wright and Sally Fitzgibbons also competed, to name just two - with this air-reverse
. She finished the invitational at Pipe with a higher score than the World Champion.
You can watch the whole of the quadro-clash with the ASP's Heat Analyzer