Billabong Pipe Masters likely to run Thursday
Billabong Pipe Masters likely to run Thursday
With swell already showing and bigger waves expected to hit the North Shore, the Billabong Pipe Masters is expected to run on Thursday, the first day of the waiting period.
Organizers are watching the swell models closely, and say waves in the 12- 15 foot range are on the way for the final surf contest of the year, and the final stop for the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title.
The world's best surfers got some practice time in Tuesday, as the swell started to show with waves in the 10 – 12 foot range. CHECK OUT THE SLIDESHOW BELOW:
The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons has a waiting period from Dec. 8 through Dec. 20, but with this strong swell could wrap up as soon as Saturday.
Two Orange County surfers will be battling in Round 1 of the competition, San Clemente surfers Kolohe Andino and Tanner Gudauskas. Andino, who got an ASP wildcard into the event, is up against female surfer Laurie Towner, an Australian given a sponsor wild card into the event.
Andino will get valuable points if he does well in this World Tour event – not that he needs them, as he is sitting in a great spot to make the list of world's best competitors in 2012.
Gudauskas is up against the Australian Jack Freestone, who in 2010 was the ASP World Junior Champion. Gudauskas is sitting on the cusp of making the World Tour again, and the pressure is on to perform well at this contest.
Unfortunately it doesn't look like Gudauskas' brother, Pat, is on the heat line up – meaning his ankle injury wasn't healed enough to take on the big Hawaiian waves.
Huntington Beach's Brett Simpson is up in Round 2 of the competition.
The World Title has already been clinched when Kelly Slater claimed it in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and he said he's more relaxed going into Pipe because of it."In theory, having won the title in San Francisco takes the pressure off a lot, but there's a big swell coming," Slater said in a press statement. "There's been nothing to prepare on and I haven't been there even if there was. It's going to go from zero to 10 here pretty quick in the next few days and there's not going to be a whole lot of waves to free-surf beforehand. The pressure is off, so I don't have to worry about that, but the anxiety building up to surfing the Pipe contest is a lot."
All eyes will be on young John John Florence, who won the World Cup of Surfing last week at Sunset. The 19-year-old – known for his big-wave skills – just joined the World Tour at the mid-year rotation, and blew people away with his aerial tactics at Trestles.
He's currently in the lead to clinch this year's Triple Crown award, and the pressure is on – especially because Pipeline is his home break. He's already won several big contests here this year – but the question is whether the young surfer can handle the pressure of performing with the world watching as he goes up against the best surfer on the planet.
"It should be fun, we haven't really had a Pipe swell this year and it's looking like this will be the first real swell, so no one has had the chance to surf it yet," Florence said in the statement. "There's definitely pressure. I live there and surf there everyday and I don't want to lose first heat. I want to have fun out there surfing with only three other guys in the water, it's amazing."
More about the Billabong Pipeline Masters:
The venue: The more westerly the swell direction, the better the Banzai Pipeline gets. The infamous left is said to be the best barrel in the world. The heaving, cavernous tubes detonate over a very shallow reef right off the beach. So not only is it a perfect barrel and a wave of power and consequence, but it's the perfect venue for spectators.
The competitors: The Billabong Pipe Masters is the final stop on the ASP World Tour, featuring the top 34 in the ASP world rankings. The top contender for the Triple Crown title who is not ranked among the top 34 also receives a berth in the Pipe Masters event.
Waiting period: Dec. 8-20, held on the best three days.
Prize purse: $425,000
Defending champion: Jeremy Flores, France
Here's more from the statement:
Slater, who has won several elite ASP event victories at Pipeline, also explained that the massive swell expected to ignite the infamous reef instantly changes a competitors' heat strategy in comparison to smaller first-reef Pipeline typically seen in previous years at the Billabong Pipe Masters.
"It's a whole different deal, you kind of have to make a decision," Slater said. "Everyone would love to get one of those second-reef bombs in their heat. The truth is, they are heats and you get scored so the chance of getting out there and getting a second reef wave and maximizing your scoring potential at Pipeline probably isn't going to happen. It's been a long time since someone's had a second-reef Pipe wave in a contest, but it'd be nice to see."
Taj Burrow (AUS), 33, 2009 Billabong Pipe Masters Champion, has been putting his time in at Pipeline in preparation for this year's contest, but feels the smaller swells on offer earlier this year have done little to prepare him for the serious swell expected to deliver on the opening day of the waiting period.
"It looks like the surf is only going to get better, so I'm getting excited," Burrow said. "I've been surfing out there a lot, but it's mainly only been rippable little turns, so I'm looking forward to getting some barrels. It'll be fun. Big Pipe is pretty intimidating, it's scary for sure, but it's awesome at the same time. I'm excited to surf such an incredible wave with just a few guys out."
Burrow, who won the first event of the Vans Triple Crown, the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, stumbled at Sunset Beach, but is hoping for Redemption at the Billabong Pipe Masters to keep his hopes alive for the prestigious Hawaiian title.
"I was definitely thinking about the Triple Crown on route to Hawaii," Burrow said. "In the past Joel Parkinson won it a lot, and it seemed like he won it with ease and I noticed a few of the guys weren't doing it this year. Triple Crown was something I really wanted to do and I want to win it. It's looking like a good race with John John (Florence) and Adam (Melling) getting some good results, so it should prove to be an exciting finish."
The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons will be webcast live via http://vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com/billabongpipemasters2011.
Upcoming Billabong Pipe Masters Round 1 Match Ups:
Heat 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Marcus Hickman (HAW)Heat 2: CJ Hobgood (USA) vs. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW)Heat 3: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Evan Valiere (HAW)Heat 4: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Bruce Irons (HAW)Heat 5: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Ian Walsh (HAW)Heat 6: Chris Davidson (AUS) vs. Kai Barger (HAW)Heat 7: Daniel Ross (AUS) vs. Aamion Goodwin (HAW)Heat 8: Dane Reynolds (USA) vs. Jamie O'Brien (HAW)Heat 9: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Laurie Towner (AUS)Heat 10: Willian Cardoso (BRA) vs. Shane Dorian (HAW)Heat 11: Tanner Gudauskas (USA) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)Heat 12: Mason Ho (HAW) vs. Hank Gaskell (HAW)