Hassling, Head-Dips, and Broken Apple Watches - Stab Mag

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What is it with Backdoor and accidental fades? Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League

Hassling, Head-Dips, and Broken Apple Watches

The 2023 CT is underway. Here’s what happened on Day One of the Billabong Pro Pipeline.

features // Feb 2, 2023
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Like a well worn hoodie pulled from the back of a closet, Ross Williams and Joe Turpel’s voices greeted us this morning with warm familiarity. Strider shouted something from the water about Apple Watches, and just like that, the 2023 CT was underway

Last night, I had a dream that the chip bags in a grocery store mythically arranged themselves into the name “Betty Lou Sakura Johnson”. Whether this was prophetic vision or just the jumbled firing of surf-journo neurons will remain to be seen but, considering the conditions, I threw $20 on her.

Welcome to the 2023 Championship Tour… let’s get into it.


  • Joao Chianca reignites his romance with Pipeline, clearly belongs on the CT
  • The WSL now officially speaks Portuguese
  • Nobody, not even Italo Ferreira, catches many waves
  • 8-point total enough to win most heats
  • Leo Fioravanti scorches the Woz regarding malfunctioning Apple Watch


Peak performance: Joao Chianca

Hit replay: Men’s Heat 2

Monster maneuvers:

  • Joao’s 8.50 Backdoor slab
  • Griffin’s tube-reverse combo
  • Slater’s post heat interview

One-liners: “Jacko Baker looks like he should be one of the main characters in the Office.” -Ross Williams

Sweet redemption. Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

The morning began with a rookie vs. some vets — Ian Gentil facing Nat Young and Miguel Pupo. The waves were small, clean, and Backdoor focused, with the odd half decent keg. Very few worthwhile sets came through and, despite staying busy, Ian couldn’t muster anything to surmount the patience of the two goofs.

Then, Heat 2 took to the water and after 10-minutes of sitting, Joao Chianca was gifted a meaty Backdoor thumper. He hopped two foamballs and popped into the light, reminding us of his intimate relationship with da Pipeline. 8.5. Joao is back where he belongs.

Jake Marshall backed him with a perfect double-up for a mid 7, and Kanoa was left sitting like a kid whose mom forgot to pack him lunch.

Joao then found another vision under Kanoa’s priority, and last year’s #5 headed to the elimination round with a 1.00 heat total. 

Joao’s gift from da aina. Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League)

Liam O’Brien and Ethan Ewing cruised past Kolohe Andino in a heat of head-dips and 3’s.

During their heat, Kaipo mentions LOB isn’t technically considered a CT rookie (?) and the WSL’s new beach reporter AJ does her best to speak Portuguese (!). The former is a bit disappointing, considering I’d have Liam in the running for Rookie of the Year, but the latter is a great step towards the WSL further acknowledging the green and yellow half of their audience.

To start their heat, Jack Robinson gave an injured Jadson Andre the ol’ reacharound, and drew a non-priority interference from the Brazilian, who unknowingly faded the Aussie on a micro Backdoor closeout. The score handicap — and Jadsons lack of surfed waves — meant Robbo and Zeke Lau easily slid past the battler

Strategizing like Slades. Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League

Seth Moniz then bested Italo in an agonizingly slow heat, and Filipe Toledo took to the water. The only thing that kept the lulls somewhat bearable were the punchy clips of surfers talking about their best Pipe waves.

Barron Mamiya, Griffin Colapinto, and Michael Rodrigues spent the first 5 minutes of their heat splashing each other (and maybe giggling like schoolgirls). After appearing to be slightly confused/hesitant on his first few waves, one YouTube conspiracist noted that “they must have put Xanax in Griffin Colapinto’s Apple Watch.”

Griff refuted this by comboing a deep Backdoor thumper with a technical spinner to definitively lead the heat. And, with 20 seconds to spare, Barron managed a throwtail on a T-Street-esque left to sneak past M-Rod.

Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

As the years tick by, the question grows ever larger; what will the WSL marketing team do when Kelly Slater retires? 

Kelly, the best water wiggler of all time, cannot surf in a WSL event without being accompanied by a cacophony of epic music and promotional content. I’m not complaining, it makes sense for them to milk the public appeal of the Florida magic man, I’m merely wondering who will fill his digitally engaging shoes.

Despite literally nothing happening in his heat, Slatz’ post heat interview was one of the most exciting moments of the day — he seemed loose and engaged, talking about how his freesurf rhythm affects his heats, and comparing Tom Brady’s retirement to his own. Certainly some credit has to be given to AJ, who clearly does her research prior to each interview.

Parabéns, AJ.

Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

Rio Waida started his heat with a surprisingly exciting barrel, considering the conditions. Along with Joao, Rio looks confident, like he belongs at the top-level. He admits after his heat win that he was extremely nervous, but he never looked it.

With the wind blustery and the swell still lacking by mid afternoon, it became a “who can force their way through the crumbliest barrel” contest. At least, until Gabriel Medina and John John Florence paddled out. Within a couple minutes they’d both found significant barrel rides. Gabe’s was of noticeably higher consequence — a 7.67 to John’s 3.67. Not to be out-maneuvered, Florence found another tube-to-turn flurry for a 6.33 and the lead. Easy to forget Leo Fioravanti was even in the heat.

John John can grind too! Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League

Gabe then gets a 3 for a questionable foam-filled barrel, and takes the heat to conclude the men’s Opening Round.

To begin the Men’s Elimination Round, Kanoa continued to look eerily out of rhythm, while Josh Moniz finally clicked in. But then, Kanoa found three solid scores and M-Rod zoomed through a mini-tunnel, narrowly edging out the Moniz family wildcard.

Yago dominated his Elim heat, hanging atleast 34 backhand snaps on a head high right, and finding the only decent Pipe wave of the day. Imaikalani Devault was sadly left searching, and followed fellow wildcard Josh out of the draw.

The final two ER heats saw Matty McGillivray nudged out in the final moments of his draw, and wounded soldier Jadson Andre limp up the beach to end his event.

Griff, definitely not on Xanax. Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League


Caught behind: Kanoa Igarashi’s 1.00 heat total, Jadson Andre .23 heat total (granted, he was injured)

Say what?: The words “Apple Watch” in every third sentence.

Today was grindier than a 16-year old’s gearbox. Hassling, head-dips, and one-turn wonders were all viable strategies to make it through heats. 

To be fair, the WSL is faced with a sorrowful window of surf ahead, so clean little tubes were probably a welcome sight, but it was definitely not firing.

Also, there’s a book on the commentary table about ducks. If only Dave Prodan would talk about ducks instead of his General Theory Of Narrativity. Save for Shane Dorian’s deeply core insight, the lulls today were often filled with mouthfuls of WSL commercial corporate babble. And Apple Watches… so many Apple Watches.


After his elimination round heat, Leo Fioravanti had this to say. “I just wanna say our watches weren’t working from start to finish, which is pretty heavy. We’re fighting for our careers, so I hope they figure it out.”

Pretty heavy indeed. We’ll give the Woz the benefit of the doubt and give technical difficulties on the first round of the first event a pass. Maybe Leo should wear a Gucci watch for the next round.

Complaints aside, I think we’re all glad that competitive surfing is back. Hopefully Hawaiis mercurial meteorology dishes us some magic, despite the rampant forecast pessimism.

Leo’s sounding, recorded on a potato.

Gamble Ramble:

Mikey C boldly decided to put all of his money on Betonline.ag underdogs in three man heats. Bold, but respectable strategy. Unfortunately, his betting season started similarly to Matty McGillivray’s CT season.

With a loss.

$40 on Leo Fioravanti at +750 (to win $300) LOST
$20 on Matthew McGillivray at +240 (to win $48) LOST
$10 on Maxime Huscenot at +750 (to win $75) LOST
$10 on Caio Ibelli at +475 (to win $47.50) WON
$20 on Carlos Muñoz at +650 (to win $130) LOST
$20 on Barron Mamiya at +175 (to win $35) LOST
$20 on Josh Moniz at +225 (to win $22.50) LOST
$20 on Seth Moniz at +275 (to win $27.50) WON
$10 on Zeke Lau at +300 (to win $30) WON
$10 on Kolohe Andino at +225 (to win $22.50) LOST
$10 Ian Gentil at +165 (to win $16.50) LOST

Day 1 total: $-45
Event total: $-45


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