Rampant Rookies, Interference Drama, And The Best 9.93...Ever? - Stab Mag

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Rampant Rookies, Interference Drama, And The Best 9.93…Ever?

Sweet redemption on Day 4 of the Billabong Pro Pipeline.

features // Feb 8, 2023
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Though we can question the WSL for running the women in dreadful conditions, we can’t blame them for this sorrowful forecast. In fact, today was worth considerable congratulation.

There were waves. Real ones — despite the doubtful keyboard forecasters and cynical surf journalists (me).

With a handful of proper Pipe waves, today was a far cry from the stagnancy of yesterday. As the swell showed, so did the color of the broadcast. Kaipo and Laura’s banter put a smile on my face multiple times, while Shane, Ross, and Joe unlocked a variety of compelling anecdotes.

Though it was hardly all-time conditions, there were enough moments of drama, beauty, and mayhem to be a genuinely engaging Pipeline broadcast.

Let’s talk about it.


  • Waves surprisingly fun, albeit a bit slow
  • Italo Ferreira and Ethan Ewing both dealt 17th’s at the hands of rookies
  • Caio Ibelli eliminates Zeke Lau despite a questionable (and dramatic) interference call
  • Gabriel Medina don’t need no hands
  • Joao Chianca gets about 43 fun ones
  • John John Florence has officially mastered time-travel
Jordy looked like he was 23 and hungry again. Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League


Peak performance:  Jordy Smith, Joao Chianca, John John Florence

Hit replay:

R32 Heat 2, Heat 3, Heat 7, Heat 12, Heat 14

R16 Heat 6, Heat 7,

Monster maneuvers:

  • Jordy’s 8.5 to start the day
  • Joao Chianca’s Pipeline firehose
  • Gabe Medina’s 9.33 no-grab
  • John John’s teleportation act


“If you’re from the North Shore and you don’t surf Pipeline you’re just a kook.” – Barron Mamiya

“Do you have Neurolink Joe? Because it sure seems like it.” – Shane Dorian regarding Joe Turpel’s superhuman ability to recall surf facts.

“This is Sun Tzu. This is the Art of War. Have you read the Art of War, Laura?” -Kaipo regarding Joao Chianca paddling in front of Rio Waida

New haircut…who dis? Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

Italo Ferreira started the morning hucking his fins for two spins on a mid-sized wave against Ian Gentil. The judges gave him a three.

Both him and Ian then found little visions, and with a minute to go there was hardly anything in the heat. Ian then happened into two sections on a little Backdoor bender, and left Italo needing a 2.65 with 20 seconds to go.

One heat, one world champ down.

All the while  — courtesy of the overlapping format — Jordy Smith was exiling Nat Young to comboland with a couple corners and way too many claims. See ya Nat.

Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

The next heat featured former Quiksilver star Leonardo Fioravanti against their newest signing (and maybe replacement) Griffin Colapinto. Like Don Corleone, Leo showed up and did what he had to with a silent vengeance. Popping through multiple unmakeable sections, the Italian made about 7 tubes to Griff’s 0.

Griff just looked out of rhythm, out of sync, and accepted his loss graciously.

Leo said it best: “There’s no science, if you’re not in rhythm, it’s hard to get into it.”

The rookies continued to hold that rhythm, with Liam O’Brien picking Ethan Ewing apart. EE nearly turned the heat in the final minute, comboing a Backdoor tube with a ferocious turn. He needed a 5.85 and got a 5.50, in a very borderline decision. Maybe if he’d smashed the claim button like Jordy, he would’ve gotten it.

In an initially slow heat against Zeke Lau, Caio Ibelli flipped late on one and snuck out of a closeout. It ended up being a solid 7, the triumph of which was then immediately soured by an interference call — the result of a tangle up between him and Zeke.

From the single angle replayed, it was difficult to perceive what actually happened. From one view, it could definitely seem like Zeke went full bush-league-bully and manufactured an interference. From another perspective, maybe Zeke really did want that wave and Caio was clearly in the way.

Somehow, Caio still led Zeke with that lone 7. Needing a 3.5 to overcome the one-score lead, Zeke forced a quick tube on a last minute Backdoor corner while Caio kneeled at the water’s edge in prayer.

Talk about drama (in a R32 heat.)

As the score came through — 3.1, not enough — Caio threw his board to the sand, shouting in triumph.

A single moment, more compelling than the entire last three days of competition combined.

In one hell of a post-heat speech, Caio pointedly stated that Zeke “was intentionally trying to put me into an interference,”  and that he was “praying to God and crying.”

Sounds like some Tank Evans energy from Zeke, but you can read Mikey C’s full breakdown of the situation here.

Built Ford Tough. Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League

To follow, Filipe Toledo looked perfectly comfortable against Carlos Muñoz and demolished the Costa Rican without hardly lifting his pinkie toe, while Yago got goofy on the lefts v. Kelly.

It’s hard to say how many GOAT’s Ross Williams thinks there are, but judging by his prolific use of the moniker, we’re gonna guess the number is at least 4. 

GOAT #1, Kelly, couldn’t squeeze his way out of any Aint’s runners, and succumbed to the horned advances of GOAT #4 — Yago.

After a long lull to end the GOAT-heat, Pipe pulsed for the next, sending gifts to both Joao Chianca and Rio Waida.

The subsequent scores allowed both Joao and Rio to build serious momentum against their separate opponents Kanoa Igarashi and Connor O’Leary, respectively.

In a symptom of his right-foot-forward diagnosis, Connor (with priority) gave Rio a right with shades of Indonesian perfection. Rio didn’t falter. Is everybody as happy to see Rio succeeding on the tour as we are? Seems like it.

Not a far cry from Padang. Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

By this time, the swell looked as though it had filled in and that the prediction of “6-10 foot faces” just might be coming true.

Kanoa couldn’t find anything to chip away at Joao’s lead, and then spent the last five minutes of his heat caught inside — and visibly aggravated.

After a few spins and warm-up tubes, Gabriel Medina casually found the (second) most impressive wave of the day against Jake Marshall. Steep, deep, backhand at Backdoor, behind the foamball, no grab, no worries. A 9.33, almost worthy of the egregious claim he hucked toward the judges. Almost.

John John (obviously) found a few against a lost-looking Kolohe Andino, and headed to meet a spicy Miguel Pupo in the Round of 16. Of note, John arrived to the contest with two of his stickers covered. Upon looking into it, we’ve discovered that the renegade of risk is no longer riding for Nixon or Electric.

As the Round of 16 began with Jordy and Gentil, a flurry of dream waves trudged through the lineup, and it looked… pumping. Lully, but still.

One can only imagine how Bettylou and Gabriela Bryan must have felt watching these heats. Here’s to hoping they send a strongly worded email to JMD.

Leo Fioravanti continued his mafioso tactics against Callum Robson — happy in the interviews, staunch and scrappy in the water. It worked, and the Gucci guy cruised his way into the quarters.

LOB blazed past Seth, and the only complaints we have about the rookie is that he keeps his glorious ginger afro hidden underneath a helmet.

The waves slowed for the Yago v. Filipe match, which was filled with more of Yago manufacturing lefts than anything else. After falling on a perfect one, the World Champ found a second backdoor vortex to secure the heat.

Joao could very well win this event. Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League

Then, the two most exciting heats of the day.

Rio v. Joao and Robbo v. Medina.

Two young talents share the water with a couple of the tour’s established entertainers.

Rio and Joao found too many solid cones to count, though nothing swinging into the excellent range.

Robbo and Medina, of course, began with a hassle ho-down and a broken Tokoro.

After batting with decent scores back and forth, Rio was left sitting just two points behind the Chianca, with a final set bearing down on the lineup. In what Ross Williams called a “rookie mistake,” Rio positioned himself too deep for the ensuing lefts. Checkmate, Chumbinho to the quarters.

Jack and Gabe followed the youngsters lead, tossing points and visions back and forth. The heat had potential for an exciting ending until John John, in his overlapping heat, paddled out and stole the glory, teleporting through about 15 sections for the most stupefying 9.93 of all time. If every cameraman gives up on the guy and he still makes it…give him a 10.

Maybe they sold out of Yeti coolers.

Robbo advanced past Medina, but John had vacuumed all the broadcast energy. He followed up his disappearing act with two more seriously good waves, one of which he finished with an effortless reverse and a 19.33 heat total. A serious sum, considering his previous career best CT heat total at Pipe was a 19.26 in 2015 v Taj in Rd 3

Also, I get exhausted/cranky while eating sandwiches on my couch all day watching the broadcast. Gotta respect Strider floating around, all dehydrated, sunburnt, and excited for 8 hours.

Lightwork. Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League


Caught behind: Griffin Colapinto, Carlos Muñoz

Blind Mice: Giving John John a 9.93 for an impossible tube was admittedly very confusing.

Say what?: “That’s what it’s about, penetration…”  – Ross Williams

In comparison to what the forecast (and yesterday) suggested, today was exciting.

My only complaint is that I didn’t get to see what Molly Picklum, Gabriela Bryan, and Bettylou Sakura Jonson could’ve done in these conditions.

Maybe next year.

Gamble Ramble:

And just like today’s waves, Mikey C went off, with a slew of betonline.ag victories.

$50 on Callum Robson at -120 (to win $42) WON
$20 on Seth Moniz at -110 (to win $19) WON
$20 on Joao Chianca at -130 (to win $15) WON
$70 on Carlos Muñoz at +250 (to win $175) LOST
$120 on Liam O’Brien at +215 (to win $258) WON
$20 on Leo Fioravanti at +150 (to win $30) WON
$20 on Nat Young at +185 (to win $37) LOST
$20 on Ian Gentil at +340 (to win $68) WON
$100 on Connor O’Leary at -140 (to win $71) LOST
$100 on Ryan Callinan at -110 (to win $90) WON

$20 on Ian Gentil at +165 (to win $33) LOST
$40 on Leo Fioravanti at -200 (to win $20) WON
$30 on Liam O’Brien at +225 (to win $65) WON
$50 on Yago Dora at +100 (to win $50) LOST
$50 on Medina at -150 (to win 33) LOST

Day 4 total: $252
Event total: $580

Women’s Semis:
$100 on Tyler at -200 (to win $50)
$100 on Carissa at -165 (to win $60)

Event Winner Picks:

$25 on Bettylou Sakura Johnson at +1400 (to win $350)
$50 on Tyler Wright at +600 (to win $300)
$50 on Jack Robinson at +600 (to win $300)
$10 on Caio Ibelli at +10000 (to win $1000)
$20 on Joao Chinca at +5000 (to win $1000)
$45 on Kelly Slater at +2000 (to win $900) LOST

For a refresh on Banzai Warlord Reef McIntosh’s betting picks, click here:


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