A Huge Day At The Pipe Masters
Close heats, retirements, and Title Race scares.
Dusty Payne lost his Round 2 heat just after the opening buzzer. Facing a Title-hungry Gabriel Medina, Dusty would have had to surf a seamless 40 minutes to secure victory. Taking off on a chest-high closeout and relinquishing the early priority was a major mistake.
I was watching from Off the Wall when Dusty stroked into the shitty inside lump. “That was stupid,” I thought to myself. Having been out in the water for the past hour, it was clear to me how important priority would be in today’s heats. Handing it to Medina that early on was, well, stupid.
Gabby capitalized on the situation, securing a pair of 6.33s before Dusty had a legitimate score. The Hawaiian eventually found a Backdoor wedge for a low-7, but Medina got a 9 down the stretch and never looked back — except to priority-burn Dusty toward the end of the heat. Just like that, Medina’s world title dreams were kept alive.
I feel compelled to state that I really like the dual-heat format. More waves are surfed, it adds supplemental excitement to the priority game, and it’s extremely time efficient. I don’t get why they don’t use it throughout the entire tour.
Ethan Ewing did well to win a low-scoring affair against Owen Wright in the dying minutes, which really chapped my ass. Owen’s on my Fantasy Team and there’s $500 on the line for the season-long champion. I’m currently in second position but still very much in the race.
Julian stayed extra busy in his heat against wildcard Benji Brand, which resulted in a single-digit heat score win. The Aussie seemed a bit frantic though, maybe he should have a nice chamomile tea before round 3.
I left the beach after Julian’s heat because I was hungry and tired of getting no waves. I figured Jadson and Adriano would understand if I missed the second-half of their Round 2 bout. Heading back toward Log Cabins, I realized my glute-enraging hike didn’t hurt as bad as it used to, which makes me think my legs are getting stronger.
I got to watch the heat of the morning, Jack Freestone vs. Kolohe Andino, from the comfort of my dungeon and with a bagel in hand. Both boys surfed extremely well but Kolohe’s two excellents trumped Jack’s one. This heat made me want to surf Backdoor very badly.
Filipe lost to Ian Gouveia in a heat of mid-range scores, Joel sent Wiggolly back to the QS (fuck!) with even lower scores, and Leo squashed Seabass with some last minute heroics, thus vanquishing my hopes of a Fantasy Surfer victory. To any of my friends and family who receive stingy Xmas gifts, blame Ethan and Leo for losing me $500.
Bede surfed his last Pipe Masters, and perhaps his last-ever CT event, this morning. In all fairness, Bede nearly turned the heat with an impossible two-foot tube thread on the buzzer, but the judges scored the quality of the wave rather than the quality of the ride, leaving Bede 3/100ths of a point short of the required number. “That was the best 3.7 of my life,” Bede declared as he reached the beach, surprised it hadn't pushed him through. He took the loss with a laugh and seems excited to get on the Glen Hall retirement program.
Kanoa smoked Frederico, and Michel smoked Joan in conditions that looked eerily similar to K&M’s final in 2016. Just like that, Round 2 was finished in under four hours.
Rookie of the year update: with Freddie’s Round 3 loss, Connor O’Leary has officially earned the 2017 ROTY title. Congrats to Connor and I’m sorry I ever doubted you!
Julian got the wave of the day in his Round 3 match against Zeke Lau. A big, stretched-out Backdoor wall allowed the Aussie to give one big pump before disappearing inside a cannon of a tube. He was spit into the channel with a cheeky grin on his face, similar to that which accompanied his buzzer-beater 9.93 in the 2014 Pipe Masters, and this wave was scored was exactly the same.
Mick Fanning lost to Conner Coffin and… retired? Depends who you believe!
Wilko was fortunate to skip his Round 2 heat against an injured Stu Kennedy, but he was unable to defeat Ian Gouveia in Round 3. This result only adds to the oily stain that is Wilko’s back-half of the season.
Today is a day of late-heat drama. Adding to this theme were the consecutive of heats Parko/Miguel, Caio/Michel, and John/Ethan. The first two were no-question buzzer beaters, but John and Ethan was a seriously questionable affair.
John got two quick, incredibly adept rights early on, but toward the end of the heat Ethan was left needing only a 6.23. After threading a deep pit and floating the end section, Ethan received a score of 6.2. It was a split decision, but ultimately the judges decided Ethan needed more to defeat the Champ. John improved on one of his earlier scores and Ethan then needed a 4.67 to advance. Just before he hooter, Ethan tucked into a little Backdoor pit and tagged the end section with a vicious hack.
In my mind he had done enough. The judges gave him a 4.6.
That’s two scores toward the end of a Title Race bout that were less than 1/10th of a point away from terminating John. Conspiracists will be quick to criticize this heat, and perhaps with good reason, but let me give you something to think about: Judges are people, yes, and their judgements can be swayed by personal agendas and/or high pressure moments, yes, but there’s no fucking way that five people are crunching numbers in a conspiratory effort to arrive at a score just below the required number, twice in five minutes. That’s just not happening.
So John may not have rightfully won the heat, but that’s because of five individually flawed people rather than an overarchingly corrupt organization.
The wind went shitty after John’s heat. Jeremy won his match against Ace with a 6-point heat total and then it turned into an air show.
Italo did a rodeo that didn’t even change my facial expression. He got a 5.33. When did we become numb to flips?
Medina tried a rodeo on the very next wave but fell, then he nearly stuck a massive backflip. Where are we?
In a heated bout, Gabriel took down a now-retired Josh Kerr. Kerrzy went over the falls on his last wave, but was greeted by his loving family and chaired up the beach by Mick and Bede (a retiree pyramid?). His farewell speech was touching and even included a few tears.
This was a stressful win for Medina, who wanted dearly to keep his title hopes alive. In his post-heat interview, Gabriel let loose an intersting morsel, explaining that “God is on my side.” And doesn’t that seem a little unfair to John? Shouldn’t God, like any parent, at least feign mutual adoration for all of his children? We’ll have to see if Gabs is telling the truth on finals day.
In his Round 3 heat, Kolohe hardly looked like the same surfer from this morning, perhaps because there were no barrels on offer. His competitor, Italo, adapted well to the shifting conditions and won the heat with ease. If this guy isn’t one of your favorites I’m not sure which sport you’re watching.
Leo Carillo was fucking ripping. Big pits, big airs, and occassionally both on the same wave. He looks weirdly comfortable at Backdoor, especially for someone who A. broke his back out there and B. basically needs to win this event to requalify. Spoiler: if he keeps surfing like this, he can.
Kanoa and Connor was a boring affair but the K-man reigned supreme, extending his wonderful Pipe Masters record.
The last heat of the day was a warmly one for both competitors. Jordy, who was fighting for the life of his world title, got one solid wave but couldn't back it up. Kelly was getting tossed around like a big, fat, Greek salad but ultimately pushed through the foot issues and won with a 12-point total.
Because John made it through Round 3, Jordy and Julian are officially out of the Title race, meaning only Gabriel can take down the reigning champ. Tomorrow the two best surfers in the world will fight for the ultimate prize, and I'll be on the beach, soaking in every moment. Despite the sandy toes, inhumane working conditions, and expected lunacy of tomorrow's beach crowd, there's no way in hell I'm missing this historic moment.