A New Yorker Is Leading The Vans Pipe Masters - Stab Mag

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Photo by Jimmy Wilson

A New Yorker Is Leading The Vans Pipe Masters

And who’s been wrestling Aquaman? Day 1 recap here.

news // Dec 17, 2022
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Rasta Robb might have gotten more waves if he’d stayed home at Flagler Beach, Florida for the first half of the Vans Pipe Masters (VPM) waiting period.

All flatness behind us, there were waves today — 4-12 footers, some claimed. The morning wasn’t perfect Pipeline, courtesy of the transient ball of sand currently sitting on the reef, but it was perfectly serviceable for competition. 

As the warm orb rose over the mountains and activated the magic particulates in the Ehukai reef, some sparkling bombs began to trickle in. The lulls were present, but so were some crazy visions.

The scores were given based on adding together the top three judges’ scores. Each wave is scored out of a possible 30, and a perfect round would be a 60/60.

Here’s everything you missed (or didn’t).


  • Pipeline loves the sun
  • Mason Ho never disappoints
  • Nathan Florence and JOB will be releasing VPM POV Vlogs
  • Eli Olson surfs with an Aquaman-broken arm.
  • Balaram Stack picks waves like he went to Sunset Elementary, now leads the VPM


Peak performance: Balaram Stack, Mason Ho
Hit replay: Mens Heat 3
Monster maneuvers:  
– Mason Ho’s first wave, (Men’s Heat 3)
– Nathan Florence’s beard
– Ivan Florence’s bus-sized tunnel (Men’s Heat 3)

“They’re scoring airs, so maybe if I can do three 1-inch air, I can get 3/10ths of a point.”
— Mason Ho on his triple chop-hop.

“Surfing should be called ‘paddling’ or ‘duck-diving’ because that’s what you’re doing most of the time.”
— Dylan Graves

Look ma… Photo by Jimmy Wilson

After a very slow first two heats, Heat 3 saw the arrival of the sun and a handful of heavy Pipe sets. As predicted, this heat was a showtime performance of style and ease. Mason Ho bear-wrestled the first wave — and backed it up with a triple chop-hop in the flats — for a proper 26/30. Tosh Tudor and Mikey February then competed to see who could pack the most stylish closeout of the event. 

Apparently Mason Ho was helping Mikey Feb with where to sit in the Pipe lineup, and shouted the South African into his best wave.

Selema Masakela’s take on our industry’s tendency to put people in a box was a welcome commentary in place of the standard wind and tide chats. In fact, the commentary team as a whole did a great job of entertaining throughout the lulls. Between Dylan Graves revealing that his dad was one of Kelly Slater’s first sponsors, to Cliff Kapono explaining his PHD is in the molecular relationships between humans and nature, I actually felt like I learned something today.

The swell slowed once more for the Colapinto brother heat, and a rip pulled through the lineup. Pretty much nothing of consequence happened, until Griffin slid his way into a last-second cannon cone.

Take that, bruv.

Nathan Florence followed Jamie O’Brien’s lead and paddled out with a GoPro in mouth, reminding us that competition is second only to content. He found the only scorable waves in his heat, a tight Pipe head-dip and a foamy Backdoor extender.

Wave of the day…? Makua Rothman thought so.

Eli Olson then paddled out with a broken arm — courtesy of a Hollywood stunt gone wrong — which significantly lowered his odds of winning a Billy Kemper brawl. The waves turned back on for a flurry, just enough for Billy and Eimeo Czermak to find some solid vortex time, and Mikey Wright to unsuccessfully attempt a turn, barrel, air combo. Incredibly, Eli did manage to paddle into a couple waves, but never found a good one, and the set of the day went unridden underneath the entirety of Heat 7.

Somehow, Eimeo’s 15 and 16 (the equivalent of a 5 and a 5.1) sent him all the way to the top of the leaderboard…for a brief period.

Owl Chapman and Herbie Fletcher showed up in full regulator outfits to talk about naming the Banzai Pipeline and early board design — an absolute treat, though I wish Herbie had gone into detail regarding his jet-ski antics.

Regulators…mount up.

Balaram Stack clocked the second-best wave of the event thus far where, after a sideslipping drop, he pulled up high and got spat out as clean as could be. He backed it up with two more proper waves, launching himself to the top of the leaderboard and becoming pretty much the only surfer thus far to find three worthwhile corners.

Noa Deane tried a bunch of giant flyaways in his heat, reminding us how the Nozvid sausage gets made. Meanwhile, outspoken VPM critic Koa Rothman found a gem behind the boil.

The conditions severely degraded in the final heat of Round 1, and contest director Nathan Fletcher put the event on hold, eventually calling it off for good.

Tomorrow could be firing for Round 2.

Hopefully tomorrow foreground will be sand free. Photo by Jimmy WIlson


Caught behind: Everyone in the first two heats.
Caught Inside: Joao Chianca, reminding us what happens if you miss the first wave of a second reef set.
Blind mice: No complaints on the judging front, besides the 30-point scale taking us a second to figure out.
Say what?: “A gallon of milk and a can of corn a day, keeps the doctor away.” – Nathan Florence

Biggest let down? The lulls and the rips.

You can’t force da Pipeline to do its thing, and probably the most exciting moment of the first couple hours was watching the jetski find its way out the back. Throughout the day there were moments, but there was also a lot of waiting, often only interspersed by second reef cleanup sets and lineup-consuming rips.

Let’s hope tomorrow provides more highlights, less swirling sand.

Men’s Leaderboard After Day 1:

Notably, Vans decided to celebrate progression by awarding Vans “bags-o-cash” to some of the standout moments and commitments made in the water during Men’s Round 1 (the same will be done in Women’s Round 1)

Today’s cash winners were:
Mason Ho Tube – $500
Mikey Feb tube – $500
Ivan Tube – $500
Billy Kemper tube – $500
Tosh packing a pit of death – $250
Eithan’s first punt fully committed – $500
Mikey Wright first turn and air attempt on a single wave – $500
Imai committing and packing a giant back door bomb – $250
Kuali Vaast tube and ping commitment – $500
Griffin Colapinto Tube – $500
Balaram Stack getting one of the best waves of the morning with a heavy tube into an air attempt – $500

Hasta mañana.

Death pit. Photo by Jimmy Wilson


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