Slater Pulls The Improbable (Again) And One CT Rookie Became An Overnight Pipe Specialist
The best day of competition, ever?
As the clock wound down on the final heat of the day, I felt a sadistic pang of joy watching Jordy Smith bob on the inside ledge while a Fifteenth Reef set loomed out the back.
Jordy knew that the oversized waves would eventually catch him, roll him a few thousand times, and drop him off at Ted’s Bakery. But he also couldn’t leave his spot, because he needed a score, and he wasn’t actually gonna lose to Miguel Pupo’s little brother at 12-foot Pipe…was he?
Twenty-three head-to-head heats were surfed today — one fewer than the morning schedule called for — and eight surfers advanced to the quarterfinals. Some of the names on that list will shock you.
Highlights from the day include: the waves, the overlapping heat format, Kelly’s last-second win, João and John’s battle, Sammy Pupo, my BetOnline.ag picks (6 for 8 on the day!).
Lowlights include: Carlos Muñoz’s shoulder dislocation, a 1.5 heat total, and the sun setting.
But there’s a lot more to talk about. Here’s how it went down.
Wildcard Barron Mamiya nearly fumbled his R3 win on the goal line, falling on the best wave of the heat and handing Conner Coffin a chance to seize victory. In the end it didn’t happen, but Barron will need to be sharper to defeat his next foe.
That would be one Robert Kelly Slater, who ruined rookie Jake Marshall’s day before the sun even crossed the mountain. With a one-wave heat total of 1.5, Jake will exist in a state of perpetual morning sickness until the Sunset comp commences. For Kelly, this was just CT heat win #851.
Had the day’s projected swell arrived earlier in the morning, Owen Wright and Nat Young would have knifed their way to victory on large Pipe lefts. As it played out, the third and fourth heats of the day remained in the four-foot range, giving Kanoa and Leo a decided advantage in warbly running rights. Shoutout to Leo for supplying my biggest bounty of the day, a much-needed $44 return on BetOnline.ag.
Before paddling out for his heat, Italo was captured on the webcast chatting with his long-time Pipe coach, Shane Dorian. “Don’t stop catching waves out there,” Dorian whispered in Italo’s ear, “Be a shark.”
And a shark Italo was, catching multiple scoring rides under the other heat’s priority and displaying a general lust for blood. Wildcard Miguel Tudela put up a valiant fight, but in the end he succumbed to injuries sustained in the encounter.
Heading into the Miguel Pupo and Connor O’Leary heat, I didn’t know how to parse it. They’re very similar surfers on paper, Connor bringing slightly more power to Migui’s grace. They’ve both rocked the inverse parentheses on their nose, and they both seem reluctant to go right. Ultimately, this was a wave-catching contest, and Miguel caught the best wave. Connor broke a board and never recovered. Hurley’s stock fell 0.5%
Frederico Morais rides the barrel like he was taught by a man in a lab coat. Carlos Muñoz rides the barrel like he was born to do it. That should have been all you needed to know about their Round 3 match, but unfortunately, Carlos suffered an injury after putting Freddy in a headlock.
After falling on and end-section turn at Backdoor, Carlos was sucked over the falls and slammed onto a rock. He said his arm felt sore, but he could still paddle. A few minutes later, Carlos paddled in the way that you only paddle for a large Pipe set — at 120%. This revealed the true extent of the injury, as a shooting pain coursed through his shoulder, forcing him to pull back. Carlos then hailed the safety ski for help, and apparently while getting onto the sled, his shoulder became properly dislocated.
Carlos still won the heat, but it didn’t bode well for the rest of his event.
Oh, Brother. Kolohe was seconds away from winning his Round 3 heat, until Lucca mesinas wrangled some ferocious piece of Pacific and somehow found himself standing in the channel. It wasn’t pretty, but the Peruvian did what had to be done and knocked my darkhorse from the event without remorse. He did, however, do it with respect. Lucca could have easily spun and gone right on that last wave, giving Brother a DQ and winning by default. But instead he won with honor, which is worth much more.
Filly T got a Florence scalp at the Banzai. Write it in the history books.
In the next heat, Seth Moniz squeaked past Zeke Lau. But more importantly, their last-second paddle battle led to João Chianca scoring a Pipe screamer under priority, which he leveraged to surprise win over day-one standout Jack Robbo. And to be fair, Jack had his chances — an uncharacteristic fall on a drop and a few more in the tube saw the Australian log a shocking eight-point total and 17th place finish.
Anybody who took BetOnline’s +400 odds João is smiling widely right now. Your author didn’t have the stomach.
In the least surprising news you’ll read all day, John Florence combed Jacko Baker. Caio Ibelli got the jump on Griffin Colapinto, and Callum Robson buzzer-beat Ethan Ewing. This rookie looks fucking dangerous.
In a heat that was perhaps only more surprising to himself than it was to everyone else, Samuel Pupo dropped an eight and a high-five in what looked to be his first legit Pipe surf. It was incredible watching someone realize their own ability in real-time.
Holy shit, I can actually do this.
In the last heat of Round 3, Matt McGillivray looked posed to dethrone the current king of South Africa, Jordy Smith, when he nabbed a crazy eight under priority. Unfortunately for Matty, he was never able to back it up, and the veteran nipped him with a mid-seven in the dying moments.
Barron fucking Mamiya. Making the quarters of the Pipe CT as a wildcard is one thing (that hasn’t been done in more than five years), but beating Kelly Slater en route has got to be the best feeling in the world.
Unfortunately for Barron, he didn’t feel that feeling today.
With two minutes left in their heat, Slater needed a 7.18 to seize victory over the young superstar.
“Kelly’s doing the water-splash thing,” Cote said on the mic. “What’s that mean?”
“He’s conjuring a miracle,” Strider replied from the channel. “It’s happening.”
With 20 seconds left, a small set hit the lineup.
Kanoa Igarashi took the first wave under priority — it was pretty good.
Why didn’t Kelly take that?
By the time the next wave was in view, there were just four seconds left on the clock. And there was Kelly, taking off under the lip, sliding into the tube, tastefully dragging his ass to the edge of the foamball, and riding out with his Jesus-reborn shrug.
Once again, it was incredible watching someone realize their own ability in real-time.
Holy shit, I can still do this.
Kelly proceeded to the beach and sent that good juju straight into Carlos Munoz’s wounded wing. It was unsuccessful, which is surprising considering Slater’s medical expertise, but we appreciated the effort.
Miggy Pupes went straight on the best wave of the day and Flying Embers paid him for it. Later, he tippy-toed into a slightly-less wild one, redeeming himself and most importantly beating Italo in the process.
Carlos Muñoz tried to paddle back out, but his shoulder submitted in the channel, granting Lucca Mesinas a free pass to the quarters.
The swell seemed to be getting a little oversized at this point, creating strange currents and stretching waves into the channel. Filipe and Seth had an absolute sleeper, with neither surfer scoring over a four in the entire 40 minutes. Seth got the dub.
John Florence then dropped the highest score of the day for a tube that he reversed into. This went against everything the judges have preached throughout the event, but the wave was so big and beautiful that they just couldn’t help themselves.
That put them in a bit of a bind for João Chianca’s next wave, which was easily half a point better, but still not a 10. Chumbinho received a 9.87 and clawed his way out of combination, even getting priority on the paddle back out.
Heading into the last 10 minutes, the rookie needed a 7.9 to overtake the reigning Pipe Master, Triple Crown Winner, and best surfer on earth. The wave never came, but João did do a crazy under-the-lip snap to stand-tall pack on a huge closeout. This kid is fucking awesome.
For the last two heats of the day, Pipeline was gargantuan. Third Reef, Fourth Reef, roll-throughs galore. Caio Ibelli put in a ballsy effort to win over Callum Robson, and Samuel Pupo became the fastest human ever to reach Pipe specialist status, picking multiple gems out of a certified minefield.
Meanwhile Jordy, who was working with a sprained toe, played the patient game before rolling into a stand-up mega-spitter. It wasn’t enough though, as he lost to the Brazilian rookie by nearly seven points and got washed to the beach as a reward.
Still, it could be his year.
I’ll be back tomorrow am with my quarterfinal picks for BetOnline.ag.
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