The sights, sounds and feels of the Pipe trials
Words by Morgan Williamson | Photos WSL “Be careful what you wish for,” Sunny Garcia told me with a smile after one of history’s worst heats. “You always wish for big waves, but it was just in the wrong direction. I wasn’t happy that they were starting but they wanted the contest to run and it […]
Words by Morgan Williamson | Photos WSL
“Be careful what you wish for,” Sunny Garcia told me with a smile after one of history’s worst heats. “You always wish for big waves, but it was just in the wrong direction. I wasn’t happy that they were starting but they wanted the contest to run and it can’t always be good, you know?” Between the four competitors in round one, heat one there were only two waves caught, and that’s because less than a handful of waves even broke. Griffin Colapinto won the heat with a 1.67 followed by Jack Freestone’s 0.87. The Hawaii locals Sunny and Kalani Chapman weren’t able to find a wave, because waves were nowhere to be found. But nevertheless, Sunny’s all good vibes when we’re chatting, laughing while says, “I choose to remember all the good years, and this just wasn’t a good year for me. Haleiwa was small. I had a heat at Sunset that I’d rather forget. And I wouldn’t even call that a heat that I just had at Pipe. All in all, surfing’s huge, I’m at the end of my career and I’m super stoked to see everybody making huge amounts of money and the events getting huge coverage. Surfing’s becoming more of a mainstream sport. We need to police the industry and make sure the surfers are looked after and we aren’t just becoming a bunch of sellouts.”
The immense beauty that’s a Pipeline pit. Photo: WSL/Laurent Masurel
As round one went on the heat totals started to rise. The trails are a marathon. To make the finals you’ve got to grind out four heats, a feat that’s absolutely exhausting in the conditions we saw today. Boards and leashes were snapping left and right. The ski drivers were on it, as were the kids scooping up broken noses as souvenirs and guarding their treasure on the sand. “It was pretty washy earlier,” Dane Reynolds said as he packed his boards into his car. “It was really tough to get a decent one. But there were some dreamy waves in between the wash. My last wave I didn’t think I was going to get in before the buzzer. I hit the bottom, pulled in and the chandelier spat in my eyes. Next thing I knew, I was going over. It was the best wave that came in my direction. I ate shit at Sunset, and finally just got over being sore. And now I’m going to be sore again for a little while. I got pretty cranked sideways.”
The day carried on and the crowd really started to fill in. All walks of life made their way to the Pipeline arena, including the Rob Zombie-esq tweaker yelling at anyone who looked him dead in the eyes on the bike path. The shoreline was packed. Wash through sets cleared out the spectators sending an exodus of sandals, iPhones and towels down the beach. By the end of round one the waves had shaped up a bit, but still not ideal conditions. Local boy Luke Shepardson whipped into a crazy one for a perfect 10 across the board, the beach erupted in relieved anxiety and cheers. You didn’t need to know surfing to know it was critical out there.
Mason Ho teases a dragon in round one. Photo: WSL // Kelly Cestari
By the quarters more and more tourists shuffled in, it was standing room only for those not there from the get-go. Straw hats and leis blocked the visions of the shorter folk who drank from coconuts with straws. Pipe was erupting, you could feel it in the sand. A pale, wiry English boy ran up to me at the event, dying to know when Mick Fanning would be surfing. A look of disappointment filled his face when I broke the news that it wouldn’t be until tomorrow. Throughout the whole event Mason Ho looked like he was chilling in his living room. Pulling into heavy tunnels, putting up big scores while looking back into the pit and throwing peace signs.
When the semis rolled around the show was all Hawaiians with the exception of Griffin Colapinto and Jack Robinson. The two heats in the semis saw the best conditions, and it was apparent the contenders for the two wildcards up for grabs were Mase, Jamie and Jack.
By the finals, the conditions were less than favourable, but a few waves still possessed high scoring potential. Jack Robinson won with a 9.43. He only caught one wave and it was enough to land him the wildcard spot. Jamie pulled into second with an 8.70. “You’ve got to pick and choose, and be smart the way you surf the heat,” Mr O’Brien told me. “Every heat’s different. It got better throughout the day, this morning I wasn’t looking too forward to my heat but I was thinking at least it’s 12 feet instead of two. There were some cleanup sets, and I’ve seen it a lot gnarlier, but… it’s hard out there, man.” But 20 years of Pipe experience can’t be learned that quick, unless you’re a freak like Jack Robinson. “There’s a lot of good surfers, this is the big event before the big event,” Jamie concludes. “Everyone’s good, it comes down to how lucky you are and how you pick your waves.”
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