John Florence defeated a stacked field of Pipeline specialists to win the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout in big, perfect surf at Pipeline.
Dawn broke on the North Shore to the thunderous cadence of a 12-foot northwest swell beating itself upon the reef. In what was arguably the most treacherously perfect conditions of the winter, the outer reefs at Pipe feathered in the distance, stood tall on the first reef, and morphed themselves into forms that left spectators gasping for air. With a less-than-stellar winter so far, the Backdoor Shootout could not have asked for better conditions for the final day.
Similar to an Eddie-style format, the grassroots comp allows competitors to be judged on their top-three waves out of four heats. Surfing both as individuals and on teams, there are no jerseys nor blatant product placement nor announcers selling T-shirts at this event, just a menagerie of Pipe chargers pushing themselves to the brink in conditions that would make most of us queasy. On track as the winter’s breakout performer, John Florence continued on the fiery trail he’s been blazing all season by pulling into 10-point-plus heavers at Pipe and Backdoor (waves are judged on a 12-point scale at this event). Rivaling Florence, Kalani Chapman lived up to his fearless reputation and had the scattered crowd shrieking and whistling in a mixture of both fear and respect as he sat deep and hucked himself over nauseatingly steep ledges.
As the day wore on and the 10-plus-point waves continued to be dropped in nearly every heat, it became abundantly apparent that this event had become one for the history books. As Sean Moody put it, this was the “best surf contest I’ve ever seen. Twelve-foot perfect Pipe, 45 minute heats, and everyone surfed eight times.”
With the last heat of the day coinciding with the afternoon sea breezes, the contestants migrated to the beach park where an intimate crowd gathered for the awards. Compiled of the top three rides over the past two days, the announcers called in the results. In the end, it was the boy wonder, John Florence, who narrowly edged out Kalani Chapman to take the win and the hefty $40,000 paycheck. “This just feels like the icing on the cake for me this winter,” said Florence. “I’m so stoked. I think I’m gonna be taking my friends out tonight for sure.”