Thrity-one year old Sullivan has won at the Pipeline before and finished third in this event last year, but he has never won a major world-ranked event such as this. The Monster Energy Pro is a four-star World Qualifying Series (W.Q.S.) event, the points from which count towards qualifying for the elite World Championship Tour (W.C.T.)
Sullivan’s win today was worth $10,000 and shot him into sixth place on the international W.Q.S. rankings. Second place was Brian Pacheco (Waianae, HI), 28, who won $5,000 and climbed to 11th on the W.Q.S. Third was 18-year-old Ola Eleogram of Hana, Maui, who earned $3,000 and climbed to ninth on the W.Q.S., and fourth place went to Evan Valiere (Kilauea, HI), 21, who received $2,400 and sits at 16th on the W.Q.S.
The 35-minute final was an open affair up to the midway mark, when Pancho leaped to the head of the scoreboard with a hands-free backside tube ride at Pipeline for a near-perfect 9.0. At that point, no-one was even close to having had as strong a ride.
Eleogram, the youngest in the final and the biggest surprise in this event, suffered a horrible wipeout on his opening ride that resulted in being slammed against the reef, sustaining a gash to his head that later required five staples. Pacheco and Valiere fished around for quality scores but came up with average rides at best. Then Sullivan sealed the deal with less than eight minutes on the clock with an even classier 9.9 point ride, this time earned at the Backdoor Pipeline for a heaving stand-up tube that saw him exit with fists shot overhead.
Now sitting on the highest heat score of the entire event, 18.9 out of 20, Sullivan had eclipsed his opponents, who each needed two wave scores better than they were carrying if they were to change the result. No-one could touch him.
Pacheco finished with a total of 11.5 points, Eleogram pulled into third after surfing on in spite of his head injury to total 9.95 points, and Valiere was fourth with 8.5 points.
“Just to win out here is amazing,” said Sullivan. “It’s something I’ve been striving to do for more than 10 years and now I’ve done it while enjoying myself at the same time. It’s probably the most thrilling thing in life for me at this moment. It feels real gratifying.
“The level of surfing has been getting higher and higher and all the guys coming together from around the islands is resulting in a large group of top notch professionals. It’s great to see more Hawaiians traveling and making a living out of this and being able to support our families.
“Today I was just lucky I got the right waves. With conditions being so challenging, there were some incredible waves that didn’t look like anything at the start. There were some super intense, heavy waves going down today.”
Indeed, conditions were exceptionally tough today, with strong tradewinds blowing into the face of waves that climbed as high as 18 feet in full face height. A storm front that pushed through last night left an uneven swell that was difficult to read at best.
Waves that looked like they might offer the greatest scoring potential would shift and change on the inside reef offering little, while other messy swells doubled up into hollow tube rides that scored exceptionally high points. In addition, the rough conditions dealt out more than a few huge wipeouts and broken surfboards.
Eleogram was the worst casualty of the day, but nothing could wipe the smile from his face.
“I was just hoping to make it to the last day,” said Eleogram from the shoreline doctor’s table after receiving five staples to the head and minor injuries to his feet. “I’ve been coming (to the North Shore) a lot but never really surfed Pipe that much because there’s always so many guys out. I was stoked yesterday, but now.. this means a lot. I’m stoked on the points I earned because I’m doing the whole W.Q.S. tour this year and this is a great start.”
As for the injury: “I hit the bottom at about the eight minute mark. I kind of fell out of the wave – trying to take off a little too late. I came up really dizzy, but I still got my best wave after that. It was all worth it. I’d do it every heat to make the final!”
The highest-placed non-Hawaii surfer today was Santa Barbara’s Tom Curren (CA), who announced to those onsite that he was launching a tour comeback. At 40 years of age, the oldest in the event, Curren surfed several strong heats today and was only nudged out of a place in the final in the closing two minutes of his semi-final heat.
Counting two solid scores of 8.75 and 7.25 points, a late, high-scoring tube ride by Brian Pacheco saw Curren edged out by a mere 0.6 of a point. The elimination was as much of a disappointment to the crowd on the beach as it was to Curren. All on hand were hoping to see him reach the final. Curren finished in equal 5th place overall, winning $2,000 and moving to 10th on the W.Q.S. rankings. Earlier in the day he was responsible for the elimination of reigning Pipe Master and former Monster Pro champion Jamie O’Brien (Haleiwa, HI), in the round prior to the quarters.
“I shouldn’t have given Brian that wave,” said Curren, with the clarity of hind-sight. “I gave him a little leeway but I probably shouldn’t have.
“I’ll be doing the whole WQS tour this year in the hope of requalifying for the World Championship Tour, so this is a good start.”
Kauai surfer Dustin Barca was equal fifth with Curren today, securing a third place finish in the first semi-final.
The highest placed non-American in the event was Japan’s Masatoshi Ohno, who finished fourth in Curren’s heat for an overall position of equal 7th place – $1,700. Ohno was equally placed with Kainoa McGee (Honolulu, HI), who was fourth in the first semi-final.
Just one perfect 10 point ride was registered today, surfed by Portugal’s Tiago Pires in the fifth round. Tiago was eliminated in the quarters.
A total of 170 entries from 12 nations started out in this event.
Surfline has been the Official Forecast Service of the Monster Energy Pro – please see surfline.com
Results and scores can be found on the following sites. For the most current World Qualifying Series ratings, please go to www.aspworldtour.com
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Tel: (808) 258-8533
Surfers listed from 1st place through 4th place. 1st & 2nd advanced.
For complete scores, see the Scores-Results link above.
1st – Pancho Sullivan (Haleiwa, HI), 18.9 points, $10,000
2nd – Brian Pacheco (Waianae, HI) 11.5 points, $5,000
3rd – Ola Eleogram (Hana, Maui) 9.95 points, $3,000
4th – Evan Valiere (Kilauea, Kauai) 8.5 points, $2,400
H1: Ola Eleogram (Hana, Maui); Pancho Sullivan (Haleiwa, HI); Dustin Barca (Kauai); Kainoa McGee (Honolulu, HI)
H2: Evan Valiere (Kilauea, HI); Brian Pacheco (Waianae, HI); Tom Curren (Santa Barbara, CA); Masatoshi Ohno (Jpn)
H1: Pancho Sullivan (Haleiwa, HI); Ola Eleogram (Hana, Maui); Naohisa Ogawa (Jpn); Andrew King (Aus)
H2: Kainoa McGee (Honolulu, HI); Dustin Barca (Kauai); Rob Machado (Cardiff, CA); Sean Moody (Haleiwa, HI)
H3: Tom Curren (Santa Barbara, CA); Brian Pacheco (Waianae, HI); Anthony Walsh (Aus); Dane Reynolds (Ventura, CA)
H4: Evan Valiere (Kilauea, HI); Masatoshi Ohno (Jpn); Kamalei Alexander (Hanalei, HI); Tiago Pires (Portugal)
H1: Andrew King (aus); Kainoa McGee (Honolulu, HI); Jesse Merle-Jones (HI); Kalani Chapman (Haleiwa, HI)
H2: Pancho Sullivan (Haleiwa, HI); Sean Moody (Haleiwa, HI); Mikey Bruneau (HI); Dustin Cuizon (HI)
H3: Dustin Barca (Kauai); Ola Eleogram (Hana, Maui); Tom Dosland (Paia, Maui); Daniel Ross (Aus)
H4: Rob Machado (Cardiff, CA); Naohisa Ogawa (Jpn); Carlos Cabero (PRico); Drew Courtney (Aus)
H5: Tom Curren (SBarbara, CA); Kamalei Alexander (Hanalei, Kauai); Jamie O’Brien (Haleiwa, HI); Gavin Beschen (Haleiwa, HI)
H6: Brian Pacheco (Waianae, HI); Masatoshi Ohno (Jpn); Ian Walsh (HI); Raymond Reichle (HI)
H7: Evan Valiere (Kilauea, HI); Anthony Walsh (Aus); Makua Rothman (Haleiwa, HI); Dayyan Neve (Aus)
H8: Tiago Pires (Portugal); Dane Reynolds (USA); Richard Sills (SAfrica); Nathan Carroll (Haleiwa, HI)