EVENTS HELD: Rip Curl Code STL Trials beginning to glorious end
NATURE'S CALL: I never let up.
PREDICTED: Some serious upsets in the Big Show.
A few weeks ago, on Nov. 16, Kalani Chapman paddled out at giant Pipe on a board his uncle Owl shaped him, a 9'6", 3-inch-thick beast he was supposed to save for "the day of days." He proceeded to catch the bomb of the swell, pack all that foam and fiberglass into a heaving 12-foot-plus-plus pit and come screaming out.
The wave grew in legend over the ensuing weeks, with everyone claiming he manhandled one of the biggest Pipe waves in years.
Today, the legend kept growing. Kalani Chapman, brother of Briles, nephew of Owl, and continuing the Briley/Chapman legacy as one of the North Shore's prodigal sons. Strictly by the numbers, he was by far the surfer of the trials. A perfect 10 and two 9s. Three of the four highest combined heat scores of the day. And a golden ticket straight into Round One of the main event.
It wasn't just the numbers. With big brother Briles watching proudly from the Volcom house, Kalani styled through pit after pit, standing further up on his board and pulling a page from the legends like Rory "Da Dog" Russell. Pipe wasn't exactly a cakewalk today, with random second reefers and a wicked north closeout bend on many of the sets, but Kalani found the sweet spots, and he did it heat after pumping heat. Exhausted but out of his mind after advancing through the second semi, he made it clear what was motivating him: "I said right from the start that this was for Mailk," said Kalani. "He was a dear friend, he changed my life and he's probably helping me right here today."
The spirit of Malik was with a lot of surfers today, as Tahitian Hira Terinatoofa escaped from an impossible pit in the round of 32, looked up to the heavens, and blew a kiss to his fallen friend. Chicken skin, for sure, on that one.
The chicken skin stayed up for the rest of the day. We watched Makua Rothman, the fiery Hawaiian who's really come into his own this year, dominate a few heats at Sunset and do it all over again at Pipe. Only this time, he did it all the way into the trials final. Rothman mixed it up today, combining classic pigdog Pipe pits with even more classic layback lookbacks, always at crowd-pleaser at the Banzai. And he plans to bust out the full arsenal come main event time. "The guys [on the tour] are all human and are all beatable," he said.
Rounding out the final four were Brazilian Bruno Santos, who pulled the same feat last year and continues to impress at Pipe. And then there's Dustin Barca, the hardest working Pipe journeyman in the biz, pulling it out in the last minute of the semi with a glorious escape and "Whaaaaat?" claim back to the crew at the Volcom house. Later, Barca, the master of understatement, summed it up nicely for us: "It was kind of heavy out there."
A dropping northwest swell and a holding west could make for another play day at Pipe. We're sure the Top 45 are slightly relieved as three of Hawaii's most determined junkyard dogs get no rest after surviving the trials. Then again, tomorrow's going to be no worries after surviving today's ultimate fighting challenge. And let's not forget Rip Curl's two wildcards, 2006 WCTer Pancho Sullivan and reigning Master Jamie O'Brien, who are rested and ready to take on the Big Dogs. Jamie O's so ready, in fact, that he spent hours surfing on the side today at Ehukai, just itching to paddle out to the main stage. Finally, there's a whole lot of qualifying shuffle to contend with, as Tim Reyes, Raoni Monteiro, Bede Durbidge, Marcelo Nunes, Peterson Rosa, Darren O'Rafferty and Mark Occhilupo all try to stay alive. They get one free round today, but after that, everyone plays for keeps.