Sometime near daybreak, when the sky is no longer black but there's still not enough daylight for him to see clearly, Volcom Pipeline Pro contest director Marty Thomas makes the five-minute drive from his home above Foodland to the parking lot at Pipeline. He walks the 100-or-so paces to the edge of the grass at the beachpark and greets Dave Wassel and Pancho Sullivan with a handshake. He clears his throat a few times, rubs the sleep from his eyes, and assesses the lineup before him. The swell is doing just what he envisioned. It's up from yesterday. Way up. Ten- to 12-feet up. In hushed tones, he speaks with Wassel and Pancho, not wanting to wake the competitors slumbering just a few yards away in the team houses. Half an hour of
contemplation later and the decision is made: the contest is a go. From his pocket, Marty digs out his cell phone and calls the 15 to 20 different people necessary to get the word out. Within 10 minutes of his last call, the entire North Shore knows the event is on. And within a little more than an hour, horns will sound and boards will be broken.
By midmorning the view from the beach is both beautiful and breathtaking. With the crossed-up 10 footers standing on the reef, it's clear that things are about to get crazy. It's solid Pipe, but it's not quite perfect. It's the kind of day where someone could get hurt and just about every one on the beach and in a jersey knows it. But at this level, this deep in the game, no one cares and those remaining are more than willing to throw themselves over the ledge at the drop of a hat, or with any luck, the drop of a 10.
It's become a redundant cliché that any heat in the water today had the potential to be a final. But sometimes clichés ring true. No more so in fact than when John Florence took on Bruce Irons, Jamie O'Brien, and Marcus Hickman. Brimming with potential, the heat didn't disappoint as Jamie and John traded top-shelf scores amid heaving Backdoor bombs and Pipe tubes. Both managed to advance to the semis where they will compete against one another again.
"To me it doesn't really matter who I surf against. I mean, I know that Jamie's gonna be in the heat and I know how he surfs at Pipe, but with just a few other guys out, it shouldn't be too bad," said Florence about his matchup.
Although Hawaiian surfers comprise the bulk of competitors, the Cinderella story of the Volcom Pipeline Pro has been 20-year-old North Carolina native Brent Barley. Since his first round, Barley has continued pulling into waves that he probably shouldn't—and making them with an alarming amount of frequency. On the second day of the contest, Barley dropped a 10 and a 9 in his heat, earning his Pipe stripes in front of the entire world and the day's highest heat score. Today, things remained on the up for "Gnarly Barley" when he narrowly edged out Pipe mainstay Kamalei Alexander and found himself a seat in the semis.
“It’s not about how far I get, the money or anything, I just want to go out there and surf, I enjoy it and this is definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in a contest, that’s for sure,” said Barley. “No doubt, hands down, this is the best result of my life, for sure."
Chasing more than just the 'QS rating's points and a healthy dose of bragging rights, a good showing at this event earns a surfer a seed in the 2010 Pipe Masters. Moving forward, the remaining eight surfers—those seated in the semis—have all been granted seeds into next year's Pipe Masters. The event was called for the day but is forecasted to resume with the semis and the final in the morning. – Jeff Mull
Heat 1: Ian Walsh (Haw); Anthony Walsh (AUS); Jamie O’Brien (Haw); John John Florence (Haw)
Heat 2: Mark Mathews (AUS); Brett Barley (NC, USA); Danny Fuller (Haw); Kiron Jabour (Haw)
(1st & 2nd advance. 3rd=9th; 4th=13th)
(Surfers are from Hawaii unless noted otherwise)
H1: Ian Walsh; Anthony Walsh (AUS); Clay Marzo; Nils Schweizer (USA)
H2: Jamie O’Brien; John John Florence; Bruce Irons; Marcus Hickman
H3: Mark Mathews (AUS); Brett Barley (USA); Kamalei Alexander; Dave Wassel
H4: Danny Fuller; Kiron Jabour; Dusty Payne; Jay Davies (AUS)
Round of 32:
(1st & 2nd advance; 3rd=17th; 4th=25th)
H1: Ian Walsh; Jamie O’Brien; Marc Lacomare (FRA); Marcelo Trekinho (BRZ)
H2: Anthony Walsh (AUS); Marcus Hickman; Takayuki Wakita (JPN); Solomon Ortiz
H3: John John Florence; Nils Schweizer (USA); Mark Healey; Rob Machado (USA)
H4: Bruce Irons; Clay Marzo; Sunny Garcia; Kevin Sullivan
H5: David Wassel; Danny Fuller; Makuakai Rothman; Myles Padaca
H6: Mark Mathews (AUS); Jay Davies (AUS); Chris Ward (USA); Fred Patacchia
H7: Dusty Payne; Kamalei Alexander; Ola Eleogram; Dean Morrison (AUS)
H8: Kiron Jabour; Brett Barley (USA); Reef McIntosh; Nathan Fletcher (USA)
Remaining Heats from Round of 64:
H12: Jay Davies (AUS); Makuakai Rothman; David Giddings (USA); Joel Centeio
H13: Dusty Payne; Nathan Fletcher (uSA); Sion Milosky; Alex Gray (USA)
H14: Kamalei Alexander; Kiron Jabour; Matt Pagan (USA); TJ Barron
H15: Reef McIntosh; Ola Eleogram; Dane Gudauskas (USA); Joe Tanaka (JPN)
H16: Brett Barley (USA); Dean Morrison (AUS); Travis Beckmann (USA); Blake Jones (USA)