Opening Day of the Billabong Pipeline Masters

Parko is the obvious favorite to win the Triple Crown since his victory at Haleiwa, and his surfing today reinforced predictions. Photo: Ellis

The buoys were maxing and the winds couldn’t have been better, but the swell direction today was just too north for Pipeline to show it's true face. All swell woes aside, the first day of the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Memory of Andy Irons was a damn fine showcase of some superb surfing from the world's best ASP surfers, as well as ten of Hawaii's veteran Pipeline specialists.

The opening round featured the best barrels of the day, with Hawaiians John Florence, Dave Wassell, Dusty Payne, and Ian Walsh finding some great waves to win their heats. By the second round of competition, the swell continued to turn more north and the winds shifted to sideshore. This made an already difficult Backdoor lineup even more of a crapshoot. The normally rock solid Brett Simpson finished his second round heat with a 2.9 wave total and two broken boards. Dave Wassel, on the other hand, pile-drove his way through some meaty sections and now finds himself in the third round up against world number two Jordy Smith. Last year John Florence had some of the best tubes of the event. This year, now standing just over 6 feet tall, he continues to get pitted off his head, but now finishes his rides with some serious hacks. John will need to utilize everything he’s learned growing up on the beach at Pipeline if he is going to beat Kelly Slater in their much-anticipated round three clash.

Nearing the completion of the first year of the One World Ranking system, we now have a much clearer picture of who will be on the World Tour next year. The surfers who have made the cut thus far are Heitor Alves, Josh Kerr, Raoni Monteiro, Alejo Muniz, and Julian Wilson. Still to be decided are the fates of Gabe Kling, Cory Lopez, and Dusty Payne. With a win against Mick Fanning tomorrow, Dusty (ranked 36) could claim enough points to jump ahead of Gabe (ranked 33) and Cory (ranked 34) for the last guaranteed spot on the World Tour. In that event, Gabe would likely be granted an injury wildcard, as the ASP reserves two, and currently only Kai Otton has a case for one. If Dusty loses, my brother likely gets back on tour with the unclaimed wildcard. I love you Dusty, but I’ll be pulling for Mick tomorrow.

With the swell looking to be similar to today, you can expect an 8am start at Backdoor tomorrow. Hopefully there will be more pits to be had than today, but either way you can look forward to all the top seeds coming into play as they come up against Taylor Knox’s committed carves, Pat Gudauskas’s big boosts, and Joel Parkinson’s brilliant return to competition. See you all bright and early.

Although it wasn't classic Pipeline, there were still barrels to be had in the morning's offshore winds. Photo: Ellis

Dusty Payne teeters on the cusp of re-qualification, but barrels like this certainly help his cause. Photo: Ellis

Hawaiian Ian Walsh showed true grit this morning with a few huge hacks. Photo: Ellis

The smaller waves at Pipe allowed for Patrick Gadauskas to take flight with a solid double-grab. Photo: Ellis

Kiron Jibour takes a high line through one of the meatier tubes of the day. Photo: Ellis

The Pipeline Masters is the climax of the North Shore winter, and the crowds don't want to miss a thing. Photo: Ellis

Shane Dorian has always turned heads at Backdoor, but even his extensive knowledge was not enough to get him past Luke Munro in the first round. Photo: Ellis

Ian Walsh dominated his first heat, but was unable to keep his momentum against Jeremy Flores. Photo: Ellis

Travis Logie lost out in the first round, leaving him on the wrong side of qualification for next year's World Tour. Photo: Ellis