Volcom Pipe Pro Day 1

Heroes and Underdogs Shine on First Day of Competition

Although he is one of the most stylish barrel riders on the North Shore, Gavin Beschen couldn't find the right waves to get him through round one. Photo: Noyle/SPL

The opening day of the Volcom Pipe Pro started with a thinning swell and more than a few sighs of frustration from competitors. By the afternoon of the previous day, the first lay day of the holding period for the five-star event, Pipeline was in prime, 12-foot form--the result of a swell that arrived a touch earlier than forecasted. Although you’d be hard pressed to find a surfer--or fan--that wasn’t itching to run the comp yesterday, the remnants of the fading swell coupled with a frontrunners of a new swell proved to be more than enough to cut through the first two rounds of the contest yesterday.

True to the event’s mantra, the Volcom Pipe Pro has provided an arena for a number of less-publicized chargers to show that they can hold their own against the best at one of the most respected and deadly waves in the world. Last year, we bore witness as a soft-spoken but hard-charging Brett Barley rushed his way to the semis. Just one day into the event this year, and there’s already talk of another Cinderella Story in the form of Brazilian charger Dennis Tihara, who posted the day’s highest heat score with a 9.9 and a 7.5.

“I’m surprised!” said Tihara. “I made a 10-point ride in Puerto Escondido last month, so I wanted to make that happen again here at Pipeline because this is such a good wave. It’s my first time competing here. I just came here three times before, now it’s my first contest, so I really want to make good of the heats.”

Not to be outdone, the proven favorites of the event also earned high marks in the next round, as Reef McIntosh continued to solidify his reputation as one of the preeminent Pipe specialists. Other standouts included Jesse Merle-Jones and Anthony Walsh. Both surfers have spent a considerable amount of time in the lineup at Pipe and it showed today as they scalped wins in their respective heats.

“A lot of Aussies come over here in the winter, and everyone loves these waves,” said Walsh. “To come here and get barreled when it’s crappy summer surf at home feels good. For me, I’m just doing the events I like to keep my points up so I can do events like this. My main goal is to win this and qualify to get into the Pipe Masters. I’ve been coming here for about 12 years. The very first surf I had here was about 12-foot and I was hooked ever since.”

Aamion Goodwin has had a tumultuous relationship with Pipeline over the last few years, though he is looking to be a dominant force in this competition. Photo: Noyle/SPL

With many closeouts and less than ideal conditions, the Volcom Pipe Pro is indeed a "proving grounds" for the world's best barrel-riders. Photo: Noyle/SPL

California surfer Alex Gray has been making the pilgrimage to Pipeline for years, and his experience in the lineup is paying off. Photo: Bielmann

Young Japanese surfer Keito Matsuoka was excited about his Pipe debut, although he was unable to make it past the second round. Photo: Carey

Reef McIntosh is an obvious favorite out at Pipeline, and his performance yesterday showed his mastery of the famed wave. Photo: Carey

Although it wasn't quite as classic as it was over the weekend, there were a few flashes of brilliance over the notorious reef. Love Hodel sets up for a potential tube. Photo: Carey

For live action of the event, go to VolcomPipePro.com.