With a stickerless board neatly tucked under his tanned arm, Maui's Ola Oleogram jogs toward Pipeline and plants his foot in a pile of dog shit. Where others would string together a slew of four-letter words, Ola simply shrugs his shoulders and cracks a grin. "At least I got that out of the way," he tells me. "Plus, it's supposed to be good luck, which I could use right about now." Just a few hours later, Ola is putting on one of the most phenomenal performances of his career on the second day of the Volcom Pipe Pro. He's taken out Sion Milosky, Chris Waring, and Roy Powers in some of the finest conditions Pipe could offer, and he's on to round four. For Ola, this is the performance he's been aching to produce. His prowess among those in the know is unfaltering, but to the masses, Ola remains unknown. With a good showing at this event, he hopes that will change.
"Well, I'm pretty much broke and sponsorless. This is the only event I've done this winter," says Ola. "It was either this or the Sunset contest...I couldn't afford to fly over from Maui and do both, so yeah, I'm pretty stoked on today. I'm just glad to still be in the comp." It's stories like Ola's - stories of an underdog betting his last paycheck on a dream - that make the Volcom Pipe Pro so special. Nearly every heat carries with it a blue-collar surfer bleeding talent and tenacity, each heat offering the chance to make a career.
On the opposite side of the spectrum from Ola stands John Florence. Dripping with sponsors and confidence, Florence's rise from boy wonder to man of the hour has by no means gone undocumented by the media. Remarkably steely in a jersey, you get the feeling that John's either completely oblivious to the hype surrounding him or he's just that certain of his abilities. Anyone that watched John compete yesterday was left with the sobering realization that this kid is destined for something big. Competing against Sunny Garcia, Gabriel Villaran, and Solomon Ortiz, John gracefully paddled himself into some of the throatiest tubes of the day, all the while barely raising his heart rate. With every set that approached the reef at Pipe, you could almost feel the collective mood of the crowd change. When John surfs Pipeline, we've come to expect big things.
"Yeah, I've heard all of the hype surrounding me this winter," says John, "but I don't pay any attention to it. For me, I just want to go out there and surf. That's all I want to do."
In recent years, there's been a deluge of Australians that have drawn intensely close relationships with Pipeline. Mark Mathews, Dean Morrison, and Anthony Walsh have all been leading the Aussie contingency. Yesterday, however, the Aussies were purged from the event entirely by the rank-and-file Hawaiian surfers. At the cusp of the Hawaiian powerhouse, Bruce Irons and Ian Walsh both dropped some of the day's highest heat scores.
Walsh, who scored a perfect 10 at Pipe, recalled his wave. "I got a couple extra scratches and gave a little whistle to Mark [Healey] because he was pretty head down into it. I just got one big lucky pump without grabbing [rail] which kind of gave me more room to pump, and it just stayed open and I came out happy. It's my first perfect 10 in this contest or any event in Hawaii, so I'm psyched."
The forecast for today is calling for a slight drop in swell before a new surge fills in as early as Friday.
For more on the event, go to VolcomPipePro.com.