Dawn broke at Ehukai beach this morning to reveal line upon line of perfect 8- to 10-foot peaks rolling through Pipe and Backdoor. Without a breath of wind on the lineup, it was clear that the first day of the Volcom Pipe Pro was going to be called on.
As a 3,000-rated event, the Volcom Pipe Pro has become one of the most anticipated contests on the North Shore. More than just a way to accrue ratings point, the comp also seeds the top-16 finishers into the Pipe Masters trials next winter. And while you'll see competitors from around the world in the mix, the vast amount of surfers donning jerseys call Hawaii—and more specifically the North Shore—home. In addition to the local Pipe specialists in the roster, you'll also see the likes of Slater and John John Florence donning jerseys this year as well, with both surfers making their debut in the event in Round 3.
Opening up the day, many of the usual suspects put on the standout performances, with Jamie O'Brien, Reef McIntosh, and Evan Valiere all setting the pace and advancing into the next round.
"The conditions for my heat today were pretty spectacular," said Valiere, who posted an 11.5-point total to trump Pancho Sullivan, Cory Arrambide, and Takayuki Wakita to move onto Round 3. "I was worried it was going to turn onshore before I could get out there, but it stayed clean. It was pretty much perfect Pipeline. I just love surfing this wave so much and I'm so thankful that I get to do it again in the next round."
Also squeaking through his heat today was Honolulu's Zeke Lau, who was sporting a lot of open real-estate on his board after parting ways with his main sponsor, Volcom. Lau, who finished second in his heat, acknowledged that the conditions on offer for the opening round were nothing short of amazing. "It was really special out there today. I've surfed it that good in a contest once before, but today was right up there," said Lau, who was rocking a handful of staples in his head. "I hit the reef out there head first the other day and it rattled me pretty good. I'm feeling okay now, but I still have a pretty solid headache," he added with a laugh.
The most dominating heat surfed today came from Bruce Irons. Surfing in a specialty VLCQ Heat (Volcom Last Chance Qualifier) composed of local legends like Bruce, Makua Rothman, Kawai Lindo, Derek Ho and Gavin Beschen who couldn't get into the event via ratings points, the unorthodox heat proved to be the matchup of the day. While nearly everyone in the water for this heat nabbed a few stellar rides, Bruce proved his prowess at Pipe hasn’t faltered and pulled ahead of his competition when he nabbed one of the heavier Backdoor tuberides of the day and a 9-point score. Unlike heats in the other rounds, the best single-wave score won this heat.
By early afternoon, the glassy conditions that marked the opening rounds gave way to a wind-whipped lineup as north winds made ribbons of Pipeline, putting an end to the day's competition. Contest directors will give the lineup another look tomorrow morning in hopes of concluding the remainder of Round 2.