By Daniel Ikaika Ito
Making the semi-finals of the Volcom Pipeline Pro was not easy yesterday. Giant 16-to 20-foot wave face heights forced competitors at the 5-star Qualifying Series (QS) event to muster up courage and stamina.
According to North Shore native Jamie O'Brien, 26, yesterday's conditions and level competition were gnarly.
"It's not perfect Pipe," said O'Brien who won this event two times before. "You had to work hard."
O'Brien won the most difficult heat of the day, surfing against Pipeline standouts John John Florence, Marcus Hickman and two-time Pipe Pro champion Bruce Irons.
"The heat was definitely a hard heat," said O'Brien of the quarterfinal. Florence advanced out of the quarters behind O'Brien. Both surfers grew up in beachfront homes a stone's throw away from Pipeline. And, both tow-headed regular foots are lauded as two of the best surfers at the world's most dangerous wave.
"John John is like my little brother and I was stoked to surf against John John," said O'Brien of Florence who is a 17-year-old from 'Ehukai. "I told John John that they don't want you in this heat because you're going to kick some (butt) […] John John is part of the new generation and it was nail biter of a heat for me."
With their performance yesterday at the Volcom Pipeline Pro O'Brien, Florence, Ian Walsh, Danny Fuller, Kiron Jabour, Dusty Payne and Clay Marzo earned wildcard berths into the Billabong Pipeline Masters in December.
The Pipe Pro serves as a qualifier for the Pipe Masters– the final jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and the last World Championship Tour event of the year.
While the Pipe Masters wildcard is already a victory, both O'Brien and Florence would love to win the Volcom Pipeline Pro.
This current northwest swell is forecasted to have contestable conditions today. The semi-finals and final heat of the Volcom Pipeline Pro will most likely run today. All of the action will be broadcast live on Fuel TV, Oceanic Time Warner Cable Channel 250 and 125 and also www.volcompipelinepro.com.
Watch the Finals today at 10:00am PST HERE.