Opening Day


The Billabong Pipeline Masters brings the North Shore back to earth

By Nick Carroll

Surf: 6-8' clean Back and Front doors

Events Held: Dual heat format all the way to round two heat seven

Nature's Call: You call this a WINTER?

Predicted: Clean epic surf for the money heats

Wake up, everyone!

That was the message to surfers and spectators alike at Pipe's opening day, as the Eddie Fantasyland vibe that's pervaded the North Shore for a coupla days now was swiftly swept away by a dose of reality, pro-surfing style.

First and most shatteringly, Sunny Garcia, the resurgent ex-world champ who'd been such a grand presence at Sunset and Waimea, won't be winning his seventh Triple Crown here – this year, anyway – after he managed that most painfully basic surf contest error and missed his heat.

Sunny was drawn against Australia's Nic Muscroft in heat eight, which in a standard event would've put him in the water around 11:30am. But Pipe's early rounds are running under the dual-heat format, where heats overlap each other, and Sunny worked the times wrong.

Thus he came down the Pipe walkway around a minute after contest director Randy Rarick had replaced him with first Hawaiian alternate Torrey Meister.

Ten years ago, this might have ended in a fistfight. As it was, Sunny growled, glared and finally stood with his head in his hands, knowing he had to own this dreadful moment, when the fifty-grand Triple Crown bonus just sorta disappeared over the horizon.

Rarick has seen worse. He got on his cellphone. Within minutes, Kauai's Evan Valiere, next Hawaiian alternate in line for the contest, had surrendered his spot to Garcia.

But if you thought that meant Sunny would jump right in to the next heat where a Hawaiian wildcard's name was listed, you'd be doing both Sunny and the wildcards a disservice. Flynn Novak, Sion Milosky and Mason Ho pushed through to round two, and Sunny won't be seen again at Pipe this time.

The incident added sting to a day in which only a few bomb scores were recorded, and the big guns sat on the sidelines as spectators. Like Mick Fanning for instance, comfortably tucked up in a folding chair in a little nook just past Backdoor: "I'm a tourist today," he grinned.

Shane Dorian wasn't. Shane-o looms as a serious threat in this event. He's still sore from Eddie Day and the one before, when he took a conservative eight lip launch wipeouts on 30-foot waves. But he still managed one of the finest rides of the day, an absurdly deep Backdoor pit, blowing past Kamalei Alexander in the process, and later accounting for a two-board-snapping Toago Pires.

Nor was Miky Picon. Holy crap! Out of nowhere, Mickey, senior member of the burgeoning Euro push into the surfing elite and on the brink of relegation from the Big Tour, produced the performance of his career – a series of spectacular Backdoor backside barrels that earned him a 19.76, equal highest score of the whole goddam YEAR.

It just had to be at the expense of Josh Kerr, whose own score woulda won most heats this day, but wasn't enough to keep him in the game.

Mickey kept reality at bay for one more day … as did Phil Macdonald, who in perhaps the day's least likely result, strolled past an uninvolved Jamie O'Brien to make the next round.

"I'm retiring after this, anyway," Phil told Surfing. "It's the last time I'll be surfing Pipeline with two guys out. Gonna enjoy it while I can." Fair enough.