Pipeline’s Encore


5-Star Volcom Pipeline Pro Begins Holding Period
By Daniel Ikaika Ito

It's been two months after the traditional North Shore season, and the Seven Mile Miracle is still psyching on surf contests. The 5-Star QS Volcom Pipeline Pro starts its holding period, marking the biggest prize purse and ratings points in the event's history. Furthermore, this comp also serves as a qualifier for the Pipe Specialists, like Dave Wassel, to qualify for the Billabong Pipeline Masters in December.

"I'm excited about the Volcom Pipe Pro. This is the biggest contest in Hawaii. This is the only way we, the local surfers, get into the Pipe Masters," says Wassel who is a pro surfer and resident caretaker of the Volcom Pipe House. "And, it gives the guys who eat, sleep and breath Pipeline a chance to showcase what they got. It's easily the hardest contest I've ever had to participate in."

Besides being a regular fixture at the Banzai Pipeline, Wassel is also City & County of Honolulu Lifeguard and is stationed on the North Shore. According to Dave, while the circus has left the Seven Mile Miracle that doesn't mean the Volcom Pipeline Pro is a walk in the park.

"It's a joy and absolute pleasure to be here," says Dave Wassel of the North Shore after December. "It's really nice to see all your friends come to town and get to surf with everybody during the Triple Crown. But, it's also nice when they leave. It's still a dogfight– it's not like the local guys leave and they're the guys who usually catch the waves during the Triple Crown anyhow. It's still a contest to catch a wave every single day at Pipeline."

This event is definitely for the locals according to Volcom Surf Brand Manager Brad Dougherty. This event is targeted to help Hawaii's 'QS surfers gain valuable rating points which will ideally translate to a berth into the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

"(Hawaii WQS surfers) will benefit by having an event with real point potential in their backyard," says Dougherty. "It will give those who do well a good jumpstart on the WQS without having to travel so early into the year."

Historically, it's been difficult for Hawaii-residents to travel the globe, surfing small, wind-blown beach breaks and accrue ratings points for Dream Tour qualification and entry into the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Volcom Surf Team Manager Dave Riddle knows that Hawaii-born WQS warriors have a huge financial burden competing on tour.

“To compete on the World Qualifying Series as a Hawaii surfer costs between $40,000 to $60,000 dollars per guy," says Riddle. "Without the opportunity to compete in events like this, if you’re not highly sponsored then you’re not going to be able to do it. It’s brutal."

The Volcom Pipeline Pro is hoping to offset this financial constraint, set Hawaii WQS Warriors up for success and showcase the local talent at the most famous wave in the World. Furthermore, this 'QS event will also help stimulate the local economy on the Seven Mile Miracle says Riddle.

"It's huge for the community because it's another event," says Riddle who resides on the North Shore year-round. "There are restaurants, gas stations, boutiques and everything else being used. The economy and local community is being boosted, as well as the surfers."

It may seem that Volcom– a company founded on being an alternative to traditional surf brands– is moving away from its "anti-establishment" roots with this Association Surfing Professional event, Dougherty points out that this is a natural growth for the action sports brand.

"We have been looking to do a large-scale event for a while and it just makes the most sense to do it at Pipeline," says Dougherty. "We are not changing our thinking at all– just expanding. The event will give us the opportunity to show our brand to a larger audience. It will attract the best Pipeline surfers in the world and the Webcast will allow them to showcase their talents globally."

With the anti-climactic final heat of the 2009 Billabong Pipeline Masters and the frequency of big swells hitting Hawaii, the Volcom Pipeline Pro has the potential to dazzle us all with its massive barrels. This event will be an encore for the Banzai as long as the surf doesn't reach warning levels reminds Dave Wassel who is also a well-established, big-wave hell man.

"We had seven Waimea swells this year when we're lucky to usually have one," says Wassel. "The only issue that we have is that this winter might be too big for Pipeline. We've seen waves that look like Pipeline on the outer reefs. Volcom might have to shift to Outer Log Cabins."

Stay tuned over the next few days to see when Volcom will make it's ASP contest debut at http://www.volcompipelinepro.com/


Wassel's Quiver Photo: Flindt