Day 1 of the Xbox/Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters

Surf: Six to 10 feet, side/offshore
Events Held:Trials
Nature’s Call: I’m all at sea!
Predicted: Slow drop in swell, then a bounce on the weekend

Rob Machado wins at Pipe! It’s all happening again!Well maybe not, yet, but boy, there was a sense of deja vu drifting across the Pipeline sands today, along with the ehu’kai (Hawaiian for sea mist) and the occasional tang of, err, marijuana smoke. The ehu’kai was coming from a hard, weird, warbly northwest swell engaged in a nasty collision with Kodak Reef. The marijuana — try as he might, your correspondent could not locate the source.

But the deja vu was emanating directly from Machado’s pure wave knowledge, as he cruised to an easy trials victory, just the same way he did in the Big One two years ago. He now moves into the main event, along with second-placed Oahu Westsider Brian Pacheco and wildcard Bruce Irons.

Perhaps not all his peers would admit it, but Rob’s been missed on the WCT this year. The lines he draws are graceful yet hard and unflinching, and the drawing is done with exactly the amount of energy required and no more. He was a class above the rest of the trials round, a fact never more apparent than in the four man final.

“I’m super stoked to win this,” Rob claimed afterward. “I’ve always thought these trials were hard. They’re full of guys who know this place really well. There were some great moments out there today. But then the wind would veer a little onshore and it’d get choppy and start closing out. It was going from a 2 (out of 10) to an 8 … There was definitely fear today.”

No kidding. This was anything but regulation Pipe. A new swell built Tuesday and held through the night, but deteriorated in quality, leaving even well-known Pipeline aficionados like Pancho Sullivan and Tamayo Perry begging for a good wave amid the gnarliness. Wave of the day belonged without a doubt to Tahiti’s Manoa Drollet, who took off ridiculously deep on an eight-foot Backdoor and stayed pitted for the entire wave, emerging to shrieks of disbelief from the {{{200}}}-strong crowd.

Unluckiest man in the world was surely Hawaii’s Jamie O’Brien. Jamie plays with the arena the way you would if it was basically your front yard — switching feet, pulling weird fake-airs out of tubes, just fooling around, yet backing it up with a persistent ability in late drops and difficult tube recoveries. He’s a contemporary of Joel Parkinson’s and Mick Fanning’s and he’s with ’em in skills, but not always in contest strategy — after dominating every heat to the final, he made some grave wave selection errors and ran third, out of the picture.

“Jamie’s crazy,” assented Rob. “He’ll make waves other surfers won’t look at. But it depends what waves you get.”

A slight bump in swell late in the day sent many top-44 seeds out for the warmup they’ll need to switch gears from Sunset Beach, but which they’ve avoided just to preserve boards and bodies. But there’s only three days’ competition left on the 2002 WCT, and there ain’t no point in holding back. As newly crowned world champ Andy Irons put it: “I couldn’t let myself go out there! But now I can.” Nick Carroll

The XBox Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters
Trials final (first two to main event)
1 Rob Machado
2 Brian Pacheco
3 Jamie O’Brien
4 Rizal Tanjung

Main event round one: three man heats, no eliminations; first to round three, second and third to round two.

For full event results, please check out: ASP’s site or Triple Crown’s web HQ.