Day 2 of the Xbox/Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters

Surf: Six to 12 feet plus, rising, variable winds to trades
Events Held: 11 heats of Round One
Nature’s Call: I wouldn’t trust me as far as I could throw me
Predicted: Continued swell increase, peaking early tomorrow

Yeah, we’re at Pipeline. Yeah, we all know it’s heavy. Yet today stretches the envelope. Luckily, barely, the envelope doesn’t break. At dawn the ocean looks and feels ominous. A major spike is hitting Buoy One seven hours west — 10 feet at 25 seconds — but that’s a way off yet. Some sort of new swell, unpredicted, is running ahead of the bigger energies to come. Off-The-Wall is wobbly, Pipeline pretty awful. Joel Parkinson goes out for a warmup, catches a wave and smacks one finger of his right hand into a camera housing, and comes in bleeding. “Idiot!” he says. “Well, at least it’s not bad or nothing.”

It’s that sort of day. The guinea-pig heat is delayed until 9:45 am to give the tide a chance. But the ocean doesn’t want to know. It’s got a jumbled, dangerous look made worse by the absolute glassiness; such a pretty scene shouldn’t be so vicious. Waves pile in on top of each other like linebackers. Parko’s mate Mick Fanning barely catches a wave, yet wins his heat with a comic 6.6/20. “Pumping out there!” he says sarcastically.

Randy Rarick is in his domain, inside the bowels of the judging tower. Every now and then his walkie-talkie squawks — each squawk another of the event director’s tiny problems. Randy is thinking about his big problem: getting through the day. “I know, I don’t like it either,” he says. “But it’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. This isn’t even The Swell yet; when that fills in it might get good for a while. Might get too big, too. “But there’s nothing really great on the way. And we’ve gotta get going.”

The wind blows for a while from the north. It’s almost onshore and it’s not pretty. Taylor Knox, fighting for his WCT spot, bulldozes himself through a dramatic backside tube. Somehow he drives past the logical limit of the tube, clinging to a line even in the middle of eight feet of foam. Does everything but make it. “I wanted to give myself a chance,” he says later. “You can’t get through unless you take off.” Rodrigo Dornelles acts on the same impulse and it nearly ruins him for life in a spectacular, almost unbelievable wipeout, during which a backwash hangs him in midair for a wrenching split second. {{{CJ}}} surfs with a lot of judgment, ignoring the big out-of-control ones and picking a good wave both ways, Back- and Frontdoor.

“I try to avoid that stuff,” he says of the decision to run today. “It just gets me down.” Steering clear of it, he can concentrate.

On the way in across Off-The-Wall, the reef sucks dry around him.