Day 4 of the Xbox/Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters Surf: Four to six feet N and NW, occasionally bigger, mostly clean trades
Events Held: All the way to the finish
Nature’s Call: Don’t go saying I’m like a Woman!
Predicted: The Luau to end all Luaus

Ten years ago Shane Dorian came to Pinetrees, Hanalei, Kauai and 13-year-old Andy Irons watched him in amazement from afar.

“I was trying my hardest surfing,” A.I. {{{recalls}}} these days, “just hoping he was checking me out! It was just a cool thing, Dorian hanging at MY spot.”

And Dorian remembers Pinetrees. “Vividly,” he says. “I wanted to hook up with him and I heard he wanted to go surfing with me. But I’d only been longbarding, and the surf was really small, and I’d also heard he ripped, and I didn’t wanna be shown up by this grommet!” Shane smiles gently, then looks around. Suddenly we’re in 2002 again, on the beach again, this time at Pipeline. Little Andy Irons, 24 years old and champion now of everything in sight, is somewhere up above the crowd on a buddy’s shoulders, having polished off one of the great pro surfing runs in the only way possible — with a win over his childhood hero.

A.I. is the world’s number one professional surfer. Today he does something no-one but Kelly Slater’s ever managed. But let’s go back to around 7:55 am today and the Big Heat that starts it all rolling.

People know about the Big Heat. Round three, heat five, Kelly Slater, Luke Egan, Bruce Irons, Taylor Knox. The Heat is on everyone’s lips, everyone’s minds. In the line at Starbuck’s. On the beach. On the Kam Highway where traffic is already stalled at 7:30. In the lineup, floppy north swell rights and occasional lefts do what they can to provide a canvas.

Kelly sets the pace: pumps and stalls through the first ride, a long Backdoor, and it earns him 9.7. He then heads to the left and pushes Bruce into an impossible ride, tempting him by paddling from the shoulder. Kelly prefers two-man heats, but he sure knows how to work the four-man. Taylor is almost flapped by Kelly’s first ride, but decides he’s not surrendering. Instead, fired up, he begins to string rides together — a quick left, then some deep rights. He’s got something fixed in his head; if a big A-frame peak comes to you, you go. He runs in second behind Slater, heads up to his hangout near the paddle-out zone, jumps in the shower to clean off. “I’m SO STOKED!!” comes from within the shower. With this heat, Taylor requalifies for the 2003 WCT.

Bruce can’t connect the dots. Luke gets close but it’s a Backdoor day today. He doesn’t like ending this year that way, and no wonder … later, this early elimination pushes him from second to third place on the WCT rankings.

The Big Heat’s tone becomes the tone of the event. Each heat has a couple of stars and a couple of victims, and each heat changes the world rankings by a place here and there.

Who’s impressive? Kieren Perrow is bloody impressive. It must be scary competing against Perrow in heavy surf; you’d know however much you push him, he’ll push right back. At least once in each round, he takes an insane wipeout purely to block an opponent. But he takes one too many blocking Slater and Knox.