Billabong Pro Pipeline Masters: Day One

EVENTS HELD: Men's Round One
CONDITIONS: Three to four feet, inconsistent and trade-tattered
NATURE'S CALL: Good thing you're working double-time
PREDICTIONS: Group hugs and love beads

The highlight of yesterday's opening round of the Billabong Pipeline Masters didn't happen in the water - it happened on the beach. Mid-way through the day, as competitors tried to make something out of nothing, pulling into crumbly closeouts and exiting through doggy doors, six-time Triple Crown champ Sunny Garcia and Brazilian veteran Neco Padaratz played chicken. One went left, the other went right and they collided in a "something bad is about to happen" way. We saw them both tangled up, a lot of splashing, then Neco undoing his leash, jumping on the water patrol's sled and beelining to the beach. Sunny soon followed and, if it weren't for Sunny's fiance, Randy Rarick and a few other conscientious restrainers, it would have been a full-on Sunny smack down. "I did nothing!" yelled Padaratz before disappearing into the shadows. "It is a competition!" Meanwhile, UFC fighter Erik Apple paced the beach, looking for fiery Brazilians with tribal tattoos and multiple piercings. Sunny remained on edge in the competitor's area, and the rest of the crowd could only shake their heads. "I imagine the rest of Neco's stay in Hawaii isn't going to be too fun," deadpanned Parko.

Leave it to the Pipeline Masters - the last ASP World Tour event of the year - to bring the drama. It began even before the event started with the ongoing debate on format and "local slots." If you haven't noticed by now, Pipeline has always been the place to experiment since no one can agree on the best way to run a competition at the world's most challenging wave. We've seen man on man. Straight four-man heats. This year, it's a combination of the two with Kelly Slater's innovative format. We're still trying to get our heads around it ourselves, but here's how we think it goes: the first round consisted of 12 heats of 48 Foster's World Tour surfers plus a few wildcards. First from today's heats (plus a few high seconds) go straight to Round Four. Fourth (plus a few low thirds) go to Round Two to face the Hawaiian Pipe Specialists (qualified through the Monster Energy event) man on man. The remaining Seconds and Thirds go to Round Three to face the winners from Round Two. Got that? Good. Cause there's more.

Starting in Round Two, it will be man on man heats, but with four surfers in the water at the same time. Two surfers from the first heat get "first priority" for 15 minutes while the second two surfers get the scraps for 15 minutes, then, as two new surfers paddle out and the original two paddle in, the former guys with second priority now have first priority for 15 minutes. If you're still with us at this point, give yourself a medal. Because just writing it makes our heads spin. On top of that, there's some grumbling on how it all played out. On the Hawaiian specialist side, they think it's unfair they have to surf at least two more rounds than everyone else. On the ASP World Tour side, they think the concessions they've made to the Hawaiian specialists are more than enough. In fact, one prominent ASP representative let them know as much in a meeting and was allegedly "voted off the island."

Of course, the off-stage drama seems to be at its worst when conditions force us to divert our attention elsewhere. Which brings us back to Sunny, currently in contention for his seventh {{{Vans}}} Triple Crown title. Everyone wanted to see something happen on the beach after the Sunny collision - perhaps a little too much - but Sunny wisely relented. "It's all water under the bridge," he said later on. "He wanted to make heats to qualify and I wanted to make heats to pay my bills. But he knows better than that. If I had done that in Brazil, I wouldn't have made it off the beach alive."

The thing is, Brazil doesn't have a spot like Pipeline to wash all that aggression away. But we do. Now, if only that forecast would turn around...

Billabong Pro Round 1 Heat Results:
Heat 1: Andy Irons (HAW) 17.50, Cory Lopez (USA) 14.66, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.{{{90}}}, Tiago Pires (PRT) 4.03
Heat 2: Greg Emslie (ZAF) 12.60, Tim Reyes (USA) 9.73, Bobby Martinez (USA) 8.26, Leonardo Neves (BRA) 5.0
Heat 3: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.06, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 10.17, Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 8.43, Daniel Wills (AUS) 6.30
Heat 4: Gabe Kling (USA) 11.50, Luke Stedman (AUS) 11.34, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 5.90, Damien Hobgood (USA) 2.77
Heat 5: Laurie Towner (AUS) 11.{{{57}}}, Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.10, Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 8.00, Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 2.67
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.96, Kelly Slater (USA) 6.36, Royden Bryson (ZAF) 4.60, Kalani Chapman (HAW) 2.{{{80}}}
Heat 7: Bruce Irons (HAW) 9.50, T.J. Barron (HAW) 7.30, Taj Burrow (AUS)6.17, Chris Ward (USA) 1.38
Heat 8: Neco Padaratz (BRA) 7.50, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 5.87, Sunny Garcia (HAW) 4.96, Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 3.94
Heat 9: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 8.84, Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 7.50, Michael Campbell (AUS) 4.87, Michael Lowe (AUS) 3.60
Heat 10: Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.73, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 7.93, Luke Munro (AUS) 3.80, Taylor Knox (USA) 2.80
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.00, Victor Ribas (BRA) 8.86, Troy Brooks (AUS) 5.77, Kai Otton (AUS) 4.54
Heat 12: Dean Morrison (AUS) 11.67, Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 11.47, Dayyan Neve (AUS) 10.76, Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 8.87[Car Rentals provided by Advantage Rent A Car.

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