STAYING ALIVE: Day two of the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters.

Nathan Hedge needs to place either first or second in this event to retain his spot on the WCT tour. Yesterday, he barely stayed afloat by beating out Troy Brooks and Owen Wright, but today he's not looking so good. With just minutes left in the heat, Taj Burrow has the field firmly combo'd, and trailist Aamion Goodwin has a solid grip on second place. Only two will advance from this four-man heat. The sets come rolling in, perfect 8-footers A-framing up on the reef, but Aamion grabs the inside slot, rocks the shack and muscles through the foamy closeout on the inside for a high 8. There's just moments left as the Hedge-Hog strokes into one of Pipe's biggest waves of the day, skitters through the bottom turn, stands straight up in the tube and gets spat out into a realm of limitless possibilities. 9.9. It's just enough to stay alive.

"Stop doing that!" Hog's dad cries as he exits the beach. Nathan says nothing. He's just go this serious grin on his face as he slowly realizes that maybe all hope is not yet lost. He's definitely still in this thing.

That was today in a nutshell; just a half-day of Round Two, but enough to put us in striking distance to finish the event in one final push. Today was all about keeping the dream alive.

In fact, after the very same heat, Taj Burrow found out he was still in the running for the {{{Vans}}} Triple Crown title (along with Mick Fanning and Andy Irons). It's a bit of a long shot, but if Hog can pull a 9.9 in the final moment, then anything can happen. Unless you're his mate Parko, who earlier won the O'Neill Pro Sunset Beach, but just dropped out of contention when he found out what it was like to surf a heat with almost no waves. Not good. Sorry, Parko.

That was the first indication that maybe they should finish the round and call it a day (though, by the looks of the Fosters Expression Session, maybe they should have pushed on -- it was BOMBING out there). Maui-boy Ian Walsh had no trouble finding waves. He snapped back out of last place with two huge tunnels that ran all the way through the hair-ball sand-bar on the end section and combo'd everyone. Crazy stuff. Walshy was even surfing with a broken leash, but by the time he lost his board, he'd already won the heat.

Makuakai Rothman, just 22-years old, wasn't even born when Occy took 2nd here way back when. And with Rob Machado and Taylor Knox rounding out the heat, Rothman was able to out-surf some 55 year of contest experience. And two more 'CTs were sent packing by an unstoppable field of trailists (15 of 16 trialists advanced yesterday, and 13 remained at the end of today).

Speaking of trailists, Dustin Barca suffered the meanest wipeout of the event so far -- a crazy-huge freefall followed by a second trip over the falls -- then paddled right back out to edge out 2001 world champ Damien Hobgood for the win. Barca speaks softly, but carries a huge stick. And with guys like him, Tamayo Perry, Jamie {{{Sterling}}}, Jamie O'Brien, Kalani Chapman, Ian Walsh, Tory Barron, Makuakai Rothman, and Hank Gaskell all barreling towards the final rounds, with some seriously epic swell potential on the mid-week horizon, this may not stay a WCT event for very long. This one's going native, like, fast.

One day to go. More swell coming. It is so ON.