And so it begins. The most revered event of the year, which sees world titles decided, 'CT spots secured, and shoulder sockets shattered. The world title protagonists didn't enter the water on day one of the Pipe Masters, however, there was no shortage of high quality sporting theatre.
As is to be expected with a draw teaming with unseeded Pipe specialists, the first day was dotted with little known standouts and big name exits. Backdoor was roaring by dawn, interspersed by the occasional Pipeline gem, and though the conditions and scoring potential fluctuated, there was generally ample opportunity for a well trained barrel hound.
The first tragic twist of the event came with the injury and early exit of Kieren Perrow. A former Pipe Master and devotee to Backdoor's hazardous rights, this was to be Perrow's last hurrah, his final contest as a 'CT surfer. However, instead of being carried triumphantly up the beach, he was loaded onto a quad bike with one arm dangling limply at his side. A dislocated shoulder is a sad, if not inappropriate, way for a renowned charger to bow out from competitive surfing.
As the tide sucked out and the wind dropped, conditions transformed from contestable to classic. Perhaps the standout of round one was Ryan Callinan, an Australian aerial aficionado who proved himself more than capable of navigating heaving Backdoor pits on his backhand. Those who couldn't resist picking Dane Reynolds for their Fantasy Surfer team were left dumbfounded by this nonchalant young charger who swept through with apparent ease.
"I had a free surf this morning, got one wave, and got dropped in on," said Callinan of his sole warm-up session at Pipe. "That was my first WCT heat and to have it against Dane was pretty special."
The majority of the day's highlights were arguably found in Round 2, with Seabass and Gabriel Medina stealing the show.
Medina paddled out in a lineup dominated by rights and succeeded in unearthing a succession of perfect Pipeline tubes. To further emphasise his brilliance, he launched a lofty alley-oop upon exiting one lengthy barrel and landed as if on a duck down cushion. The young Brazillian's aptitude at Pipeline was in little doubt before he paddled out, and to combo a Pipe veteran such as Bruce Irons only furthers his reputation .
“I got a little bit lucky,” Medina said. “I got three really good barrels and did the air at the end. I was watching the guys always getting big scores at backdoor and had them in my mind. Somehow, I found those lefts and that was such a fun heat. I’ve always watched Bruce (Irons) and I really respect him. To be surfing with him is a dream come true.”
I just dropped in and the foam-ball hit me and I was on one foot for a second. I put my foot down and was going the perfect speed to get barreled all the way through. That was just a perfect wave.Sebastian Zietz
Whether Medina will continue to find his beloved lefts is still to be seen. Round 3 will see him face off against another favourite John John Florence, in a battle of the baby-faced titans.
If best all-round performance went to Medina, the wave of the day was claimed by Sebastian Zietz. Last year's triple crown victor paddled out against the Round 1 standout Ryan Callinan, promptly slid under a thick Backdoor lip, rode the foamball and exited with the spit. A roar went up on the beach, mouthfuls of tea were sprayed, and a perfect score was awarded by the shadowy men in the tower.
“It was a dream start to the event,” Zietz said. “I got one little Pipe wave, paddled back out and it was nice having Ryan (Callinan) instead of one of the Hawaii boys. He let me pick apart the first half of that heat. He didn’t try and battle me too much. Bruce (Irons) looked at that wave and I don’t know what he was thinking. He probably should have gone because he probably could have got a 10 easily on it. I just dropped in and the foam-ball hit me and I was on one foot for a second. I put my foot down and was going the perfect speed to get barreled all the way through. That was just a perfect wave.”
A lay day has already been called for Monday, so contest organisers will reconvene tomorrow to make the call.