No-one imagined that the kid from New York would steal the show, unscathed. On taking the heat from Kalani Chapman with a perfect 10 he said, "Yeah, that definitely wasn't supposed to happen."
Stack was up against one of Pipeline's most respected riders, Kalani Chapman, and a pair of rising Hawaiian stars in Granger Larson, 21, and Tonino Benson, 22. He had a nail-biting start; skittling to the bottom of his first ride on his stomach, and following up with a short tube-ride that almost knocked him off. But none of his challengers were fairing much better in the rogue lineup and Stack surprisingly took a slim lead.
"It's what I've always wanted - to have a heat out there in pumping waves," said Stack. "I just thought that if the wave came, I was going, if not, I'll regret it forever. I knew the waves were firing and there were only three other guys out. That never happens, so I was just hoping I would get a wave. The stars aligned. I got one.
Then with three minutes to go, a huge A-frame peak pushed through and Balaram, sitting deepest, swung and stroked over the ledge. He dropped weightlessly, set the rail of his surfboard on edge and pulled up into a gaping, hollow barrel, arms outstretched. When he exited in a plume of spray and whitewater, he was standing casually with hands held behind his back... in disbelief.