Bodyboarding fans all around the world are waiting in anticipation for the start of the second ever Mike Stewart Pipeline Invitational which kicks off the professional bodyboarding world tour season.
Lots of the main men and women who were kicking ass at Pipeline last year like Jessica Becker, Jacob Romero, Lewy Finnegan and Pierre Louis Costes and Ayaka Suzki are back again this year eager for more. And with the initial forecast of the waiting period looking promising, the high level of action from Men, Women and Junior divisions from last season looks in danger of being eclipsed. Oh, and let's not forget: DK ain't dead. Dave Hubbard, DK Pipe Champ, you are a freak.
I recently caught up with event title sponsor Mike Stewart ahead of the opening of the contest waiting period on February 26th to get his view on the bodyboarding battle that is about to commence.
Shambles: The Mike Stewart Pipeline invitational was a new event format rolled out last year, how did it go?
MS: It went well actually. It’s an opportunity for great riders that aren’t on the tour to mix it up with the world's best tour competitors. The match up typically involves the very best riders going at it, trying to out do one another. When everyone comes together from all parts of the world there is a great synergy that occurs and I think it is very healthy for the sport.
Last year's event was characterised by pumping surf, insane riding, high end highlights reels and charging by some real characters from the sport of bodyboarding. Can we expect more of the same this year?
Everything is set up for a great event so long as the forecast holds there should be some crazy next level action again.
Last year's contest was won by PLC, arguably the best rider in the world at that time, and he went on to become world champion. How important is the Pipe event on the world tour?
I think Pipeline is the critical proving ground for all wave riders. While it's not easy, you can certainly win a world title without surfing Pipe but you can never win the respect that comes with winning Pipe without actually going and winning it.
Ultimately, a rider's reputation is based on his technical ability in technical conditions. Pipe is still a relevant benchmark for this.
The Hawaiian bodyboard scene seems to be one of the most well-organised and competitive scenes on the planet. Can we expect a few new faces at this year's event?
The tour has an incredible group of legends behind the scenes making it all happen, and it runs very smoothly. Most of the founding fathers of bodyboarding are involved. Keith Sasaki, Kavan Okamura, Pat Caldwell, Ben Severson, Dean Marzol, Shane Lono.
There are a few great riders coming out of the tour that you may or may not have heard of. Sammy Morretino is leading the pack.
After retiring in the top ten last year, will it feel weird not competing yourself at the Pipe event?
I am not sure where anyone got the notion of retirement. I have no idea when this will happen. This topic seems to come up every year for the last twenty [laughs}.
Haha, that is a problem only you and Kelly Slater suffer from. I am really interested in your long association with the Pipeline contests. How many Pipe titles had you won by the time you were my age (31)?
I am not sure actually. If you add up all the bodysurfing and bodyboarding titles it would have to be somewhere over twenty.
I know it might be hard, but of the numerous Pipe bodyboard events you have witnessed is it possible to pick some highlights?
Actually watching the finals (or better yet competing in the finals) every year are usually my highlights. The technical riding just seems to rise at this break every year.
Thanks for your time Mike, I hope the contest goes great. Mahalo.
Editors note: What Shambles failed to mention to you is that he himself has been handed an invite to this year's Pipe Invitational where he'll face up against the APB's very best. And right now the forecast is looking pretty fine for the first couple of days. You can support Shambles on his Hawaiian excursion HERE and keep up to date with the event, (set to start Sunday) HERE.