Who could ask for anything more? After a year-long dogfight, the ASP World Title score was settled today in blazing conditions at the Billabong Pipeline Masters, and best of all, that's not the only story of the day. In fact, where do you want to start? How about with Kelly Slater's 5'11" freak machine? Or what about Dane Reynolds charging bombs? "There were a few big ones out there," he says. And then there was Florida's fabulous Hobgood brothers, and the unlikey Flynn Novak. No matter how you sliced it, there was intrigue around every Backdoor corner. The quarterfinals are set for tomorrow, there are four hours of surfing left in the 2009 season, and you can bet your booties Mick Fanning's going to be watching it all unfold with a coldie in his hand.
Billabong Pipeline Masters Quarterfinal Lineup:
QF 1: Dean Morrison (AUS) vs. Damien Hobgood (USA)
QF 2: Flynn Novak (HAW) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
QF 3: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Taj Burrow (AUS)
QF 4: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Dane Reynolds (USA)
4:19 p.m. HST: Dayyan Neve may have lost to Taj Burrow, but the day wasn't a total loss. He caught the biggest Backdoor barrel of his life today.
"It was so big, I thought I was too deep. I actually didn't go wide enough and I had to slow myself down to get deeper," he huffed excitedly. Even after just loosing in the Pipe Masters, a ride like that is enough to make a WCT surfer breathless with stoke.
4:19 p.m. HST: Jamie O'Brien isn't the only one paddling out. Surfers have been sitting like hungry dogs waiting to get a crack at epic Pipe when the last heat is over. Among those heading out right now is Mr. Rob Machado.--JC
4:05 p.m. HST: "If it can't kill you it's not that interesting, but this is pretty good," adds Ross Clarke-Jones. --JH
4:05 p.m. HST: "I can't believe I'm not in this contest anymore," says Jamie O'Brien from the beach. "The waves are absolutely going off, and all these out-of-towners are getting way too much practice. I can't even watch. It makes me cry. But I'm going out immediately after this thing's over."
You know if O'Brien's saying such things the waves at Pipe are pumping. And they are. All day long it's been going off. From the multitude of 10-point rides to the conclusion of the world title, there's been no shortage of excitement. Slater's blown minds on his 5'11", Dane Reynolds stepped up and proved himself worthy at Pipe, and everybody else, from grizzled vets to loose wildcards, it's been a day to remember. 10-point rides are still dropping.--JH
3:52 p.m. HST: There's no rest for the weary. With five minutes to go, CJ Hobgood is in good position to continue Joel Parkinson's drama. Parkinson may have lost the world title this afternoon, but he's still leading the Triple Crown rankings. Hobgood is the only surfer remaining in the event who can steal the title from Parkinson. But Hobgood drew an injured Phil MacDonald, who is struggling to paddle with some sort of left arm injury, and Hobgood is comfortably in the lead.--JH
3:23 p.m. HST: Kelly Slater vs. Freddy Pattachia was one of the heats of the day. Slater started out by comboing his Quiks teammate. Seemed like everyone was looking at Pipe and Slater shot for Backdoor. He threaded an impossible three sections and then launched a six-foot alley oop. Had he even tried to land it, that would have been Pipe history.
Pattachia was not deterred. Freddy just won't lay down and die on his home turf. He made two Pipe barrels in a row to come within 2.6 points, but still lost to the defending world champ.--JC
3:11 p.m. HST: Just had a quick talk with Flynn Novak following his advancement to the quaterfinal. I made a comment about the amount of media he's dealing with since making this Pipe Maseters run.
"Oh man, I never did five interviews in a row before. But it's not just interviews -- congratulations, autographs, girls having their pictures taken -- it's nuts. But I'll take it," he added."--JC
2:47 p.m. HST: The North Shore is going to be partying hard tonight ... or at least everybody but the Billabong house. I just walked up the beach next to Bong president Graham Stapelberg and it was kind of like walking next to Darth Vader. The darkside of the force was strong. It has to hurt for the Billabong support staff, Parkinson's came so close, then suffered that critical ankle injury, and then the wheels came off. --JC
2:07 p.m. HST: Mick Fanning is enjoying his new world title, but it might be a little bittersweet for a few reasons. First off, he had to take it from fellow Coolangatta kid, Joel Parkinson. Second, he was just eliminated from the Pipe Masters by another Cooly kid, in Dean Morrison.--JC
1:33 p.m. HST: Congratulations Mick Fanning, but the show must go on. The surfer formerly known as John John Florence may be changing his name. Word from the Vans camp is that the Florence family has decided that he may have outgrown that "nom de grom." Apparently, he was John J. Florence for a few minutes this morning, but it seems that will know simply be John Florence.
No matter what you call him, the kid is killing it. He just pulled into a Pipe cavern and broke his stick.--JC
1:33 p.m. HST:So what, now does Fanning go on to win the Pipe Masters now too? It's one of the only prizes that he hasn't won.--JH
1:25 p.m. HST:"It actually did cross my mind about 100,000 times actually," says Gavin Gillette, who just played the roll of spoiler. Amazing conclusion to an amazing year.--JH
1:20 p.m. HST: Game, set, match. Mick Fanning is your 2009 ASP World Champion. Parkinson took a header off the last wave available in heat 16 and that was that. Fanning, already in the water for heat 1 of Round 4, immediately paddled to Parkinson and consoled his good friend while Parkinson congratulated his. What a moment.--JH
1:13 p.m. HST: Spoke a bit soon, there. Gillette finally pulled together a monster, earning a 9.03 and leaving Parkinson needing a 6.54 to catch up. To say the intensity has gone up a few notches would be like saying there are some good waves at Pipeline today.--JH
1:03 p.m. HST: Good news, surf fans: Dane Reynolds did arrive and made it into the water for his heat with Kekoa Bacalso. Meanwhile, Gavin Gillette -- otherwise known as Mick Fanning's current best friend -- is trying his best to derail Parkinson's world title hopes and getting hammered in the process. He's already eaten reef on two potential 10-point bombs, and we're wondering how his head is still connected to his neck at this point.--JH
12:40 a.m. HST: Well, Dorian probably should have earned a 10 for that first Backdoor barrel, but Hobgood should have earned a 20 for his Pipe pit. That was the biggest barrel of the day, likely the event, and it kept the Triple Crown battle with Parkinson alive.--JH
12:28 a.m. HST: Very big heat here in regards to the Triple Crown. CJ Hobgood is taking on Shane Dorian (who broke the ice with a 9.87.) If Dorian wins, the Vans Triple Crown belongs to Joel Parkinson and the party in Coolangata, Australia will commence (as if it hasn't already.)--JC
12:22 a.m. HST: In the last heat, South Africa's Jordy Smith need a 7. With merely seconds remaining, he took off on a Backdoor wave and decided there was no way out. He kicked out and his season is over. But after a dissapointing rookie year, Smith had a solid 2009. --JC
11:53 a.m. HST: The waves continue to improve. "It's always better at 11:00," Pipe charger Randal Paulson once told me. And he's right. The offshore winds kick up a little and help the tubes feather a little more, and the light absolutely pops after the sun climbs over the Pupukea hills. Three tens in one morning, that's how good the surf is.
Bruce Irons is in a pickle. Kieren Perrow's ten (which should have been an 11) has Irons flustered. A huge set just steamed through, Irons went left but didn't come out. The beach was absolutely silent, everybody held their breathe. Then a group moan echoed up and down the sand. --JH
11:35 a.m. HST: Just how exciting is this title race?
Well, to give you an idea, Dave Rastovich is sitting on the edge of his (recyled plastic) seat over at the Billabong House. Rastovich, who put competitive surfing behind him to be the most high profile freesurfer in the world is very interested in the outcome of this event. Though his life work is more focused on saving whales and dolphins from slaughter than points and championships, when I asked if he was interested in the comp, his reply was, "Of course I am. I grew up with Joel (Parkinson.)"
He's watching every wave of every heat.--JC
11:35 a.m. HST: Quick notes: Kieren Perrow just posted the third perfect 10 of the day, and has Hawaiian Roy Powers comboed. Also, the mysterious Dane Reynolds has yet to check in at the registration trailer. Where is that dude?--JC
11:14 a.m. HST: Slater caught a Backdoor barrel that was so deep, the webcast commentators had to watch the replay nearly frame by frame to determine whether or not he could have made it. When they realized that it was, in fact, Slater's head that appeared at the last possible moment before everything went blooey, they couldn't believe it. After the heat was over, Slater was visibly limping his way back up the beach. On the webcast interview, he admitted that the wave gave him the worst thrashing he's had on the Pipe reef in a long, long time. And while he didn't sound hurt, he certainly looked it as he limped away.--JH
10:45 a.m. HST: How vital are barrels to judges at Pipe? Freddy Patachia followed Slater's 9.9 at Backdoor barrel with a long one of his own. He even added a backside gouge to his wave. But because he wasn't in quite as long as Slater, he got a 9.17. No worries though, he'll take it. Patachia goes to Round 4.--JC
10:40 a.m. HST: Hawaiian boy, Hank Gaskell won the Xcel Pro at Sunset in early November. The win was worth more than points for Gaskell, as he was dropped by his sponsor early this year. Now he's out in front of the world, posting a perfect 10 against Kelly Slater -- without a sticker on his board.--JC
10:34 a.m. HST: Whenever 9-time champ Kelly Slater shows up, all eyes turn. These days, the question is inevitably, "What is Kelly riding?" Is it the Deep 6 that he rode last year? A 5'3 quad? A garbage can lid?
Kelly just walked by a few minutes ago with a four-fin pintail, the shortest board ridden thus far. He went out and put it into a Backdoor tube for a 9.9 and then a 9.43 on a cranking Pipe barrel. Guess it works.--JC
10:04 a.m. HST: The intrigue continues, Mick Fanning will face childhood friend Dean Morrison in the next round. Talk about putting your mate in an weird position. When Fanning, Morrison, and Parkinson came onto the scene they were known as the "Coolie Kids" because they all grew up together in Coolengatta, Australia. And now, in a way, Morrison is the man standing in the middle of of the world title race between his two friends. --JH
9:53 a.m. HST: Is Kelly here? No, that's just John John Florence. He just posted the event's first perfect 10, threading three sections of a freight train Backdoor barrel in smoking 2006 ASP Rookie of the Year, Bobby Martinez. Martinez had a solid heat and a drawn out bottom turn to dramatic Pipe tube, but Florence is just out of his head right now. Martinez was visibly peaved, returning his jersey and bolting without comment. Florence is getting the rock star treatment.--JC
9:23 a.m. HST: Why the heck was Adriano De Souza late for his heat? He was in the backyard of the Oakley house an hour ago. I saw him waxing his board at least 45 minutes ago. I don't know how he could have been late. But then you never know with pro surfers, they're an unusual breed.
In other news, John John Florence is in the process of humbling Bobby Martinez. The 17-year-old is making a strong case as to why so many consider him a contender at this contest. He just posted the first and only ten-point ride of the event thus far. Bobby's toast, this kid's so dangerous. --JH
8:53 a.m. HST: One of the coolest things about surfing is the way we respect our legends. Gerry Lopez is quietly watching the action today from Ehukai Beach Park. Lopez was an absolute pioneer at Pipeline, dedicating himself to deep tube riding at this dangerous wave in the single-fin era. It's an honor to see him here.--JC
8:50 a.m. HST: Big Vans Triple Crown implications right now: Mick Fanning has Torrey Meister comboed at the moment (17.- 6.26.) Meister came into today fourth place in the Triple Crown standings. If he loses right now, which seems probable, and CJ Hobgood fails to advance, Joe Parkinson will clinch the $50,000 Triple Crown title without so much as waxing his board today. The Pipe Masters and World title, however, are still on the line.--JC
8:35 a.m. HST: A few early sound bites:
"Amazing," is how Aamion Goodwin describes the conditions today. "It's beautiful."
"It's only going to get better when the wind comes up a little," says Ian Walsh.
"I can't wait," adds Adriano De Souza, who hits the water in heat 5.
All that being said, if Parko's to win the world title he needs to win the contest and Mick has to finish third or worse. That's a tall order considering neither has ever won here. --JH
8:21 a.m. HST: Heat 1, Adrian "Ace" Buchan started the day with a true Pipeline barrel for a 4.17, but then took a brutal freefall at Backdoor. Dean "Dingo" Morrison leads the heat having notched an 8. Mick Fanning just paddled out. He is in the non-priority heat right now, as the Pipe Masters is running the dual heat format.--JC
8:17 a.m. HST: Well, we are on here. Sets are easily ten foot and absolutely perfect.
When you look down the Round 3 Match-Ups, nearly everyone has the potential to be a barn burner. According to the ASP statisticians, if Fanning advances to Round 4, Parkinson needs a third place or better to take the world title. --JC
8:05 a.m. HST: More west swell filling in through the day, this means more proper Pipe waves. It's gonna be some kind of fun. --JH