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Young Guns Rule Round One of Volcom Pipe Pro

As the old saying goes, "The show must go on," so the show did today at an out-of-sorts looking Pipeline for Round One of the Volcom Pipe Pro. Indeed, while we're normally used to seeing a gussied-up, glittery Pipe blowing its guts out into the channel -- courtesy of a large west-northwest-angled swell -- today was quite the opposite and a field of largely Hawaiian-bred surfers had to adjust.

What happened to Pipeline, you might ask? Well, a series of XL-sized, northeast-angled swells have bombarded the shoreline, pushing more than a few bucket-loads of sand back onto the reef. Thus, a large sandbar has formed from Pupukea to Rockpile and disguised Pipe's unforgettable visage…but, the show must go on.

Tyler Newton during the last chance qualifier, day one of the WSL Volcom Pipe Pro Tyler Newton holds onto a particularly dredgy Backdoor mutant. WSL / Tony Heff

Yes, Round One saw 4-to-6-foot-plus, sand-bottomed, below-sea-level righthanders creating a 200 yard-wide playing field that competitors had to negotiate. And while a majority of Round One competitors repped the Hawaii flag after their names, the majority of heat winners were one or both of two things: Young, and/or Oahu-locals.

Like 15-year-old North Shore grommet Wyatt McHale, who won his Round One heat by sneaking in a gorgeous Backdoor sand pit with less than a minute and a half left. The youngest surfer in the entire event, McHale earned a sturdy 8.5 for his efforts, plus yet another chance to prove himself to the men in Round Two.

Wyatt McHale during day one of the WSL Volcom Pipe Pro 15-year-old North Shore local, Wyatt McHale, in route to his Round One win at the Volcom Pipe Pro. WSL / Keoki Saguibo

"It was some interesting conditions for sure," chuckled Koa Rothman, a North Shore local who arguably caught the wave of the winter out at Pipe a few weeks prior. "I'd catch a 2-foot wave, kick out and then an 8-foot slab would be coming at me. Today, you were just paddling the whole time, trying to avoid getting pounded.

"I started off being too selective, but then paddled back out and got pounded all the way to Rockpiles [laughs]. You're either getting a 2- or an 8-point ride; nothing in between out there."

Koa Rothman advances through heat 3 round one of the WSL Volcom Pipe Pro Koa Rothman, not long before a 100-yard flogging. WSL / Tony Heff

Others, like the North Shore's Ezra Sitt, took advantage of the curious northeast angle and sandbar, transferring past sessions from Sunset and Rockies to heat strategy.

Ezra Sitt wins heat 4 round one of the WSL Volcom Pipe Pro Those gems that Ezra Sitt was talking about - here's one of them. WSL / Tony Heff

"There's a few out there for sure," said Sitt. "I've actually surfed it like this a bunch. You just need to go out there and hope for the best and look for those hidden little gems."

Seth Moniz, a young winter standout and much-anticipated performer, won his Round One heat, but looks forward to a Pipeline wardrobe change. "This is pretty rare conditions and direction," said Moniz. "I just hope that the sand gets cleared out so we can surf classic Pipeline."

Kai Lennygoes down in heat 1 round one of the WSL Volcom Pipe Pro Maui's Kai Lenny didn't advance, but it's great to see the multi-board maestro give it hell with the rest of the class. WSL / Tony Heff

Regardless, Seth posted a 14.50-point heat-total -- the highest of the entire day -- and on a 5'9" shortboard, to boot.

While today's unique shade of deranged Kirra-style Pipeline was a novelty ride that the mostly young and/or local Hawaii surfers soldiered through, the field of competitors can look forward to a more normal-looking Pipe in Round Two as the swell swings more westerly.

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