Ryan Hipwood wasn't on the original heat roster for the Pe'ahi Challenge. The Australian charger earned his spot on the alternate list the hard way, dedicating himself to tracking and chasing swells all over the world for the past decade. In that time he's been spotted at every psycho wave on the planet, from Shipsterns Bluff and Teahupoo to Pe'ahi, Pipeline and a bevy of mutant slabs in Western Australia. He's been a two-time finalists at the Big Wave Awards.
So on Friday when Grant "Twiggy" Baker couldn't get to Maui in time for his heat and Shane Dorian had to withdraw due to a back injury it was hardly surprising that Hipwood suited up and ready to make the most of his opportunity...and boy did he.
In Round One he advanced aside Ian Walsh and Kai Lenny, edging Pedro Calado, Trevor Carlson and Nic Lamb. That put him into Semifinal No. 2, which is is already being called the best Big Wave Tour heat of all time. Hipwood shared the lineup with an all-star cast of characters, including Jamie Mitchell, Kai Lenny, Ian Walsh, Albee Layer and Brazilian hard-charger Lucas Chianca.
Pe'ahi put on its prettiest face for the hour-long heat, producing pristine walls of water that looked like glassy eight story aquariums. The battle featured multiple lead changes as one bomb after another detonated on the reef. Hipwood was the first surfer to bag a 10-point ride with a perfectly ridden barrel. And while Ian Walsh would top it with what's just might be the best barrel ever ridden at Jaws, Hipwood was able to back his up with another solid score, giving him the heat win and a trip to the Finals.
Though he was injured during the Final, Hipwood's stock continues to spike. We should be seeing a lot more of him in Big Wave Tour events from here on out.