The Men's Pipe Invitational is often called the most talent-laden trials event of the year, and that tradition continued to be true at the 2017 edition. Maui's Dusty Payne overcame a ridiculously talented list of Pipeline legends, locals and specialists to earn a wildcard spot in the Billabong Pipe Masters. For Payne, who's still recovering from back surgery, his win in the Final over Benji Brand, Seth Moniz and 2015 Pipe Invitational champ, Jack Robinson, must feel particularly sweet.
"I'm excited to be in the Pipe Masters, for every surf kid who grows up in Hawaii it's a dream event," said Payne. "It's a blessing to be here, it was a fun day and I'm super grateful the WSL gave us this opportunity."
The day opened with glassy, 6- to -8 foot crossed-up teepees, popping up with random frequency from Insanities to Gums, but attention was focused on the consistent A-frames detonating on the Pipe and Backdoor peaks. Early on, Outer Islanders Koa Smith and Hank Gaskell (who, if you haven't seen him in awhile, you probably wouldn't recognize) put on a show, posting the two highest-scoring rides of the morning with big, deep Backdoor tubes.
But when the Kona (light onshore) winds kicked in and the swell backed off around noon, Pipe became less menacing, resembling a fun day at Sumbawa's Lakey Peak. And as the conditions transitioned into more beach break-like conditions, the younger crew was able to adapt more quickly while the traditional favorites begin to fall to the wayside.
Big names, like former Pipe Masters Jamie O'Brien and Bruce Irons, current Triple Crown leader Griffin Colapinto, and North Shore favorites Mason Ho and Barron Mamiya, all went down in the early stages.
(Sidenote: If you ever doubt the influence of Andy Irons on the Millennial generation, try watching Robinson, Ethan Ewing and Colapinto surf some time. It'll set you straight real quick.)
While Payne is a well-known quantity, having spent five years on the Championship Tour, Brand is quite the opposite. The sole goofyfoot among the four finalists, he nipped Moniz for 2nd place inside the last five minutes of the Final, adding to an already impressive North Shore season.
The unassuming surfer, who splits his time between Capetown, South Africa, and the North Shore of Oahu, locked up the Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Qualifying Series overall title last week and had eye-opening performances at Haleiwa and Sunset.
"It feels pretty crazy, it's pretty unreal to make so many heats," said Brand. "I haven't won much the last few years, but it feels like luck's going my way. I'm trying to focus on the ocean or the people I'm surfing against rather results and try not to be intimidated. But it feels amazing. It feels pretty unreal to think I've got a heat against Gabriel Medina. Hopefully we can take down some big names."
With a promising forecast ahead, don't forget to check out the Billabong Pipe Masters as early as Sat., Dec. 9th at 7:30a.m. local time (9:30 PST).
Final Results, 2017 Pipe Invitational:
1 - Dusty Payne (HAW)12.00
2 - Benji Brand (HAW) 11.17
3 - Seth Moniz (HAW) 9.83
4 - Jack Robinson (AUS) 2.37
Pipe Invitational Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Benji Brand (HAW) 12.27, Dusty Payne (HAW) 11.83, Koa Smith (HAW) 9.10, Billy Kemper (HAW) 5.90
SF 2: Seth Moniz (HAW) 11.07, Jack Robinson (AUS) 10.44, Finn McGill (HAW) 4.20, Hank Gaskell (HAW) 0.77
Pipe Invitational Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Dusty Payne (HAW) 8.67, Koa Smith (HAW) 8.37, Michael February (ZAF) 6.64, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 3.97
QF 2: Benji Brand (HAW) 10.84, Billy Kemper (HAW) 9.47, Nathan Florence (HAW) 7.94, Olamana Eleogram (HAW) 4.83
QF 3: Finn McGill (HAW) 9.83, Hank Gaskell (HAW) 7.10, Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 3.97, Makai McNamara (HAW) 1.93
QF 4: Jack Robinson (AUS) 13.50, Seth Moniz (HAW) 10.50, Shane Dorian (HAW) 2.87, Keoni Yan (HAW) 2.74
Pipe Invitational Round One Results:
Heat 1: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 11.83, Billy Kemper (HAW) 7.17, Isaiah Moniz (HAW) 6.17, Reef Heazlewood (AUS) 4.83
Heat 2: Dusty Payne (HAW)13.33, Benji Brand (HAW) 12.10, Luke Shepardson (HAW) 9.77, Koa Rothman (HAW) 6.64
Heat 3: Nathan Florence (HAW) 11.00, Koa Smith (HAW) 10.50, Joshua Moniz (HAW) 7.37, Ian Walsh (HAW) 3.77
Heat 4: Olamana Eleogram (HAW) 13.33, Michael February (ZAF) 7.76, Mikey Bruneau (HAW) 3.07, Cody Young (HAW) 2.60
Heat 5: Makai McNamara (HAW) 10.60, Shane Dorian (HAW) 9.50, Mason Ho (HAW) 8.84, Keanu Asing (HAW) 4.60
Heat 6: Hank Gaskell (HAW) 16.83, Keoni Yan (HAW) 8.36, Barron Mamiya (HAW) 7.93, Imaikalani DeVault (HAW) 2.54
Heat 7: Seth Moniz (HAW) 11.17, Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 8.17, Kiron Jabour (HAW) 5.80, Bruce Irons (HAW) 0.20
Heat 8: Jack Robinson (AUS) 14.34, Finn McGill (HAW) 6.84, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 6.33, Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 4.80
Upcoming Billabong Pipe Masters Round One Matchups:
Heat 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS), Conner Coffin (USA), Stuart Kennedy (AUS)
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Ethan Ewing (AUS)
Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Benji Brand (HAW)
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 7: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 8: Kolohe Andino (USA), Joan Duru (FRA), Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 9: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF), Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 10: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Connor O'Leary (AUS), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS), Frederico Morais (PRT), Italo Ferreira (BRA)