NewsJoan Duru

Billabong Pipe Masters: Strategies Shift in Tricky Conditions

After four straight lays days, the Billabong Pipe Masters resumed with high hopes for a full day of competition. The morning opened with promise, featuring overhead, crossed up peaks bouncing between the various lineups at Off-The-Wall, Backdoor and Gums. Unfortunately, both swells faded early and after just three completed heats, Commissioner Kieren Perrow wisely chose to pull the plug and get back after it tomorrow.

Post Show Report: Round One Done at Billabong Pipe Masters
18:04
Rookie of the Year race takes center stage on a short day in Hawaii.

With a tricky forecast in the cards for the remainder of the event window, the Commissioner's office was interested first and foremost in closing out the remaining three heats of Round One. A World Title hangs in the balance, combined with the fact that two of the final four Title contenders -- Gabriel Medina and Julian Wilson -- lead off the two of the first three heats of Round Two.

Yet, despite the abbreviated day, there were a number of outstanding performances and a tightly contested 2017 Rookie of the Year race was showcased before an excitable Pipe crowd. Plus, Ace Buchan won the opening heat essentially on the back of the highest scored wave of the morning -- an 8.00.

Connor O'Leary Makes Late Charge
8:34
The Rookie of the Year contender makes a late push against Joel Parkinson and Leonardo Fioravanti in Round One win.

"It was kind of crazy because Seabass [Sebastian Zietz] was surfing Gums, I was surfing Backdoor and Ian [Gouveia] was surfing Off-The-Wall," said Buchan. "I've never really had a heat out here like that. One year when Bede [Durbidge] won, we were surfing Backdoor and Off-The-Wall, but it's completely different to what you usually think of but that's the tour, you gotta be ready for everything."

Following Ace's win, the rookies took front and center stage.

Connor enjoys his first rounf victory wuth some fans. Connor O'Leary after his Round One win. WSL / Steve Sherman

The chase for the Rookie of the Year title has boiled down to No. 13 Frederico Morais, No. 14 Connor O'Leary and No. 17 Joan Duru. Duru is still mathematically in the hunt (he trails O' Leary by 4,300 points), but he's already seeded into Round Two and is one heat shy of being cut adrift from the two leaders.

In his Round One heat, O'Leary, who trails Morais by 1,200 points, essentially came back to beat Joel Parkinson and fellow rookie Leo Fioravanti with a left at Gums, the sandbar that sit just north of the reef at Pipeline.

Italo Ferreira of Brazil advances directly to Round Three of the 2017 Billabong Pipe Masters after winning Heat 1 of Round One at Pipe, Oahu, Hawaii, USA Italo Ferreira brought his usual brand of fire to the lineup on Saturday. WSL / Kelly Cestari

"It's really tricky out there," O'Leary commented. "I wouldn't have thought that I'd be surfing Gums in my very first Pipe Masters, but a win is a win and I'll take it. My game plan was to stay away from Backdoor because it's so tricky and you really didn't know which waves were good or which waves were bad so thought I'd have a heat at Gums and surf by myself and hopefully get a couple."

Unfortunately for Morais, he succumbed to a rampaging Italo Ferreira in their heat. Ferreira looked revved up and keen to bolster both his qualification hopes via the CT as well as throw a monkey wrench into the Rookie of the Year race in the third and final heat of the round, and the day. Ferreira stood up multiple hammers including a wild frontside 360 and a near-miss b/s 540 at the Backdoor peak. Ferreira's advancement bodes well for the surfers on the Qualifying Series bubble, including Michael Rodrigues and Pat Gudauskas.

Itlao wins round one . No. 25-ranked Ferreira is looking like a good candidate to double qualify after his Round One win at Pipe. WSL / Steve Sherman

"I've had a lot of good moments here in Hawaii," Ferreira said. "I got a good result in Haleiwa and Sunset too. Now it's Pipe and I'm so happy to compete in this event again. It's special, I'm sponsored by Billabong. I'm so happy to compete with Mick [Fanning] and all the guys. It's always hard when the guys push a lot, I'm so happy."

Other noteworthy news of the day includes Stu Kennedy choosing to bow out of his Round Two heat against No. 6 Matt Wilkinson due to a knee injury, which occurred during a free-surf at Sunset Beach. Wilko will get a walk-through straight into Round Three, where he'll face a surfer to be determined once Round Two is done.

With Round One of the Billabong Pipe Masters complete, four still surfers remain in contention to clinch the title: reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW) who leads the rankings, Gabriel Medina (BRA), Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Julian Wilson (AUS). Florence will win his second WSL Title if he makes the Final at Pipeline.

World Title Scenarios going into the Billabong Pipe Masters:
*- If Florence gets 1st or 2nd at Pipe he will clinch the World Title;

  • If Florence gets a 3rd, Medina will need a 1st at Pipe to win the World Title;
  • If Florence gets a 5th, Medina will need a 1st at Pipe to win the World Title;
  • If Florence gets a 9th, Medina will need a 2nd, Smith a 1st;
  • If Florence gets a 13th or 25th, Medina will need a 5th, Smith a 2nd and Wilson a 1st*

When competition resumes, Medina -- the 2014 WSL Champion -- and Wilson, the 2014 Pipe Masters winner, will need to battle their way out of elimination Round Two in order to keep their World Title hopes alive.

Surfline, the official forecaster for the Billabong Pipe Masters, are calling for:

Older NNW swell leftovers and short period NE swell mix offers contestable surf on Saturday as wind lightens considerably from the past few days. A fun-size, new NW swell is on track to build Sunday, with a peak late Sunday through Monday and variable southerly swell. A final NNW swell looks progressively likely for Tue-Wed, although wind may trend onshore/N again.

Billabong Pipe Masters Remaining Round One Results:
Heat 10: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 10.83, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.60,Ian Gouveia (BRA) 8.43
Heat 11: Connor O'Leary (AUS) 12.04, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 11.13, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 8.44
Heat 12: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.90, Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.80, Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.27

Billabong Pipe Masters Round Two Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Ethan Ewing (AUS)
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Benji Brand (HAW)
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Stuart Kennedy (AUS)
Heat 5: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 6: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 7: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 8: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)
Heat 10: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 11: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)

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