The 2015 World Title intensified with the sounding of the first horn at the Billabong Pipe Masters. A historic six surfers were in contention at the beginning of the event, but after Day 1, only two are safely into Round 3.
News broke in the morning that World No. 5 Owen Wright (AUS) had withdrawn due to injury. Then three Title contenders were relegated to the first elimination round: Adriano de Souza (BRA) was the first to fall, defeated by Michel Bourez (PYF) when he couldn't find a backup score for his midrange barrel ride. Filipe Toledo (BRA) missed the mark by fractions of a point in his faceoff with Pipe specialist Jamie O'Brien (HAW) and Julian Wilson (AUS) fell victim to a huge score by Kai Otton in their Round 1 bout.
De Souza and Toledo will now have to take on two deadly wildcards, Jack Robinson (AUS), who won the Pipe Invitational, and Bruce Irons (HAW), who won the event in 2001. Wilson will face Wade Carmichael (AUS), who is currently leading the race for the Triple Crown. Only Mick Fanning (AUS) and Gabriel Medina (BRA) have secured spots in Round 3.
Fanning lived up to the hype, advancing directly into Round 3 in the Jeep Leader yellow jersey thanks to the event's first ride in the nine-point range. With both the right and the left pumping, Fanning dropped into Backdoor for a lengthy tube ride and a clean escape for a 9.43.
The World Title race narrowed by one when news broke that Owen Wright (AUS) had suffered a concussion during a freesurfing session. That meant calling in Mason Ho (HAW), who finished third in the Pipe Invitational, to fill in the gap in the draw. And Ho did much more than that: He won his Round 1 heat against Jadson Andre (BRA) and Dusty Payne (HAW) and lightened the mood with a classic Mason post-heat interview:
Competing in the final event of his career, C.J. Hobgood (USA) put it all on the line in Round 1. He pulled into a thick barrel and disappeared from sight until flying out between two closeout sections for a Perfect 10.
Don't miss the continuation of the Billabong Pipe Masters LIVE on the World Surf League through December 20.