The top surfers in the world attested to perfect Pipe conditions today as each heat saw epic 8-10 foot waves at the Volcom Pipe Pro, a World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 rated event with a $100,000 prize purse, up to 3,000 valuable ratings points on offer and qualification into December's Pipe Invitational.
North Shore favorite and defending event champion John John Florence (HAW) posted the highest heat total of the day, a near perfect 18.84 for two cavernous Pipe waves. The 23-year-old competed against fellow Hawaii surfer Eala Stewart, New York's Balaram Stack and Italy's Leonardo Fioravanti.
"It was a really fun heat, I've been excited to watch it all day," said Florence."It's been slowly picking up since this morning, conditions are incredible. The whole day I was just like, ‘please stay the same, please stay the same.' Still light offshores, big, beautiful sunny barrels."
Kelly Slater (USA) had a tough heat against Chris Ward (USA), Gavin Beschen (HAW) and Yago Dora (BRA), but made it through to the fourth round in second place behind Wardo. The 11x World Champion won the Volcom Pipe Pro in 2014 and is eager for another win in the primer conditions.
"This is easily the best Pipe of the year, right now, the last couple hours, it's incredible," said Slater. "There's so many waves it's so hard to keep the adrenaline down and keep yourself calm. I actually got my first wave, which was a really good wave I think, but I was a little too deep and it kind of sucked me back. When it really opened up I was kind of eating it already. And then I came up and watched Wardo get barreled on a really good one and then I got like three on the head… kind of smashed me around so I didn't start the heat so good, but I had a couple backup waves. I wouldn't consider those very good waves out there but I got the scores to make it through and I think we're going to have really good conditions in the next couple days so nice to just have that chance."
Hawaiian charger Zeke Lau nailed the only perfect 10 of the event for an epic Backdoor wave to keep the lead over Dimitri Ouvre (BLM). With a combined heat total of 16.07, Lau advanced into Round 3 along with Ouvre, while Gavin Gillette (HAW) and Ian Walsh (HAW) were left without the score to progress.
"The ten felt great," said Lau. "I knew I was only looking for a small score so I was kind of just looking for a little corner to tuck in and of course the biggest right comes, I was like ‘oh god,' but it looked like a great wave so I just figured go for it. I pretty much just held on for dear life."
Jack Robinson (AUS), the teen who caused a sensation when he won the Pipe Invitational here in December, posted one of the higher heat totals of the day with a 9.00 and a 7.83. Robinson excels in conditions like these and has become a standout in big wave conditions along the North Shore.
In a nail biter heat, Bruce Irons (HAW) jumped from third place to first with just forty seconds left on the clock. Sitting on the Backdoor side, Irons pulled into one of the biggest right-hand barrels of the day and navigated an exit as an explosion of cheers erupted from the beach crowd. With a 9.40 score, Irons secured the heat win and a slot into Round 4.
"The conditions are as good as it gets," said the Kauai surfer. "It's definitely probably one of the best days of winter. Lefts, rights, 8-10 feet offshore, what more do you want?"
Koa Smith (HAW) edged out Derek Peters (USA) and Patrick Gudauskas (USA) and advanced in first ahead of Brent Dorrington (AUS) with just one ride, a 9.0. Slotted deep in a Pipeline left, Smith navigated the standing barrel for a clean exit.
"As soon as I paddled out, I watched four or five of the best waves I've seen all winter," said Smith. "Luckily I positioned myself correctly and that wave came in with ten seconds into the heat. I thought I was too deep for sure, but I was just like ‘ahh I'm just gonna go,' and it let me out. Ended up being in the perfect spot."
Olamana Eleogram (HAW) whipped up a 9.33 in the buttery morning conditions to secure a slot in Round 3. The Maui native broke his 6'5 Northern Alliance surfboard after getting two waves on the head, but was able to swap for a new one on the beach, paddle back out, and back up his excellent score with a 2.83 to advance in the lead ahead of fellow Maui surfer Kevin Sullivan (HAW).
Contest organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7am to determine if the Final day will take place. With more waves on the way, a Volcom Pipe Pro champion will likely be crowned by midday Tuesday or Wednesday.