- WSL / Steve Sherman
- WSL / Steve Sherman

Frederico Morais was awarded an injury replacement spot for this year's Billabong Pipe Masters on Thursday, giving him a much better chance of defending his lead in this year's race for the Vans Triple Crown. Thanks to that lead, the Commissioner's Office awarded him the main event seed left open by Alejo Muniz.

Frederico Morais winning Heat 12 of Round Two at the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, Hawaii today. Morais' incredible run up the QS ladder caught fire at the Hawaiian Pro. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

The 24-year-old from Cascais, Portugal has been on an incredible tear this season, bagging back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Hawaiian Pro and Vans World Cup.

He entered the final two Qualifying Series events ranked No. 28, well outside the Top 10 qualification cut.

He rocketed all the way to No. 10 during the Hawaiian Pro. After his second-straight finals appearance at the Vans World Cup, the last event on the QS calendar, he finished the season ranked No. 3. As a result he'll join next year's rookie class on the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour.

Frederico Morais during his Round Three heat. Morais is a proven performer in the big stuff. - WSL / Ed Sloane

While nobody thought Morais had a shot at qualifying heading into Hawaii, he hadn't given up. "I knew I could do well in Hawaii," said Morais. "I've done well here in the past, so I knew I could get a result. And I've been around long enough to know that the season isn't over until it's over."

Morais was the 2013 Vans Triple Crown Rookie of the Year. Three years later he's ready to make a run at the whole thing. Of course, he'll have to get past that guy right behind him...John John Florence.

John John Florence of Oahu, Hawaii (pictured) placed runner up to 11X ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) during the Final of the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons at Pipeline on Saturday December 14, 2013. Florence was in sensational form throughout this year's event, ousting newly crowned 3X ASP World Champion Mick Fanning in the semifinals. In addition to his runner up finish,  Florence's consistent performance throughout this all three events of this year's Vans Triple Crown of Surfing saw him clinch the 2013 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title. John John Florence has already won two Triple Crown titles. He's hoping his Pipe Masters performance this year will give him three. - WSL / Kirstin Scholtz

Florence, winner of the Hawaiian Pro and newly crowned World Champion, is hoping to cap his season with the Pipe Masters Title that's eluded him. Being that Pipe is in his backyard, and Florence has already won four Volcom Pipe Pro Titles, it's nagging.

"Pipe is my favorite wave in the entire world," said Florence. "But, the Pipe Masters is one of the hardest events to win. This year has been the best year of competitive surfing of my life, If I could finish it off to win Pipe, I would be super stoked, but at the same time I am going to have fun and not put that pressure on myself. I surfed the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa relaxed and ended up winning, so I am going to take that attitude."

John John Florence easily through to Round 3. Florence wants one more win to ice the cake that is his 2016 season. - WSL / KC

Jordy Smith is another big Triple Crown threat. After winning the Vans World Cup on Saturday he's tied with John John Florence for second place. The big South African clawed his way back into title contention this year after suffering through several seasons hobbled by one injury after another.

Commissioner Kieren Perrow provided Billabong the opportunity to fill the second injury replacement slot opened up by Matt Banting. Billabong in turn offered the spot to 2001 Pipe Masters Champion, Bruce Irons, brother of the late Andy Irons.

Bruce Irons at Off the Wall Session Bruce Irons will be filling in for the injured Matt Banting at Pipeline. The former Pipe Master is hoping to recapture some of his 2001 magic. - WSL

The Pipeline Invitational will start Friday at 8:00 am HAWT.

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