2015 Big Wave World Champion Makuakai Rothman (HAW) took advantage of ultra-clean, barreling sandbar surf and textbook tubes during the Volcom Pipe Pro, a World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 event, and scored the only perfect 10-point ride of the event. This is Rothman's first appearance back in competition since last year's Vans Triple Crown, after he sustained injuries at Puerto Escondido in June 2016 during the Big Wave Tour.
Rothman dropped into the barrel and positioned himself as it stretched all the way to Off The Wall. The Volcom house erupted with cheers after he made a clean exit, and the vote was unanimous amongst the judges - a perfect 10.
"Just drop in and do the hula," laughed Rothman. "I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot and God let me out of that one. Backdoor's my spot. I love it like this, this is perfect. Hopefully the next couple days get some big waves then some real Pipeline and we'll see what happens then."
Despite Rothman's 10, the surfer advanced behind Tahiti's Taumata Puhetini who showed total commitment on his backhand and scored a 7.67 and 4.37 for the heat win. Puhetini is the sole remaining Tahitian in the event after taking out countryman Turo Ariitu in Round Two Heat 11.
"Everybody surfs good, everybody's on their game and Taumata got a couple good waves," continued Rothman. "I could have took that last one from him, but I just did my thing and got lucky. This is my first contest back, I haven't surfed competitively since before the Pipe Masters. It just feels great to be back in the water feeling good enough to surf. Being out of the water is horrible, surfing is my life. Anything I have in my life I owe to surfing and to be back here competing in front of my friends and family, in front of all these fans, you can't beat it."
Another exciting exchange went down earlier in Round Two Heat 10 and featured Pipe savants Mason Ho (HAW) and Bruce Irons (HAW) along with California's Tim Reyes and Kauai's Danny Fuller. Reyes got an early lead by dropping a 6.83 on his opening ride, but Ho swooped in on another clean Backdoor barrel for a 7.83 to fire up the competition. Irons earned an 8.60 under priority and built momentum, but unfortunately couldn't secure the back up score he needed to advance.
"The waves, it's not what you would expect but it's a lot better than you would expect you know," said Irons post heat. "It's like a point break sandbar, it's perfect, it's good competition waves."
Within the final minutes, Ho found a reeling right and scored a 9.70 - the second highest single wave score of the day - for the heat win ahead of Irons. The two scores granted him the highest combined wave total of the event, an excellent 17.53.
"The 9.70, it was a nice wave," said Ho. "I was in second and I was kind of trying to keep Timmy Reyes off the wave. It didn't really look like a good wave, but I knew it was going to barrel a little bit. And Bruce just went on one that didn't look that good and he got really barreled so I was like, oh maybe I can do like a little Bruce thing. I went and took off and pulled into it and then it kept kind of growing and growing and growing I guess. And then I got to come out."
Warrior status of the day went to Kekoa Cazimero (HAW) who gashed his eye during Round Two Heat 13 with Makai McNamara (HAW), Tyler Newton (HAW) and Andy Criere (ESP). After pulling into his opening ride at Backdoor, Cazimero got sucked over the wave and collided with the rail of his board, which shot directly into his face and split open the skin under his left eye.
"I felt really dizzy and confused," said Cazimero. "I was spitting out blood and it was all in my eyes too. Makua Rothman and Joel Centeio were right there to check on me by the water's edge. They told me I needed stiches but I was determined to win."
His determination paid off, as after paddling back into the lineup, he caught a few more waves and advanced in first ahead of Makai McNamara (HAW). "Dr. Leland Dao gave me 10 stitches. I have a black eye now too so I'm hoping it doesn't shut over night for Round 3 tomorrow. I feel pretty good though. Going to push through and get it done. Fired up."