The Billabong Pipe Masters got off to a fiery start Sunday morning on Oahu's North Shore, with No. 2 ranked Gabriel Medina facing a do-or-die match with Hawaiian wildcard Dusty Payne. Medina needed a win to keep his World Title hopes alive. Payne, a former Championship Tour star, qualified for this year's event by winning the hotly contested trials event, The Pipeline Invitational.
The pair hit the water in clean, playful conditions, amid a slow building swell. Both surfers nabbed solid scores early, but Medina's strategy of staying busy in the lineup helped him stay in the lead. Payne remained in striking distance, thanks to a beautiful Backdoor tube. His 7.17 was the highest scoring wave of the heat halfway through. But then Medina responded with a deep backhand tuberide of his own, earning him a 9.0, and the crucial victory.
On the beach, Jeep Leader John John Florence watched the heat intently. For now, the pressure is back on the Hawaiian. He'll be taking to the lineup first in Round Three, just before Medina and fellow World Title contender Julian Wilson.