2017 World Junior Champion and recent Sunset Pro Junior winner Finn McGill (HAW), 17, dropped a perfect 10-point ride during day 2 of the Volcom Pipe Pro QS 3,000. As one of the youngest athletes in the competition, McGill possesses experience beyond his years and has a successful track record at the world-famous wave. Pipe delivered trademark surf with wave heights reaching up to 12ft. and barrels in the 10ft. range, providing critical and exciting surfing from some of the world's best.
McGill went against Anthony Walsh (HAW), Charly Quivront (FRA) and Gabriel Morvil (USA) in Round 2 Heat 11 and found the excellent ride with less than 60 seconds on the clock to jump ahead of Walsh, who had scored a near-perfect 9.43 just minutes before.
"There's a lot of young kids coming up now, like Finn, who just won the World Title in Australia, and there's also the older generation of Hawaii surfers who I've been surfing with for almost 20 years now," commented Walsh after he advanced behind McGill. "There's a lot of talent here in Hawaii and everyone in the world wants to get Pipeline with three other guys out because normally they wouldn't catch a wave."
During the heat, McGill dropped into what seemed like an unmakeable wave, then gained speed and raced down the line for a hollow, deep barrel that ultimately spat him out with the spray. His 10-point ride sees him take home a brand new set of KMC Wheels to ensure he stays on a roll.
"I feel like once you're on a roll, you're on a roll for a long time," said McGill regarding his recent string of success. "Even if you do have one loss, it doesn't matter that much, you still feel like you're on top of the world and you can do anything. I just feel that I'm on a roll right now and just feel really loose; going out into every heat I'm never nervous, it's such a cool feeling."
"I'm looking forward to just getting as many barrels and the biggest barrels as possible," continued McGill. "That's all I really want, I don't care if I lose I just want to surf Pipe with three other guys out, that's already winning."
The 30-minute Volcom Last Chance Qualifiers (VLCQ) heat featured 8 athletes and saw 2010 Volcom Pipe Pro winner and Pipeline genius Jamie O'Brien (HAW) take the win and a seed into Round 3. O'Brien was the surfer to beat after he scored a 9.33 for a vertical drop into a thick Backdoor tube that was skillfully navigated through to the critical end section. Although there was no two-wave score tallying for this heat, he continued to back up this excellent wave with another 9.0 on a backhand tube stall at Pipe for what would have been a combined 18.33 (out of a possible 20).
"The 8-man heat out there is no easy task, they're all great surfers," O'Brien said of his fellow competitors which included Gavin Beschen (HAW), Dave Wassel(HAW), Kalani Chapman (HAW), Jonah Morgan (HAW), Takayuki Wakita (HAW), Derek Ho (HAW) and Mauro Diaz (PRT). "I look up to them all, I've lost to all of them before. It's pretty much just cat and mouse out there and I kind of got my rhythm and it just didn't stop. It kept delivering wave after wave, I got four really fun waves. That was pretty much a dream heat and there were only 8 guys out there, I got lucky."
This was a last-ditch effort for O'Brien to qualify into the 2018 Volcom Pipe Pro, after he forgot to enter, but as a former event and trials winner, he was added to the 8-man draw and beat the odds for a shot at another title.
"I'm really stoked I'm in Round 3," continued O'Brien. "I actually forgot to enter the contest even though I live right here. I was kind of jaded I couldn't get into any of the WSL contests because of my point status, so thankfully they gave me a shot through the Volcom trials."
Hawaiian World Champion and legendary Pipe surfer Derek Ho opened the VLCQ with one of the biggest waves of the heat and displayed expert wave-reading after a late drop on a 12ft. face. Commentators agreed it was as if spectators enjoyed a time travel back to the late ‘80s when Ho was in his heyday.
Another VLCQ standout was Kalani Chapman, who enjoyed a deep barrel off the takeoff on a big Pipeline left. This ride was second-best to O'Brien's 9's but not enough to take the win. Just over a year ago, Chapman overcame a major setback after a wipeout nearly took his life at this exact location, but he competed today with undeterred fervor.
The second highest score of the main event went to Australian-born Anthony Walsh (HAW) for a critical drop and tricky Backdoor barrel during Round 2 Heat 11. He maintained speed while getting buried on his backhand and judges lost sight of him as he threaded through multiple sections. The degree of difficulty awarded him a 9.43, which set the day's standard for near-perfect scores.
"Today was really tricky, the wind was starting to come up strong in my heat, I wasn't really sure what to do out there…I got a wide Ain't's one and it was really good, I got a 9.43 so that was the only good wave I got in the heat and I was lucky."