The third day of action at the Volcom Pipe Pro was the kind of day in the islands, as Volcom pit boss Tai Van Dyke described it, where the waves are good "from Hilo to Hanalei." Yet, despite a day full of epic -- if slightly inconsistent -- conditions and big scores, much of the talk was about the forecast for tomorrow, which looks pretty promising.
The forecast generated a groundswell of nervous energy, manifested in the faces of many advancing surfers when they realized what they'd soon be facing. What's in store, you ask? Mainly an evening of fitful sleep and hours of tossing and turning. The roar of a thundering swell echoing through the darkened North Shore night is a constant reminder of what's to come.
But before looking forward, let's first look back at an eventful day at the Volcom Pipe Pro. It was a tale of two surfers -- one with high expectations, the other living only in the moment.
For the former, it was a day of dreams. To say Jack Robinson just found a good rhythm would be like saying Michael Jackson was just a competent dancer. Over the course of two heats -- one early, one late -- Robinson could not put a wrong foot forward. He'd summoned that mindful moment in time where everything magically comes together with ease. His four scored rides of the day: 9.93, 9.07, 8.73, 8.40. Not a bad day's work for the Western Australian who, after this performance, has clearly cemented his reputation as one of the best tube riders on the planet.
"It's kind of always the same for me: You're sort of scared, but happy, but not really that scared when you get a good one," said Robinson, who was raised not far from West Oz's version of Backdoor -- the infamous North Point. "You just have to respect the wave because it's really gnarly, so I don't really get too cocky… This is what we come for. It's perfect. There's a little bit of wind, but when they come you wait for it, it's as good as it gets at Backdoor."
Cam Richards, the other outstanding surfer of the day, arrived on the beach after his incredible heat win with a look that could best be described as stunned bewilderment. Moments before, Richards found a unicorn on his way back out from posting an amazing 9.83. Paddling from the Ain'ts section toward the Pipe peak, he realized that one of his opponents, Aritz Aranburu, was too deep on a long, walled-up wave at Backdoor. Following a ridiculous late drop, he pulled his hands off the rail, pumped hard on his backhand and hoped for the best.
The result? The only perfect 10 of the day on a deep-blue stunner.
For a surfer raised in South Carolina who admittedly doesn't know "what a good wave at Backdoor looks like" and hasn't spent any significant time surfing Pipeline since the winter of 2015/16, it was clearly a moment of both confusion and confirmation.
"I got my 9 and I was paddling back out, low-key and super out of shape, I felt like I was going to drown and I was thinking if a wave comes, I am done," Richards laughed afterward. "And then the next wave came literally straight to me and I was like, ‘I'm not ready for this!' I was actually just tired once I got to my feet, I began to pump and then the wave spit which gave me the extra oomph to get out… I was having so much fun just after those two waves. So many different emotions going through, it was a very surreal moment, it didn't feel real."
To give a full summation of today's mesmerizing action, it would be remiss not to mention the impressive barrel riding exploits of a pair of Kauai-raised surfers, Koa Smith and Evan Valiere, and the collective performance of a crew of hard-charging Peruvians.
Fostered over the years by tube-seeking legends like Magoo de la Rosa, the Peruvian posse -- including the Tudela brothers, Cristobal De Col, Joaquin Del Castillo, Alonso Correa and Alvaro Malpartida -- has performed admirably, showing courage and grace under pressure. For a proud surfing nation blessed with plenty of slabby tubes and reefy barrels, it should be no surprise to see their quality rise when things get heavy at Pipe.
In the end, it will be a long night ahead for many of the competitors still in the hunt for the VPP warrior trophy; a night best described by Valiere when asked about his plans for the evening: "Get some rest, eat some good food and wax the 7'3"." Good advice in advance of what's on the immediate horizon.
As mentioned above, do not miss out on the action at the Volcom Pipe Pro tomorrow, starting at 7:30a.m. HST (9:30a.m. PST)
Athletes listed in first through fourth, all surfers from Hawaii unless otherwise noted.
Round 4 (Round of 64) - 1st and 2nd advance, 3rd = 33rd place, 4th = 49th place
H1: Koa Smith, Joan Duru (FRA), Kyle Ramey, Joshua Burke (BRB)
H2: Billy Kemper, Ian Crane (USA), Kiron Jabour, John Mel (USA)
H3: Cam Richards (USA), Aritz Aranburu (ESP), Manuel Selman (CHL), Cody Young
H4: Ian Gouveia (BRA), Noa Mizuno, Dwight Pastrana (USA), Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
H5: Evan Valiere, Masatoshi Ohno (JPN), Tomas Tudela (PER), Elijah Gates
H6: Jack Robinson (AUS), Joshua Moniz, Hank Gaskell, Imaikalani deVault
Round 3 (Round of 96) - 1st and 2nd advance, 3rd = 65th place, 4th = 81st place
H5: Evan Valiere, Hank Gaskell, Diego Mignot (FRA), Dylan Goodale
H6: Jack Robinson (AUS), Elijah Gates, Alonso Correa (PER), Olamana Eleogram
H7: Mason Ho, Nomme Mignot (FRA), Ulualoha Napeahi, Luke Gordon (USA)
H8: Robson Santos (BRA), Jacome Correia (PRT), Makai McNamara, Yage Araujo (BRA)
H9: Ian Walsh, Alvaro Malpartida (PER), Reef Heazlewood (AUS), Sunny Garcia
H10: Mitchell Parkinson (AUS), Joaquin Del Castillo (PER), Harley Ross (AUS), Kaito Ohashi (JPN)
H11: Brent Dorrington (AUS), Finn McGill, Torrey Meister, Reo Inaba (JPN)
H12: Koa Rothman, Cristobal De Col (PER), Anthony Walsh (AUS), Shun Murakami (JPN)
H13: Riley Laing (AUS), Jeronimo Vargas (BRA), Gatien Delahaye (FRA), Keijiro Nishi (JPN)
H14: Jamie O'Brien, Lahiki Minamishen, Lucca Novaro Mesinas (PER), Eithan Osborne (USA)
H15: Kalani David, Nic Von Rupp (PRT), David do Carmo (BRA), Danny Fuller
H16: Weslley Dantas (BRA), Jordy Collins (USA), Noah Beschen, O'Neill Massin