Pipeline stole the show as the waves churned out machine-like barrels in the 6-8ft. range during Day 3 of the Volcom Pipe Pro, however Cam Richards (USA) rivaled the spotlight with a remarkable 19.83 combined heat total (out of a possible 20) for two incredibly deep, critical Backdoor barrels. The QS 3,000 saw the biggest and best waves of the event pump through the lineup with multiple excellent scores and an enthusiastic crowd to cheer on competitors.
Richards, 22, surfed in one of the last heats of the day against Aritz Aranburu (ESP), Manuel Selman (CHL) and Cody Young (HAW) and remained active from the start to eventually find a lengthy right on his backhand. After a late drop, Richards set his rail, pulled in and remained buried in the barrel, emerging with the spray for a 9.83. In less than two minutes he paddled back out and swung into another Backdoor tube, this time releasing his hands from the rails and completely disappearing from view. He broke the scale and was awarded a perfect 10 from judges with his speed, style and technique.
"I got my 9 and I was paddling back out, low key super out of shape, I felt like I was going to drown and was thinking if a wave comes, I am done," Richards laughed post-heat. "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."
From South Carolina, Richards is one of the best breakout surfers coming from the East Coast with the ultimate dream of qualifying for the World Tour. Just last month he scored another perfect 10 during the Florida Pro pres by Sunshine State Florida Lager and ultimately ended with a Quarterfinal finish.
"I want to qualify, I want to be on the World Tour super bad, but I try to stay as busy as possible with filming projects and just keeping a name for myself in every aspect, just because contests are so hit or miss," Richards continued. "This is actually my second QS of the year and I got a 10 in my first QS and now I got a 10 in this QS and I'm like, ‘if this isn't a good start to 2018 I'm not sure what is.' I'm just stoked, I'm super happy, hopefully I can keep the momentum going throughout the year and then do well out here during the Triple Crown also."
Richards has been traveling to the North Shore for 6-7 years, but a proper wave at Pipe has always eluded him until now.
"I still had never made a real Pipe wave, or Backdoor, and so that was a treat. I put in time out here for sure and caught a bunch of closeouts and spent my time, but those were definitely the best waves I've ever got out there period, hands down." Richards earned a set of KMC wheels for his 10-point ride, the second of the event after yesterday's perfect score from Finn McGill (HAW).
Jack Robinson (AUS) elevated the level of competitive barrel riding after his dominant Round 3 and 4 heats saw him earn two excellent 9's and the second best two-wave total of the event. In the final heat of the day, he dropped into an 8ft. bomb at Backdoor and rode the foam ball to emerge from the barrel after the spit. Three out of five judges gave it a 10, but the score came up just short of perfection. His 9.07 in Round 3 was for a dredging right and a fast race to the finish line.
"I think it must have looked deep from the side because I was pumping for a while, I was trying to get through it," commented Robinson on his first 9-point ride. "I was racing so it was definitely a critical one."
A two-wave total of 18.66 in Round 4 put him in second for the highest combined heat score of the event, and his savant-like skill at both Pipeline and Backdoor are nothing short of brilliant.
The Australian won at Pipeline back in 2015 at the Pipe Invitational and has had multiple final place finishes just one mile down the road at Sunset Beach, including a win at the 2017 Sunset Open and 2014 Sunset Pro Junior. Robinson's casual approach to today's serious surf doesn't detract from his respect of the break, however he possesses a calmness that can only come from a big wave upbringing - his from Margaret River.
"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," Robinson continued. "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."
A consistent North Shore performer and Kauai native Koa Smith (HAW) achieved another impressive 9.27 for a clean Backdoor right that earned him a slot into Round 4. Smith has been in the International QS top 100 for the past two years and is known for his lethal backhand attack, which he favored during his Round 3 heat.
"I love going right, that's definitely my specialty I'd say and when those Backdoor waves come in, especially with priority, you can put yourself right where you want to be and that's exactly what I did," said Smith. "It just felt so good dropping in. I stalled a little bit and then looked up in the corner of my eye and I was like ‘oh gosh I have to get going!' It actually breathed a little bit and I almost fell forward, my back foot came off and then I came out and was safe, so stoked."