It was another big-time stage and another big-time result for Ryan Callinan, who just took the win at the 2018 Pipe Invitational.
In challenging north-swell conditions, with intermittent rain squalls pouring down, Callinan was able to hold on against hard-charging local North Shore surfer Benji Brand, who finished in second place. Both Callinan and Brand will now be seeded into the Billabong Pipe Masters as a result of their performances at Pipe today.
"It was an awesome day. To be honest, the conditions are really tricky and those guys are so good when it's amazing out there, but when it gets like this it kind of evens things out a bit," said Callinan after the final.
Callinan had his work cut out for him from the very first heat of the day. Facing Pipe specialists Jamie O'Brien and Bruce Irons, he was able to take the win and advance on. The quarterfinals didn't prove to be any easier for Callinan, where he faced a trio of Island surfers in Meister, Kalani David and Nathan Florence. Squeaking through the semis with Meister, by the time the Final rolled around Callinan had clearly found his groove.
"I've competed here a few times and now every time I come back it's just really special," continued Callinan. "Hopefully there's some really good waves for the main event and we see some good heats."
With a wildcard into the Pipe Masters, Callinan now has the potential to qualify for the 2019 CT season both on the CT and the QS. If he can qualify through the CT with a result at the Pipe Masters it will open up one more spot, possibly allowing Ethan Ewing to join the Tour next year. Ewing surfed solid in the Pipe Invitational, but suffered a high ankle sprain at the end of the quarterfinals and was forced to withdraw from the remainder of the contest.
"I'd love say I'm doing it for Ethan if I do well, but I'm also doing it just for myself and to have fun, so I'm not really too worried about my result…but the more heats I win the better," explained Callinan.
Callinan's enjoyed a remarkable couple of months. Back in October, after winning the QS 10,000-point Ericeira Pro in Portugal, he was granted a wildcard into Quiksilver Pro France. He surfed his way all the way to a second-place result, beating World No. 1 Gabriel Medina and upsetting the World Title race in the process. He then back that up with another wildcard into the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, where Medina took his revenge, beating him in Round 3.
"I'd love to have another shot at Gabriel, but we'll see," said Callinan. "I can't plan that, it comes down to the seeding, but whoever it is, I'm excited to have a battle and go toe to toe.
Meanwhile, Brand could also play the roll of spoiler in the Pipe Masters. Growing up surfing the break, he finished runner-up at the 2017 Pipe Invitational as well.
"This is exactly what happened to me last year. I couldn't believe it then, and it's the same thing again. It's crazy," said Brand. "Spending a lot of time out here, I know the reef and all the little nuances, so hopefully that gives me an advantage and I'm able to make a few heats."
As far as Triple Crown implications, by failing to advance into the main event, Bailey will now fall out of the running for the 2018 Vans Triple Crown Title. Currently sitting in fourth on the leader board, the 950 points he will be awarded for his fourth-place result in the Pipeline Invitational will not be enough to move him up in the standings.
Watch the Billabong Pipe Masters live December 8-20 on Facebook.com/wsllive, Worldsurfleague.com, and the WSL App.