Hawaii's North Shore never plays favorites and that was apparent in the early goings at the Volcom Pipe Pro. It wasn't the iconic Pipeline fans are used to on opening day and tough conditions left the door open for a lot of unknowns. Competitors were at the mercy of Mother Nature for nearly the entire day of proceedings and those who rose to the occasion came away with the spoils.
The event ran through Round 1 and Round 2 Heats 1-11, but not before getting a surprise spectacle to close out opening day affairs.
Backdoor Sneak Attack Ends Opening Day
What looked to be a day filled with high-performance, high-risk maneuver surfing turned to a barrel fest in the final two heats of the day with competitors throwing themselves into Backdoor gems. Both Sheldon Paishon and Shayden Pacarro snuck their way into small caverns for the first excellent scores of competition -- though it was Paishon who raised the stakes with the day's best 15.10 (out of a possible 20) heat total. Paishon is no stranger to reeling right handers, winning the Rangiroa event last year in Tahiti, and displayed that technique to near-perfection.
"It was very tough out there, but after seeing Shayden's (Pacarro) wave I was just thinking of getting one like that," Paishon said. "I surf everyday so I'm ready for anything and that took off a lot of pressure finding that wave. It gives me a lot of confidence going forward, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. There's still a lot to run but I'm hoping to get more waves like that."
Before Paishon found his beauty, Pacarro lucked into his 8.17 under priority and stole the show. The 21-year-old was urged into the wave by close friend Makuakai Rothman, who was just out of position, as he held priority over his competitors. But, both made it through the heat and will be ones to watch in Round 3.
"I saw that it was tough conditions all day so I wasn't sure if I should ride a little shorter board or a bigger board since we had this little swell," Pacarro said. "Up here it's always harder to get into waves. When I showed up I thought we'd still be doing turns and I didn't expect to catch a Backdoor wave. It was a big surprise. But, a barrel a day keeps the doctor away (laughs)."
Kalani David's Aerial Assault Kicks Off Early Goins
Oahu's, Hawaii own Kalani David made his Round 1 debut count in the tough conditions with the round's highest single-wave score of a 7.67. David took advantage of the ramps on offer and soared a huge, full rotation which he landed with ease, adding to his 5.33. It was a redemption heat for the 21-year-old after an early exit at Sunset last week and now looks to capitalize on the opportunity at hand.
"It's definitely better than my Sunset heat, that was a pretty big shocker," David said. "I was thinking about doing that air, should I do it? Should I not do it? Right when I went for it, I kind of missed the section a little bit but then I rode out and it was the best feeling. I was actually wanting to get a wave where I could do a couple turns and show people I can do that too, but you have to do what you have to do."
Goals: Kai Lenny Sets His Eyes on 2019
Lenny earned a runner-up behind David and finds himself into Round 2 when competition resumes. The Maui native is beginning to find his footing in the QS scene, adding to his long list of accomplishments that includes a Puerto Escondido Challenge Big Wave Tour (BWT) win and eight SUP World Titles, by using his ocean knowledge and adaptive style. The Hawaiian has his goals lined up for the year and wants to navigate through the competitive QS grind for a shot at making them happen.
"I think every little kid's dream here in Hawaii is to get into the Triple Crown and it's still one of my ultimate goals," Lenny said. "To be able to do all the events, make Finals, and win events -- that would be the ultimate. Doing the events necessary events to get there is very important. Any time you can spend out at Pipe like this event is really extraordinary so you want to keep making heats to surf Pipeline whether it's bad or not. I definitely see myself getting on the QS more mainly because it will continue to help my shortboard surfing and smaller waves. And it's fun competing.
Cole Houshmand Keeps The Momentum Thriving
Straight off a third-place finish at the SEAT Pro Netanya and into a Round 2 win at Pipeline, Cole Houshmand (USA) continues to find success early on in 2019. This marks Houshmand's first full year on the QS after flourishing at the Pro Junior level -- making his way to World Junior Championships twice and earning his first win in 2017. But, the 18-year-old, San Clemente, Californian, now finds himself in company with some of the world's elite competitors and is already showing signs of maturity to start at the next level.
"It feels amazing after getting a good start in Israel which was my best result at a higher-rated event and it gave me a lot of momentum coming here," Houshmand said. "I was hoping we'd score some good Pipe but it was tough out there. Even though it's not the best, it's still way better than everyday waves at home so I've been surfing almost every day for over three hours. I think that's helped looking back on it and I brought that into the heat which gave me some more confidence."
Event organizers will reconvene at 7am HST to determine a possible 8am HST start for Round 2 Heat 12.