Top-seeded competitors made their long-awaited debuts and fireworks ensued at the Volcom Pipe Pro 3,000-level event. Clean, 4-to-6 foot, occasional plus NW swell (10-foot, plus wave faces) filled into Pipeline and Backdoor providing solid opportunity for some of the QS elite.
It became the first barrel fest of the event window despite some tough intervals and competitors showed absolute commitment.
Sebastian Zeitz Finds Perfection
Championship Tour (CT) veteran Sebastian Zietz left fans and fellow competitors in awe with a solid Backdoor barrel that spit twice with him still riding through to earn the event's first Perfect 10. Zeitz comes into this event looking to earn some extra money after losing his major sponsor and the birth of his daughter coming in April. It's still all fun for the seasoned veteran as he moves forward with his ambitions remaining high.
"I'm stoked to get a 10, I woke up and the waves were really fun and I'm really happy to see a lot of rights -- as well as the wind calming down," Zietz said. "It was a really good wave, I had second priority and Noa (Deane) was a little out of position, and got a double-barrel so I'm stoked. It's important to compete here knowing there's a contest at the end of the year and a lot of underground Pipe guys do this one. To win this thing or make the Final definitely puts you on the radar as someone who's good at Pipe so it's really important."
"(Not having a sponsor) puts some extra pressure on yourself to perform to make a comfortable living. I just have to back myself and it's been alright. I'm looking forward to the birth of my daughter and nothing can knock me down."
Jack Robinson Smashes Pipe Debut: "Just Warming Up"
One of Pipeline's most notable chargers made a statement in his Round 4 debut and Robinson is into Round 5 with a commanding win. The Australian's poise in the barrel is par-none among the world's best and a 9.43, 7.33 scoreline at Backdoor proved he's still as lethal as ever. But, the 21-year-old has much bigger aspirations in mind this season -- though starting with a Volcom Pipe Pro result wouldn't hurt.
"It's good to get a strong start, but you don't want to peak too early and leave some room in the tank for the next round," Robinson said. "I'm always excited for this event so that helps. Everyone loves a barrel, it's probably the best thing in surfing so it's good to start off with some fun out there. If you can bag a result here and keep being consistent throughout the year it helps a lot."
Kemper and Company Continue To Hold It Down For Hawaii
But, it was recent Sunset Open finalist and Maui, Hawaii's, own Billy Kemper who put a staple early on in Round 4 with the second-highest heat total of a 16.63 -- and near-perfect 9.80. The two-time WSL Jaws Challenge winner took on a draining, Backdoor wave that he raced through and came flying out of after multiple sections behind the curtain. This marks an important event in Kemper's eyes and he's not holding back.
"I had a rough heat yesterday and barely made it through because I didn't start my surfing until about eight minutes remaining," Kemper said. "The game plan was to just execute two scores in the first five minutes, whether they were below average, average or excellent. After that I wanted to establish priority and wait for something in the excellent range. I saw the set come in and looked like a good angle for a good Backdoor wave and it doubled-up hard -- and those usually have a lot of energy."
"Every good result I've gotten, there's always been that grindy heat and that pushes you to where momentum starts," Kemper added. "I'm healthy, I'm happy. I've got my family down here and I'm just enjoying it. It's the last event of the North Shore season for me and these events are everything. I'm out here competing like I'm trying to win a World Title at a 3,000 (laughs), but I take these events really serious."
Brodi Sale Sails Through Event Threats
Two days away from his 16th birthday, 15-year-old Big Island, Hawaii, native Brodi Sale continued his event momentum from Round 1 into Round 4 with a big upset over soon-to-be Championship Tour (CT) rookie Seth Moniz, Benji Brand, and Koa Smith -- eliminating Smith and Moniz. It's all fun for Sale, who still competes at the Pro Junior level, and found redemption from an early exit at Sunset just two weeks ago.
"I just went into that heat wanting to put on a good performance together and get a couple of waves. I've looked up to Seth (Moniz) and Benji (Brand) my whole life basically. They've kind of been my older brothers out here and I'm super stoked to beat them (laughs). I got the 7 and I was so stoked, but knew I had to solidify and then that wave came thinking this is going to be really sick. I have so much respect for Benji, Seth and Koa (Smith) - they're just legends and I couldn't be more stoked to have heat with them."
Former Event Winners Show Experience
Defending event champion Joshua Moniz represented brilliantly for the North Shore with an incredible display of barrel-riding technique to earn a 14.77 heat total in his debut. The pressure of coming into the event to defend that title doesn't phase Moniz as he hopes to start the 2019 season on a similar note with a big result.
But, 2017 winner and 2019 CT rookie Soli Bailey raised the stakes among his fellow champions and found an 8.50 Pipeline diamond in the rough.
Internationals Continue To Mix It Up
Robinson and Bailey's fellow Aussies Reef Heazlewood, Nicholas Squiers, and Kyuss King also gave the Hawaii natives a run for their money in their respective heats. 2019 QS threat Heazlewood comes into the season with a renewed vigor after some off-season transitions.
"That was a pretty tricky heat so to get two pretty nice barrels I was excited for that," Heazlewood said. "You're always looking to start strong in a contest I couldn't have asked for more than that. I'm looking to qualify this year after finishing 29th last year and being pretty close all season. I do feel more of a sense of surfing for myself now that I've lost my major sponsor and it's all on me now so I'm going to continue giving it everything I've got."
Peruvians Miguel Tudela and Cristobal De Col join Europeans such as former CT competitor Aritz Aranburu and QS threat Marc Lacomare in Round 5. And, mainland USA threats live on in the form of John Mel, Nolan Rapoza, and Skip McCullough.
Tomorrow's 7:00 a.m. HST call will determine a start to Round 5 of competition.