The Volcom Pipe Pro continued for Day 2 of competition and not a drop of water appeared out of place as Pipeline delivered clean, six-to-eight-foot surf with wave face heights reaching ten-foot for the Men's QS 5,000 event.
Scores have yet to hit the 9-point range this year, but Jeronimo Vargas (BRA) got dramatically close during Round 3 Heat 5. The perennial North Shore charger opened up his 2020 competitive year with an excellent 8.33 at Backdoor then wrapped the heat with an 8.93 - the best single wave score of the competition - after a late drop into another right-handed barrel.
Vargas stalled in the pit, perfectly positioned, and powered out a bottom turn to pull under the lip of the wave and navigate a heavy section. He kept traveling in the tube and finally emerged with calm confidence in the channel to the cheers of beach fans.
The Brazilian has been out of the water for six months due to a chest injury but was determined to come to Hawaii for the winter season after spending the last fifteen years on the North Shore. This is Vargas' fifth time competing in the Volcom Pipe Pro and he is now only one of four Brazilians remaining in the 144-man draw.
The Volcom Last Chance Qualifier Heat saw a mashup of eight Volcom team riders go head-to-head in a no-priority heat with North Shore fixture Kalani Chapman (HAW) earning the final wildcard spot into the Round of 96 (Round 3) after scoring the best ride. He went against Mikey Bruneau (HAW), Tom Dosland (HAW), Jonah Morgan (HAW), Jesse Johnson (HAW), Kai Mana Henry (HAW), Ryan Burch (USA) and Mauro Diaz (PRI) and found two good waves in the 40-minute heat.
Chapman took the lead after pulling into a big, open frontside barrel at Pipeline in the first few minutes, then solidified the win after being spit out of another left-handed tube. A goofy-footer, Chapman was looking for the standout lefts and positioned himself for deep takeoffs, a true professional when it comes to Pipe.
"It was a difficult heat, there were seven of my friends and they're all Pipeline specialists," said Chapman. "Some of the guys had really good rides and if they would have made them, it's very possible it could have gone their way. But I'm lucky that it went my way, I'm really happy."
Chapman took a competitive hiatus after suffering a severe head injury in January 2017 right here at Pipeline, but today he felt enthusiastic to be back in a jersey. Eager to test himself again in Round 3, Chapman will surf against Shun Murakami (JPN), Alvaro Malpartida (PER) and Keito Matsuoka (JPN) once the Volcom Pipe Pro is called back on in the first heat of Day 3.
"I love surfing competitions, especially out here at Pipeline," Chapman continued. "The waves determine a lot of what happens and if you're catching the right waves then you're usually making your heat. It's nice to be back in a jersey and feeling the want to win. I'm stoked I made my first heat in a long time. I'm super excited because the waves are supposed to be firing and epic conditions, and that's most of it. If mother nature is working with you then it turns out to be a lot more exciting because there's really heavy rides going down and wipeouts, there's a lot of excitement, so it's really nice when the waves are good. I just can't wait to get more and more barreled."
Makai McNamara (HAW) was the first to bring the scores into the excellent range today during Round 3 as he and Roi Kanazawa (JPN) advanced ahead of Nick Marshall (USA) and Dusty Payne (HAW) in the opening heat. McNamara scored two beautiful rides, the first one a deep barrel on his backhand that earned an 8.60, then followed up with an 8.17 for a Backdoor barrel. He now holds the second-highest two-wave heat total of the event thus far behind Vargas.
"My first one was a perfect Pipe wave and I just knew that I had to pump to get through it," said McNamara. "A lot of times I won't pump and you get caught right at the end so I had to make sure to get over that foam ball. And then a right came out of nowhere, just a big teepee, it was a late drop and it had a dramatic foam ball on it so that's how I got my other eight."
The North Shore surfer is coming off of a ninth place finish at the Sunset Open Men's QS 1,000, one of his best results since he earned third in the 2016 Volcom Pipe Pro. McNamara had the heat of his life during that event when he shared a Final with 11-time World Champion and former Volcom Pipe Pro winners Kelly Slater (USA) and Jamie O'Brien (HAW), and Kauai legend Bruce Irons (HAW). In the Semifinals that year, he earned a 10-point ride on a massive Pipeline barrel and continues to impress with excellent surfing at both Pipe and Backdoor.
"I actually like going left a lot because you can take off really deep and you can pump really hard, but whatever comes to me I like them both," McNamara continued. "A lot of these guys could have got the same scores that I did, but it was just the waves that came to me and I performed the right way. I have the confidence already so I just have to keep it rolling."
After a couple of minor injuries motivated him to focus on his body, he is feeling strong both physically and mentally.
"I had a couple of little injuries before this so I wasn't surfing too much, just trying to keep my confidence because when you don't surf a lot you kind of lose that confidence. I feel really good, sometimes it's nice to sit back to observe and take time to rest your body. I think I was going a little too hard before that so it's good to take a little time back and focus on other little things that help with surfing."
Goofy-footer from San Clemente, Max Beach (USA) showed great technique and form in his Round 3 heat and dropped a 6.67 for a set wave on his frontside that stood out against his competitors' rides. He exalted the wave, and yesterday's epic barrels, as his best ever at Pipe and will be looking to secure his best result in a QS event of this magnitude. Meanwhile, Eli Hanneman (HAW) got the score he needed within the last ten seconds of the heat to move into Round 4 behind Beach.