The Volcom Pipe Pro was all systems go today as Day 3 pumped more beautiful barrels into the lineup for the QS 5,000 event. Rounds 3 and 4 were completed today with athlete standouts including Conner Coffin (USA), who scored the first perfect 10 of the event, Billy Kemper (HAW), who was the first to crack into the 9-point range on the scoreboard, defending event winner Jack Robinson (HAW) and 2017 Volcom Pipe Pro winner Soli Bailey (AUS).
With machine-like consistency, Pipeline seemed to take on the description as Eighth Wonder in the World. Both Backdoor and Pipe continued to build and produce waves in the eight-to-ten-foot-plus range with winds staying uncharacteristically light and offshore, all day.
Coffin ended the day with fireworks as he posted a perfect 10 for unbelievable tube riding on his backhand that saw him power through a critical drop and technical Pipe barrel. His impressive performance continued as he wove through a Backdoor gem for a 7.17 to maintain the margin throughout the 25-minute heat.
Fellow advancing athlete, Joh Azuchi (JPN) scored the second-best result of the heat, an 8.33 for a Backdoor barrel that he narrowly escaped. He and Coffin eliminated former Championship Tour (CT) surfer, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and Sunset Open finalist Koa Smith (HAW) en route to Round 5.
It keeps getting better for North Shore's Kemper, as he came into the 2020 Volcom Pipe Pro already holding a win from the recent Sunset Open and scoring the wave of his life at Pe‘ahi on Maui a few days prior. Riding a high, Kemper opened Round 4 Heat 10 with a near-perfect 9.00 for an incredibly long, deep Backdoor barrel that saw him pump through multiple sections. A fierce competitor, Kemper has made his intentions known; he wants to win it all.
"At this point, it's just trying to win everything I can," said Kemper. "I truly am addicted to that feeling, that adrenaline of overcoming adversity and just winning. It's something I get off on, I truly love that feeling, I've been chasing it my whole life. I've struggled for years and years and years and after figuring it out, it's just something I love doing, I'm a competitor at heart."
Kemper, 29, has yet to make a final at the Volcom Pipe Pro, but continues to dial in his training regime to adapt. From Pipe to Pe‘ahi to Sunset, he is a proven winner at all locations and knows exactly what it takes to find success.
"I'm putting a lot of work into this one," Kemper continued. "Just try to stay focused, have fun and visualize those big rights. When you're having fun and surfing at your highest level, you're pretty hard to beat."
Kemper backed up his excellent ride with a 6.17 for another massive right-handed tube. He hunted the Backdoor barrels by design and advanced through the heat with a dominating edge. Energetic and powerful, Kemper's technique on both his forehand and backhand was some of the best of the competition.
"To have Pipe and Backdoor at this size and this consistency is a dream come true. I've competed around the world and one of the main reasons why I pulled back from competing in QS events was the frustration of losing in junk waves. When you're competing out here, in the best waves in the world, you could win Wave of the Winter right now, easily. To be able to do that in a jersey with three other guys out, it's a dream come true."
Defending event winner Robinson scored back-to-back 5-point rides out of the gates during his Round 4 heat, which featured an international mixup including Aritz Aranburu (ESP), Keijiro Nishi (JPN) and Alvaro Malpartida (PER). The shifting conditions saw the scale lower as competitors worked to get a rhythm in the lineup.
"Many different heats at Pipeline you always have a lot of rhythms, even throughout the heats sometimes, so I found it at the start luckily and got in position," said Robinson. "Basically, I don't even think, to be honest, I have no thoughts in my mind about winning right now, but I know I want to win so that's why I'm the most dangerous. I'm just taking it one wave at a time, I simplify it that much."
Last year, Robinson commanded the competition with a 9.43 in Round 4, a 10 and 9.57 in Round 5, and heat wins from start to finish. He earned 3,000 points to start off 2019 and then sealed his maiden run on the 2020 CT with a 10,000-point win at the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach. Now he competes pressure-free ahead of the first CT event of the year in March.
"First event of the year, get some heats going again, it's going to be a long year again," Robinson continued. "Good warmup, it's nice to surf some heats, I couldn't go without it. I'll surf a couple more QS's before Snapper and then roll into the year."
Aranburu took cues from Kemper and sat at Backdoor, eventually finding his own excellent 8.37 for a beastly barrel that he maneuvered with finesse. His backup score was a 1.93 which gave Robinson the heat win after the Australian posted a 6.23 and 5.83.
2017 Volcom Pipe Pro winner Bailey scored two keeper waves, an 8.53 and 8.00, in the first few minutes of Heat 3 and locked into the lead early on. The new NW swell continued to build all morning and seemed to jump feet during the heat to deliver clean barrels that pushed wave face heights into the 15-plus-foot range.
"That was a pleasure to get to surf out there, the heat to dream of for sure," said Bailey from the live desk. "I sat and watched a few heats this morning and saw a lot of really good rides go unridden from people sitting underneath and not getting out to them far enough, and I think with the swell building people were getting caught off-guard. So that was strictly my game plan, was to just go and find them, I knew they were all there."
With a mission to hunt the biggest and best right-handers, Bailey's first Backdoor ride saw him take the high line for a successful shot into the channel. Following this, he swung right into the next barrel, which he described as ‘that perfect Backdoor wave.'
"It was a proper cone," Bailey continued. "I was paddling in and I knew the wedge was coming back at me. Generally when you see that it's just game on, but you have to be aware of the foam ball and all the other scenarios that come into play. I was about to stand up and there was a rib that I had to pump over and then a little foam ball bounced me and then it was just all joy and fun, just drive the Ferrari through."
Eli Hanneman (HAW), 17, owned his heat with a breakthrough backhand performance in Round 4, advancing in second with a 13.17 heat total to Bailey's 16.53. One of the younger athletes in the draw, Hanneman came into the event with the intent to score good Pipe.
"I just wanted to surf, I had no pressure," said Hanneman about going against a stacked heat. "These guys probably had more pressure than I did, I was just the underdog wanting to get waves out at Pipe, but it worked out in my favor. Somehow I got three good waves in a row."
Hanneman's youth has nothing on his status along the North Shore as he is becoming a household name through skilled surfing and strong competitive results. Earlier this week, the Maui athlete finaled at the Sunset Open Men's QS 1,000 alongside veterans Koa Smith (HAW) and Kemper, and Tahiti's best up-and-comer Kauli Vaast(PYF).
"It's always scary, but I definitely feel more comfortable now, I've been surfing out here a lot," Hanneman continued. "This last year I moved over here for the winter and surfed out here a lot, so I'm working my way into that feeling where you definitely feel like you belong out here. Because when you first start going out there you think ‘is this really what I want to do.' I want to say I'm confident but you can never be confident out there, the ocean does what the ocean wants to do."
Drama filled the lineup as Round 4 kicked off with an interference call after Nathan Florence (HAW) unintentionally dropped in on Makai McNamara (HAW) Backdoor barrel that could have given McNamara the score he needed to advance. Both athletes fell out of the competition while Yago Dora (BRA) and Finn McGill (HAW) punched their ticket into Round 5, with Dora earning an excellent 8.00 for a lengthy barrel ride at Pipe that saw him completely disappear from view.