Both are vying for the Injury Wildcard spot on the Championship Tour. Before Covid derailed the year, they were scheduled to surf the first three events in Australia, with the highest-ranked athlete after those stops securing a full-time slot on the Tour.
Mikey had been dealing with a back injury that kept him out of the water for several months while Leo dislocated a shoulder, also dry-docking him for a while. Mikey just won the Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast, and Leo won the last major WSL event before the covid hiatus, the Sydney Surf Pro. Both have proven on multiple occasions that they're CT-level surfers.
Now, after an extended off-season that saw them both distinguish themselves in the Countdown Series events, it's time to decide who is going to continue the year living out their CT dream.
It's been months of waiting and wondering, and now we know exactly how it's going to go down: it will be decided with a best-of-three series of man-on-man heats at Pipeline.
Neither of these athletes are PIpe novices, and both have a bittersweet history with the wave. Leo actually broke his back out there in 2015 -- one of several injuries he's come back from -- while Mikey injured his back at the Volcom Pipe Pro in 2018. This injury, aggravated at Bells and then Margaret River was what ended up seeing him step away from the Tour in 2019.
The first of these match-ups will take place between the first and second rounds of the local trials for the Billabong Pipeline Masters, the second will happen between the semi-final and the final of the trials and, if needed, the decider will run on the first day of the main event.
While this will feel like a must-win for each of these competitors -- with a whole lot on the line -- the loser will still get the first replacement spot for the 2021 season. We will still be seeing both Leo and Mikey in multiple events, regardless of who wins.
And, considering it's highly likely there will be at least one CT athlete who does not make it over to Hawaii for Pipe, we're going to be seeing Mikey and Leo in the draw for the main event, no matter what.
But a best-of-three showdown -- potentially decided over a single day -- is a far cry from a best-of-three surf-off spaced over three individual Championship Tour events... Who is going to shoulder this pressure and get the job done at Pipe?