When the Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydro Flask was announced as the opener for the Men's Championship Tour season, you had to feel for the rookies. Having already had to wait almost 12 months to make their debut, they were then forced to deal with surfing's greatest test on their first appearance.
They'll all be, rightly, as nervous as hell. Well, with one notable exception. You'd sense that Jack Robinson is the only one licking his lips. Few CT first-timers, if any, will have entered the Pipe Masters with a Hawaii reputation as burnished as the Western Australian. If there's been a rookie at shorter odds for Pipe we'd like to hear it.
Despite being only 22, Robinson first made his mark at Pipeline way back in 2015. He won the Pipeline Trials event, securing a wildcard berth into the Main Event as a 17-year-old. That the win was secured in solid 10-to 15-foot Pipe, against a mixed bag of Pipe legends and hot, young talents, showed that Pipe, and surfing, had a future icon in the making.
Despite his young age, Robinson was already famous for his barrel riding in heavy water. As a young teenager, he'd also started to spend extended chunks of winter on the North Shore, a habit that continues to this day. He has cultivated not only a deep understanding of the lineups, but also a network of close, lifelong friends on Oahu.
Each winter he's been a freesurfing standout at Pipe, Backdoor and Sunset. However, despite the freesurfing accolades, his only goal remained to make the CT. The progress on that front was slower. Despite committing to the QS full-time, he never properly threatened the upper echelons of the rankings.
But in 2019 it was at Pipeline where he ignited his charge by winning the Volcom Pipe Pro, a QS3000 event.
"I couldn't do this without my dad, my friends, my girlfriend -- all the local boys here. I feel confident and just want to get to the World Tour already," Jack Robinson said after the victory. "That's where I'm meant to be I feel. It's going to be a lot of hard work to get there, but it's time."
Robinson was true to his word, wrapping up his CT qualification with a dramatic win at Sunset in the final event of the 2019 QS season. The postponement of the 2020 tour has been hard to take given how long and how hard he'd work on getting there, but on the brighter side, he now gets his chance to make his proper CT launch at a wave that he's almost become synonymous with.
The elite-level competition will bring added layers of new pressure, but few other competitors, let alone rookies, will enter with the confidence, ability and history of success that Robinson has at Pipeline. No full-time rookie has ever won his first CT event. What odds do you give Robbo to make history?