"I will go to Pipe a month before the competition and I'll talk to Shane, and as many of the locals as I can," Italo Ferreira told the WSL on his plans for the Pipe Masters recently.
"It's so hard to surf Pipe when it is crowded when all the guys come for winter, so any time out there watching and listening to the locals will be a massive help."
Italo was referring to Shane Dorian, the legendary Hawaiian big wave surfer, and former CT surfer. The Brazilian enlisted Dorian in a mentor/coach role for last year's Pipe Masters. While not exactly in the Yoda and Luke Skywalker territory, the right advice, by the right person, can bring significant gains.
"I told Italo to come to Hawaii early. Every time you surf out here, every time you sit in the pack and pick a wave off the most intense lineup in the world, it builds your confidence," Dorian explained. "And it's not just about riding the wave or figuring out where to sit, it's that, by spending time at Pipe, you start to feel like you deserve to be there."
As you well know, the partnership paid off, with Ferreira being crowned both Pipe Master and World Champion. Such is the singularity and power of Pipeline, Italo isn't alone in brining a Pipe specialist to act as a sounding board, heat strategist, lineup towel waiver, caddy, and general North Shore fixer.
In 2015 Adriano de Souza credited much of his Pipe Masters win, and World Title to Pipe supremo Jamie O'Brien. At the start of the North Shore season, Adriano knocked on Jamie's door and asked to rent a room for the winter. Sure, that was partly because ADS had no sponsor renting a prime Pipe pad, but mainly so he could soak up the line-up experience of one of Pipe's best ever surfers.
And speaking of Pipe's best ever surfers, in 2018 Filipe Toledo reached out to Kelly Slater. Now Filipe didn't take it quite so far as couch surfing at Kelly's pad, but he did take advice from the GOAT on line-up markers, the best waves in the set, and how to best change up between Pipe and Backdoor.
Being in contention for the World Title that could have made all the difference for Toledo, who had never thrived at Pipe. The only flaw in the plan was when Filipe drew Kelly in Round 3. He lost that matchup and any chance of a World Title. However, his overall performance was dramatically improved, as he came within a millimetre of making a buzzer-beating perfect 10.
Rainos Haynes, a former Hawaiian pro and now coach, also tends to be in high demand as the Pipe Masters comes into view. Locals like Seth Moniz rely on Haynes' local knowledge to gain any advantage, while Ryan Callinan, Jack Freestone and Griffin Colapinto have all tapped into the Hawaiian's extensive Pipe experience and competition savvy.
Obviously, as soon as the surfers enter the water, they are on their own. Yet at Pipeline, any extra confidence gained from wise counsel may mean the difference between making a wave, and winning a World Title.