- WSL / Tony Heff

The Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydro Flask is back on and we have all kinds of good stuff to look forward to. With a rising swell and the entire field still left in the draw, it looks like surf-starved fans will finally have some elite competition to chew on. Here we take a look at some of the tastiest mortals that we can expect when competition resumes:

The Women Are Coming To Pipe

The decision has been made to conclude the Maui Pro presented by ROXY at Pipeline at Pipe. It will be the first time a women's Championship Tour event will be decided at the iconic break. Of the women left in the draw, a number of them already boast experience at Pipe. Carissa Moore has been spending some time in the lineup with former Pipe Master Jamie O'Brien this season. And prior to that, she's participated in number of Pipe Invitational specialty events, including her performance in 2015, which saw her post two 9-point rides to take the win.

"I'm really grateful for the opportunity for the women to surf out here at Pipe, on a normal day it's really tricky and intimidating to get a wave out here so to look at the lineup with only another girl out is pretty special," reigning World Champ Moore told the WSL. "This is definitely outside my comfort zone a little bit but I'm looking forward to the challenge and giving my best."

Watch History In The Making As Maui Pro Moves To Pipeline - do not publish
World Champs Carissa Moore and Tyler Wright, along with the remaining field of competitors ready to bring first Women's Championship Tour Final to Pipe.

The Forecast

Waves are coming! According to Surfline, Thursday will see a "new WNW-NW swell build in and peak by the afternoon with sets going double overhead+. Secondary and shorter period NNW swell mixes in, which will keep things a bit mixed up and peaky. Both Pipe and Backdoor offering, but likely to favor Pipe more so." There's more surf lining up for Friday and the weekend, so strap yourselves in, this is going to be good.

PIPELINE, HI - DECEMBER 8: Excellent conditions for the trials of the Billabong Pipe Masters at Pipeline on December 8, 2020 in Kapalua, Hawaii. (Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League via Getty Images) The Pipeline in all her glory. - WSL / Tony Heff

What Surfboard Will Kelly Ride?

A question almost as old as time, or professional surfing, at least. Kelly Slater has a long history of unveiling progressive equipment at the first CT event of the year, but the black 5'6" twin fin he rode in Round 1 was his most surprising reveal of all. Kelly called it, "Fun to find a new feeling."

It will be interesting to see if he keeps with this new feeling when Pipe gets bigger or veers back to more traditional craft. As ever, the seven-time Pipe Master will have surf fans, and his opponents, guessing up until the moment he hits the water. And maybe that's just the way he likes it.

Kelly Slater With seven Pipe Masters wins, can Slater add another trophy to the mantel this year? - WSL / Matt Dunbar

A Stacked First Heat

We start the first Elimination Round of the 2020/21 CT season with a packed heat. One of either Julian Wilson, Ethan Ewingor Miguel Tudela will be leaving Pipe with a 25th. Wilson, a former Pipe Master, is the only top seed in the Elimination Rounds. After such a long buildup he will be nervous that his chances of a World Title could come down to this 30-minute heat.

Ewing, back for his second crack at the CT, has been one of the standout free surfers during lockdown. However, internet clips mean zero when paddling out for the Pipe Masters. A series of early round losses in his rookie year led to his relegation in 2017 and he'll be anxious about repeating a poor start. Tuleda, the Peruvian hellman and Pipe Invitational runner-up, is in a good place to prey on both of the Aussies' insecurities. And the bigger it gets, the better his chances will be.

Mikey and Leo: The Real Business Starts Now

Given the tension, stress, relief, and anguish generated by Mikey Wright and Leonardo Fioravanti's surf-off for the final CT spot, it must be difficult for both surfers to get their heads around the job at hand. However the whole point was to be surfing on the CT, and they now have that chance.

The pair proved how capable they are at solid Pipe in their man-on-man exchanges and with three extra heats under their belt should have a head start over their opponents. By forgetting the surf-off they both could go deep into the event.

PIPELINE, HI - DECEMBER 8: Mikey Wright of Australia in a surf-off at the Billabong Pipe Masters to earn a spot in the Championship Tour season presented by Hydro Flask at Pipeline on December 8, 2020 in Kapalua, Hawaii. (Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League via Getty Images) Mikey Wright may have lost in the surf-off, but he's got a shot at redemption with a spot in the main event. - WSL / Tony Heff

The Crocodiles In Round 3

Italo Ferreira, Gabriel Medina, Filipe Toledo, Kolohe Andino, Kanoa Igarashi John John Florence, Jordy Smith, Jeremy Flores, and Kelly Slater all had convincing wins in Round 1. They now lie in Round 3, like crocodiles in a swamp, awaiting their prey. It's hard to see how anyone outside of this group of top seeds, apart from perhaps Julian Wilson and Jack Robinson, can win the Pipe Masters.

Post Show: World Champion Italo Ferreira Is Back In His Happy Place, Winning Heats At Pipe
World Champ Italo Ferreira made sure fans knew why he's wearing the Jeep Leader Yellow Jersey, but there's plenty of athletes hot on his heels.
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