In firing, six-to-eight-foot conditions, John John Florence has taken the win at the HIC Pipe Pro. Living up to his reputation as today's premiere Pipe surfer, he managed to hold off next-gen Pipe surfer Barron Mamiya who finished in the runner-up position, his brother, Ivan Florence who finished third, as well as Kainehe Hunt in fourth.
The Semifinals saw the Florence brothers take on event standout Kalani David, along with buzzer-beater extraordinaire Eli Hanneman. A slow start gave way to fireworks from the two-time World Champ as the heat wore on, earning an excellent 8.60 before backing it up immediately under priority with a 7.60 to put the field in a combination situation. The younger Florence, needing a 2.74, locked into a Pipeline gem and reappeared with the wave's regurgitation for the heat's best score, an 8.83.
"It feels so amazing just to win this event, especially after Haliewa too," said Florence. "Coming into this event I was actually a little bit nervous. There's a lot of really good surfers in this event. But, it was fun to get back into the rhythm and be competing out here again and getting ready for what's to come in the next few months. I was really stoked, it was a great final. And to win like that is always really fun. Last second, it was all building up for those last seconds."
In the following Semi, Hawaii's rising star Barron Mamiya took the heat win, while up-and-comer Kainehe Hunt's buzzer-beater on a deep Pipeline gem in pushed the 20-year-old into his first-ever Final at the famed reef break. The pair overcame an in-form Brodi Sale and 16-year-old MaiKai Burdine. With this result, Mamiya and Hunt are locked into a Challenger Series next season.
The highlight of the day came in the Quarters when Ivan Florence locked into an absolute dream wave at Pipe, coming from deep behind a massive curtain with brother John John cheering him on, the judges threw him a perfect 10 for the effort.
"Probably the most fun I've had at Pipeline in so long, just being out there with my brother," said Florence. "Being out there against him is really really cool, its so exciting, I love it. It's just so much fun. Just making it through all the heats and stuff, it's just so sick. Surfing Pipe with no one out, it's unbelievable, it's the best thing you can do"
But from start to finish, it was John John's days as his form went unrivaled from the first heat, where posted a near-perfect heat total of 18.83 and started his flawless finals day run, all the way through the Final. Not dropping a single heat throughout the event, this marks the Florence's tenth victory on the North Shore across all competitions, surpassing the late 3X WSL Champion Andy Irons.
Florence will now set his sights on his 2022 Championship Tour debut, which will take place at Pipe this January. After wins at Haleiwa and now Pipe, could a third World Title be too far behind?
Day 3: John John Florence Leads Charge As CT Talent Shine At HIC Pipe Pro
If the HIC Pipe Pro could be considered a preview of what we may see when the 2022 Championship Tour gets underway at Pipeline in January, the contingent from Hawaii is already planting their flag in the sand. Led by a rejuvenated John John Florence, with the Round of 64 hitting the water today, the CT talent led the charge in the building conditions.
Florence, who won the 2021 Pipe Masters, put on a showcase of tube-riding ability for a 15.87 heat total in his Pipe Pro debut. The North Shore's own comes into this event a previous winner at the Billabong Pipeline Masters and recent Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenger after a devastating injury earlier in 2021. But, he now looks to add to his Pipe Pro collection at one of his favorite waves after sharing a heat with brother Ivan, who also advanced.
"I'm so stoked to be competing again and having my brother in a heat is pretty awesome," said the reigning Billabong Pipeline Masters winner Florence. "I'm treating this like it's the biggest event of my life. We have all the best surfers in Hawaii at this event and on the Tour so it's going to be fun to battle it out today and tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Hawaiian Seth Moniz found himself in one of the busiest heats of the day as Pipeline was relentless, giving him an opportunity to claim an excellent 16-point heat total.
"That was a pretty unexpected heat right there," said Moniz. "Waves were pumping in my heat and my board felt really small. At this size with the backwash on it is actually more scary than 10-to-12 foot, second reef because it's just heavier. Getting heats and reps out here is really important and any more heats I can get out there I'm going to give it my all."
The day started with newly qualified Ezekiel Lau acing his heat, then fireworks ensued with recently confirmed 2022 CT Rookie Imaikalani deVault earning a 9.50 on Backdoor dreamer, re-emerging to an eruption from the crowd before finding another Pipeline gem to garner an immaculate 16.57 heat total. The Maui, Hawaii, surfer proved himself once before at the Pipeline Invitational where he earned a victory and will return to the CT stage in 2022 a full-time competitor.
"It's always great to get the jersey at home in Hawaii," said deVault. "I didn't do well at Haleiwa which was a shocker so it was nice to get in a heat and get some waves. To get the reps in at Pipe is always special and I've done well in the Pipe trials before but any win or Final is huge and good bragging rights. If you were to do anything big out here that's a feat all in itself."
Pipeline came to life for four-time Jaws Challenge victor Billy Kemper, who came flying out of depths from behind the curtain, emerging as the wave regurgitated showing he was as deep as he could've been in the barrel for a near-perfect 9.27. Kemper's knowledge of the famed reefbreak and confidence in wave of consequence all came together with Finn McGill, notching an 8.00 of his own, overtaking the lead in the final seconds.
"Pipeline is Pipeline whether its two-foot or 10-foot and I'm just so stoked to be competing in my backyard," said Kemper. "I'm happy WSL sees how much this means to the locals for this opportunity for these kids. This event is stacked. It's all locals and for the future of Hawaii surfers, these events are everything "
Fellow Maui competitor Eli Hanneman's buzzer-beater, aerial assault landed him into the Round of 32 alongside a crew of Maui competitors including Cody Young, Ocean Macedo, and Ian Gentil all advanced.
Day 2: Moana Wong Scores Statement-Making Victory At HIC Pipe Pro
"I always wanted to win this contest and I finally won it," said Wong. "I've been doing this contest since I was 12 years old, before it was taken by WSL, it was Betty Depolito who had this contest. So I've been doing it for so many years and I always came so close. I finally accomplished my goal and I feel really really good."
Rounding out the Final was Costa Rica's Brisa Hennessy in second, Hawaii's Gabriela Bryanin third, and Brianna Cope in fourth. Both Hennessy and Bryan are coming off of strong runs on the Challenger Series and will compete on the 2022 Championship Tour, which coincidentally, kicks off at Pipeline this January.
Wong's momentum throughout the day was undeniable. She started her run by posting a 9.17 wave score and 16.17 heat total at Backdoor to secure a statement-making Round of 32 win. Heading into the Semifinals, Wong had tallied the three highest single-scoring waves of the event.
"I was freaking out because it's hard when it's like this and it's about luck, being in the right place at the right time," she explained. "Thankfully, I was in the right place at the right time and snuck in two fun ones. I never go Backdoor so that's why I was so excited I made it."
In a testament to the importance of this event at surfing's ultimate proving ground, the draw was stacked with Championship Tour talent, barrier breakers and the next generation of Pipe surfers. One star-studded Quarterfinal heat featured Keala Kennelly, Bethany Hamilton and Coco Ho -- but somehow it was the unheralded Cope that took the heat win.
In the Semifinals, half of the women competing are either on the CT or will be next year. Meanwhile, rising stars like Cope, Luana Silva, Erin Brooks, Caitlin Simmers and Zoe McDougall proved that the future of women at Pipeline is growing stronger with every passing swell.
Day 1: Locals Delight In Rising Swell On Day 1 Of HIC Pipe Pro
A long-awaited opening day at the HIC Pipe Pro, a Qualifying Series 1,000-level event, got underway in solid, three-to-five foot, building swell that provided plenty of scoring opportunity and electric performances at the ‘Gums' sandbar.
The day concluded with Men's Round of 96 action completed in its entirety with familiar faces and emerging talent making their way through to the Round of 64 where the top-seeded competitors await. Women's competition was called off for the day with a likely start Friday, December 17.
In what may have been the most star-studded heat featuring former Pipe Master and North Shore's own Jamie O'Brien, recent TUDOR Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge winner Kai Lenny, Pipeline standout Luke Shepardson, and newcomer MaiKai Burdine unfolded with Lenny taking control early in the battle. But, a steady performance from underdog Burdine put O'Brien and Shepardson on the ropes. In the end it was Burdine taking the heat win with Lenny advancing in 2nd.
"That was so insane, I'm still so nervous right - I'm shaking," said Burdine. "I was stoked to get the buzzer-beater and take out Jamie and Kai. It's big to have contests back again and hopefully keep making a couple more heats."
Kalani David reminded spectators and all those involved with the event of his explosive tendencies in the water and put them on full display for his Round of 96 debut, garnering a 13.67 (out of a possible 20) heat total. David's variety of major maneuvers and progression in the air earned him (a round's best) 7.50 (out of a possible 10) to make his presence known.
"I was definitely super nervous, it's been awhile since I've been in the jersey so I just wanted to get the first wave out of the wave," said David. "This is all I've ever wanted to do is get back in the jersey again and to have another event is super refreshing. If I do really good here I can get on the Challenger Series but I don't want to get ahead of myself and just give it 100 percent."
One of the North Shore's own Nathan Florence last stepped into a jersey nearly two years ago at this event and experienced an early exit at the hands of Yago Dora, and returns with his goals set. While the 27-year-old awaits the return of WSL Big Wave competition, he began his march toward latter rounds with a Round of 96 victory to start things off on a positive note following his brother's, 2X WSL Champion John John, inspiring win at Haleiwa.
"It's been a long time since I competed and it was pretty nerve-racking, but we rarely get to surf this little peak over here the way it is," said Florence. "Usually it's real north and Backdoor is ripped up, it's not barreling the way it usually is (at Pipe) which I prefer it that way, but it's good to get the grind on. I think this event is great for all the locals to have a chance at getting onto the Challenger Series, I don't have Championship Tour goals, but a lot of these guys do and it's great to see this opportunity."
Also into the Round of 64, fellow Florence sibling Ivan, 25, joins his brothers when competition resumes after advancing behind Kai Martin.
Shayden Pacarro delivered a brilliant 7.33 in Heat 14 as fellow Hawaii competitors Kai Paula, Dylan Franzmann, Alex Smith, Luke Tema, Chris Foster, all advanced into the Round 64 with decisive Round of 96 heat wins to start building momentum before taking on the event's top-seeded competitors when competition gets back underway.
"In that two years (break) I had a baby and surfing as much as I can, and I was extremely nervous going into that heat," said Pacarro. "I definitely have a goal to get to the Challenger Series. It would be amazing to travel with my family, to me that would be the ultimate experience."
The day had its share of surprise eliminations as up-and-coming talents such as Levi Young stormed through the Round of 96. Young's forehand attack kept pace with one of his idols Eli Olson and ultimately helped eliminate the North Shore standout, joined by fellow newcomer Rylan Beavers.
"(It) was a good break to get better and so stoked to be back," said Young. "I'm sure it would have been different if it was 10-foot and barreling, (Eli Olson's) such an insane surfer and I've always looked up to those guys my whole life. Just to get in a heat with them is awesome, I'm only 17 and I've watched them surf this wave so I'm just excited to get this opportunity."
The youth continued to perform as Kainehe Hunt, 19, surged over former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Dusty Payne (HAW), also advancing, as Haleiwa standout Shion Crawford (HAW), Shiloh Tennberg, Kaiser Auberlen, and Diesel Storm Butts made their way into the Round 64 as next generation competitors.
Event organizers will reconvene to make a 7:00 a.m. HST call for a probable 8:00 a.m. HST start.