CAROL CUNNINGHAM / CUNNINGHAMPHOTOS.COM
Makua Rothman, left, and Kalani Chapman took off on the same wave during the Rip Curl Code STL Trials yesterday at the Banzai Pipeline.
Chapman joins Pipeline Masters
The Banzai Pipeline upheld its part of the bargain yesterday by offering up the huge and hollow waves it is famous for.
Four professional surfers seized the opportunity by delivering the huge scores necessary to emerge from the Rip Curl Code STL Trials and gain coveted entry into the main event of the 35th annual Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters, the longest-running and most prestigious professional contest in the world.
Hawaii's Kalani Chapman, Dustin Barca and Makua Rothman, and Brazil's Bruno Santos, made it through the 12- to 20-foot-face surf and a loaded, 40-man international field of Pipeline specialists, former superstars and up-and-comers to become part of the 48-man Pipeline Masters draw.
The Pipeline Masters is the third and final jewel of the men's Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and the season finale for the World Championship Tour. The Triple Crown is a series of three big-wave events at premier venues on the North Shore.
"It means the world to me to get through the trials. But it will mean more if I win the main event," said the North Shore's Chapman, who picked up three of the eight highest single-wave scores of the day, including one of the three perfect 10s. The 23-year-old Chapman won all three heats he surfed, and took the last with a two-wave high of 17.00 (out of 20 maximum) points. He dedicated his day to his friend Malik Joyeux of Tahiti, who drowned at Pipeline while free-surfing on Dec. 2.
"It helps a lot to have the local crowd behind me, and it sends tingles down my back every time they cheer, it makes me want to go harder," he continued. "But I said right from the start that this was for Malik. He was a dear friend, he changed my life and he's probably helping me right here."
Two trials "semifinals" were run to conclude yesterday's action, with the top two surfers from each four-man heat qualifying for the main event.
Kauai's Barca recovered from a broken board in the other semi to post a 7.90 with a deep and long backhanded tube ride with less than 3 minutes remaining. It was added to an earlier 7.00 to give him a winning two-wave total of 14.90 points.
Barca is recognized as a regular Pipeline standout, but it will be his first time participating in the Pipeline Masters main event, with most of the spots each year reserved for WCT surfers.
Even after having to swim to shore for a replacement board, "I worked too hard all day to give up," Barca, 23, said. "I guess it was just destiny that the (last) wave turned into something, barreling all the way across the sandbar. I knew I had (the heat won) right there. And now I get to go up against the guys on the dream tour -- the WCT."
Santos (11.90) qualified for the main event for the second year in a row by finishing as the runner-up behind Barca in their semifinal, while Rothman (13.40) qualified behind Chapman in the other.
As the high third-place finisher of the two last heats with 11.00 points, Mikey Bruneau of the North Shore -- last year's trials winner -- is the main event's first alternate.
Conditions permitting, the Pipeline Masters main event will begin today. It could take three more days to run to completion, but the event must be finished by Dec. 20.
Also yesterday, the third and final jewel of the women's Triple Crown -- the Billabong Pro Maui -- began at Honolua Bay. This two-day event is also the finale for the women's WCT, and will determine the 2005 world and Triple Crown champions. (Kelly Slater of Florida already sealed the 2005 men's world title last month.)
Current world No. 1 and defending event champ Chelsea Georgeson of Australia advanced to the Billabong Pro's final day. So did No. 2 and defending world champ Sofia Mulanovich of Peru, the only other surfer still in contention for the world title, and Triple Crown series leader Melanie Redman-Carr of Australia.