CAROL CUNNINGHAM / CUNNINGHAMPHOTOS.COM
Defending champion Jamie O'Brien was among the competitors advancing yesterday in the third round of the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters.
Pipeline obeys O’Brien at Masters
The defending champ scores a 9.87 on his best ride of the day
Doing whatever was necessary, most of the big names successfully held their edge through the barreling surf at the Banzai Pipeline yesterday.
Defending Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters champion Jamie O'Brien prayed to the break, record seven-time world champ Kelly Slater dominated it and three-time world champ Andy Irons spent a good amount of time bodysurfing it.
But all three -- along with most of the other favorites -- advanced out of the third round and qualified for the quarterfinals and final day of the longest-running (35th annual) and most prestigious professional surf contest in the world.
"I got off to a slow start, was kind of frustrated. But then I just looked out to sea, and was like, 'C'mon Pipe. Let's do it, let's do it!' " said O'Brien, who ended up winning his third-rounder by posting one of the highest individual-wave scores (9.87 out of 10) and overall heat totals (17.04 out of 20) of the day after his short talk with his home break. "Fortunately I got through (the heat), and got some nice waves."
Waves were in the 12- to 16-foot-face range, with occasional bigger sets. Conditions started with perfect glass in the morning, and deteriorated with onshore winds and bumpiness by the afternoon.
The Pipeline Masters is the third and final jewel of the men's Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, a series of three big-wave events on Oahu's North Shore that also represents the end of the surfing season.
Conditions permitting, the contest could finish its fourth and final competition day today, but it must be completed by Tuesday. O'Brien will be in the first quarterfinal heat when the Pipeline Masters resumes, as will current world No. 4 Mick Fanning of Australia.
Florida's Slater, who sealed the 2005 world championship last month and is a record five-time Pipeline Masters winner, will be in the second. So will Hawaii's Kalani Chapman, a Pipeline regular who is the last of the four surfers who qualified for the Pipeline Masters through its trials segment still alive in the main event.
After getting through his four-man, second-round heat yesterday in the runner-up spot behind Chapman, Slater simply took over in winning their third-rounder and flip-flopping their order of finish -- posting the only perfect 10 individual-wave score of the day as well as the highest overall heat score (18.67).
Slater posted the 10 after successfully riding through a dredging, 18-foot, left-handed barrel on his backhand, and then added an 8.67 for a forehanded barrel on a smaller right in the section known as Backdoor.
"I knew I just had to be patient," Slater said. "I don't mind getting a couple (second-place finishes in heats) early on, but towards the end you want to have good, solid heats and not mess around. ... Hopefully I didn't use (the high scores) all up and I have a little bit left for the end."
Kauai's Irons, who is going after his third Pipeline Masters and overall Triple Crown series titles (he won both in 2002 and 2003), grabbed the early lead in his third-round heat and managed to survive and win it with only 11.00 points for his top two waves.
Instead of sitting on the early lead, Irons was forced to swim with it. He broke his board at about the midpoint of the 30-minute heat and spent most of the rest of it trying to bodysurf his way in toward his caddy and extra board. Fortunately for Irons, the other three surfers in his heat were unable to overtake him during his struggle.
"Ups and downs," is how Irons described the heat. "Got a solid score (9.07) early on, broke my board, then spent (practically) the rest of the heat bodysurfing. I caught a wave right at the end, but it wasn't much. ... It worked out all right, though."
Other notables to advance to the quarterfinals included: Irons' younger brother, Bruce, the 2001 Pipeline Masters winner; winner of the first Triple Crown jewel and current series leader Pancho Sullivan (Hawaii); defending and record six-time Triple Crown champ Sunny Garcia (Hawaii); 1999 world champ Mark Occhilupo (Australia); and current world No. 5 Damien Hobgood (Florida). The first four of this group will be in the last -- and very loaded -- quarterfinal heat when competition resumes.
Also yesterday, the women's Triple Crown series and World Championship Tour season ended with the conclusion of the Billabong Pro Maui at Honolua Bay.
Chelsea Georgeson of Australia won everything that she possibly could have in this finale on the Valley Isle, taking the event and the Triple Crown series title for the second year in a row while also picking up her first world championship in the process.
Georgeson had entered the Billabong Pro as the world No. 1, and she sealed the world title when the only remaining contender -- 2004 world champion Sofia Mulanovich of Peru -- went down in the quarterfinals. The winner of the women's first jewel last month as well, the 22-year-old then went on to win this last one and the Triple Crown by defeating Brazil's Jacqueline Silva in the Billabong Pro final.