PIERRE TOSTEE / ASP TOSTEE
Marcus Hickman set up for a Backdoor tube ride in the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro yesterday.
Hickman tames monster waves
The Sunset Beach pro has a nearly perfect day in nearly perfect surf at Pipeline
Hawaii's Marcus Hickman is not afraid to battle monsters.
At least not when the monsters are the huge waves that the Banzai Pipeline offers up each winter.
Recognized as one of the very best at the infamous break on Oahu's North Shore, the pro surfer from Sunset Beach was a standout yesterday during the first day of the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro.
"I pressure myself so much to do good here," Hickman, 26, said. "There are a lot of people behind me, who know I can (win at Pipeline) -- I don't want to let them or myself down."
Waves were in the 8- to 16-foot-face range for the first of three competition days for the $75,000, 4-star World Qualifying Series event. The 22nd annual Pipeline Pro began with an international field of 132 surfers, and is the first contest of the year for most of them.
Seeded directly into the second round, Hickman scored one of the best barrel rides of the day through the right-breaking section known as Backdoor, and he nearly nabbed another later in his heat but was clipped just before exiting.
Still, the 8.67 (out of 10 maximum) score he received for the successful barrel ride and the 5.23 he got for the near-miss were enough to win his loaded four-man heat with 13.90 total points for his top two waves and advance to the second day of the Pipeline Pro.
Finishing as the heat runner-up behind Hickman and also advancing was noted veteran Matt Archbold of California. Hawaii's Kalani Chapman, who made the finals at the Pipeline Masters last month, finished third and did not move on.
"Definitely a lot of competition, definitely had my work cut out for me," Hickman said. "(The first scoring wave) was perfect, not one flaw on the wave, and I was pretty much just standing there and enjoying it. (On the second) I was so close (to the barrel's exit), I could reach out and touch it."
All of the first round and 10 of 16 heats of the second were completed yesterday. Conditions permitting, the Pipeline Pro resumes today, but has a waiting period that extends to Feb. 10 to run to completion.
Other Hawaii surfers to qualify for the third round included: former world champion and two-time event winner Derek Ho, Braden Dias, Mark Healey, Jamie Sterling, Arjuna Morgan, Golden Depesa, Reef McIntosh, Kahea Hart, Aamion Goodwin, Danny Fuller, David Wassell and Sage Huls.
Other notables to advance included Naohisa Ogawa of Japan and Brad Ettinger of California, who both won their second-rounders.
Participating in the Pipeline Pro for the second time, Ettinger posted the highest wave score (9.83) of the event so far in taking his heat. The 21-year-old from Huntington Beach got the score with only about a minute remaining for a disappearing and then reappearing act from a solid, 16-foot, left-breaking tube, and he was able to eliminate 2004 event champ Tom Dosland (Hawaii) in the process.
"I took off, did one hard pump and the wave spit me out," said Ettinger of his near-perfect wave. "A dream come true."
Defending champ and World Championship Tour surfer Pancho Sullivan (Hawaii) was seeded into the third round and has yet to hit the water.
Other big names who were similarly seeded and will see their first action when the Pipeline Pro resumes include: 2004 Pipeline Masters champ Jamie O'Brien (Hawaii), junior world champ Kekoa Bacalso (Hawaii), brothers Masatoshi and Norimasa Ohno (Japan), and WCT surfers Fred Patacchia Jr. and Roy Powers (both from Hawaii).