COURTESY ZAK NOYLE / WWW.ZAKNOYLE.COM
Rob Machado won the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro yesterday at Banzai Pipeline.
Machado has magic 'Left'
The 'semi-retired' surfer shows he can still charge the waves by capturing the Pipeline Pro
The retirement communities in Florida don't offer perfect barreling waves, so surfer Rob Machado prefers to spend his at places like the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore.
About five years removed from a strong decade on the World Championship Tour, the former world No. 2 showed he still has the skills and psyche to excel at the famed and extremely dangerous surf spot, winning the 22nd annual Monster Energy Pipeline Pro yesterday.
The 32-year-old from Cardiff, Calif., delivered a near-flawless performance in the Pipeline Pro final, scoring a perfect 10 and a 9.17 to win with 19.17 total points for his top two waves and pick up the $10,000 first prize at this 4-star World Qualifying Series event.
"Yeah, I'm retired, I guess," said Machado, who also won at this break at the WCT's 2000 Pipeline Masters. "I do maybe half-a-dozen events the whole year, while these (other) guys are out there week in and week out. (But) you don't come here to lose. And I love surfing Pipeline, too. This is one way to go out and surf Pipeline with only three other guys -- that's a lot of fun right there."
Yet, a chance for "fun" was probably the furthest thing from Machado's mind when a solid 18-footer lined up in front of him with only about 7 minutes remaining in the 30-minute, four-man final. Clean waves were breaking both left and right all day, and were mostly in the 10- to 16-foot-face range but got bigger on the sets.
Scraping his way into the left-breaking wave and barely keeping his feet attached to his board during the drop, Machado pulled under the massive barreling section. He reemerged several seconds and about 20 yards later and almost immediately received the perfect 10 from the judges.
COURTESY PIERRE TOSTEE / ASP / WWW.TOSTEE.COM
Fred Patacchia Jr. dumped a drink on Rob Machado during the awards ceremony yesterday at Banzai Pipleline.
It was added to the 9.17 he received for a successful barrel ride on a 12-foot left 14 minutes in, and convincingly locked up the win. It also helped give Machado the highest overall heat score of any surfer at the three-day event.
"I was (so) close to pulling back, and I just threw myself over" instead, Machado said of the wave. "I was like, 'This is the final. Who cares if I (wipe out), break my board, break myself -- that's why you're in the final.'
"I kinda free-fell for a second, stuck it, and just tried to set my rail and pull up -- and I did somehow. I just knew it was a big barrel, held on tight and the thing blew me out."
Finishing with a score that could've taken the victory other years, Sunset Beach's Fred Patacchia Jr. ended up in second place with 15.73 total points.
The 24-year-old was a finalist at this event two years ago, and finished as the No. 14 surfer in the world in his rookie season on the WCT last year. Patacchia managed to take out defending Pipeline Pro champ Pancho Sullivan in winning one of the semifinals yesterday.
"(Machado) is definitely tough to beat, he's definitely intimidating, knowing he's a (Pipeline Masters) champion," Patacchia said. "But just being out here in a final at Pipe with all these Hawaii and international surfers feels really good. I got a lot of years left, and I'm hoping this isn't my last final -- hoping to take one one day."
Maui's Ian Walsh (14.00) placed third, and Peru's Gabriel Villaran (5.17) took fourth. Villaran had been a standout all day until the final, even managing a perfect 10 himself during his quarterfinal heat.
Between the semifinals and final, Hawaii's Bonga Perkins won $1,000 for the best barrel ride -- a perfect 10, as well -- during a longboard expression session.
Watching all of the action but not competing was current and record seven-time world champion Kelly Slater of Florida, one of Machado's close friends.
"(Slater) called me this morning and told me to go right," Machado said. "But I wasn't buying it. I thought the lefts were better."
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