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Ian Walsh convincingly won his heat in round two of the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters yesterday at Banzai Pipeline. CLICK FOR LARGE
Maui's Walsh continues wild ride
The wild-card entrant advances in the Pipeline Masters despite a broken leash
Maui surfer Ian Walsh has been "unleashed" during the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, and he's taking full advantage of every opportunity.
After using a wild-card entry to surf all the way to the semifinals of the series' second jewel last week, the 23-year-old from Kuau got another wild card and continued as a standout yesterday, the second day of the third and final jewel, the 36th annual Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters.
Despite breaking his leash early in his 30-minute, second-round heat, Walsh remained in the lineup, challenging 8- to 14-foot-face surf at the Banzai Pipeline, and managed to snag a near-perfect wave score on a left with little more than a minute remaining to win it and advance to the final day of competition.
"That was a lot of work. I lost a couple of years of my life in that heat," said Walsh, who added that late 9.63 (out of 10) to an earlier 6.33 for a 15.96 total for his top two waves. "I was pretty nervous the whole time about losing my board."
But he didn't, until he came out of the barrel on the 9.63 and was dumped on virtually dry sand in the turbulent shorebreak afterwards.
"I look at all of these (Triple Crown) events as home, and I really want to do good in them," he added.
The entire second round was completed for the longest-running and most prestigious professional event in the world, which also serves as the season finale for the World Championship Tour.
Only one more day of competition is needed, and officials are expecting a big swell to arrive tomorrow or Thursday for the final rounds.
As a non-WCT surfer, Walsh gained entry into the Pipeline Masters as one of the 16 wild-card selections based on various criteria, including results at another Pipeline contest early this year. Walsh placed third at that event, but acknowledged that the Pipeline Masters is a big step up in competition.
"To be paddling out with these guys in the Pipeline Masters is such a faraway thought from when I was a kid," Walsh said. "To have a chance at winning this contest ... this is the pinnacle."
Sunset Beach's Makua Rothman was another wild card who managed to win his second-rounder -- against two former Pipeline Masters champions, no less.
The 22-year-old totaled 13.63 points to eliminate 1985 event winner Mark Occhilupo (Australia) and world No. 9 Taylor Knox (California), and relegate 2000 Pipeline Master Rob Machado (California) to second place in the heat, though he also moved on.
"Occy was the first Australian I ever met when he stayed at my house when I was a little kid, and he'll always be one of my favorite surfers," Rothman said. But "a lot of these 'CT' guys are sitting on the bench now watching us surf. This is our one chance to shine."
First-round heat winners, including Hawaii's defending event and overall Triple Crown champion Andy Irons, 2001 event champ Bruce Irons and 2004 event champ Jamie O'Brien, and world No. 7 Damien Hobgood of Florida, were able to skip the second round and will next surf in the third.
But most of the other big names forced to surf second-rounders won their heats, including current and record eight-time world champ Kelly Slater (Florida), world No. 3 Taj Burrow (Australia) and No. 4 Bobby Martinez (California).
No. 2 Mick Fanning of Australia notched the only perfect 10 of the day and the second of the event on the way to also winning his heat.
After winning the second jewel, fellow countryman and No. 6 Joel Parkinson was among those eliminated yesterday. With Parkinson's departure, only current series leader Andy Irons and Burrow remain in contention for the Triple Crown title that goes to the best overall performer in the three North Shore events.
Also yesterday as a separate segment from the main event, Jake Paterson (Australia) and Bruce Irons each won $2,000 for scoring the best tube rides during the Foster's Expression Session.