Blanchard repeats '05 Pipe win
Though the Cholo's Women's Pipeline Pro only just finished its third year as an annual event, a couple of competitors already showed that they have the skill and mettle to deliver more than one good performance -- and victory -- at the famed Banzai Pipeline.
The all-female event completed its second and final competition day for this year yesterday at the North Shore break, with Kauai's Alana Blanchard winning the shortboard division title and the $2,000 top prize. The 17-year-old also won the division at the inaugural Pipeline Pro in 2005.
Honolulu's Leah Dawson won the longboard division for the second straight year and picked up $500. What's more: She took home an additional $900 after finishing as the runner-up to Blanchard in the shortboard competition as well.
"I just wanted to have a lot of fun, and be able to surf this wave with only four people out" in the lineup, said Hanalei's Blanchard. "I like the pressure of this place and from the other competitors -- it makes me do better. It's important for women (surfers) to step it up to the next level."
COURTESY BRENT BIELMANN / PHOTOBRENT.COM
Kauai's Rochelle Ballard got perfectly slotted in a Backdoor Pipeline barrel yesterday on the way to a third-place finish. CLICK FOR LARGE
Said Dawson: "I was trying to make both finals, but it never really came to me that I had a shot to win both. I couldn't be happier. I'm on top of the world right now."
The Pipeline Pro began on Tuesday with about 80 entries spread across three divisions (also bodyboarding). Waves were in the 4- to 8-foot-face range yesterday, with conditions better during the morning.
Some surfers were able to score a few of the barrel rides the Pipeline is renowned for early in the day, but conditions weren't as favorable when the three division finals were held in the afternoon. Still, finalists like Blanchard and Dawson were able to continue delivering solid scores in their deciders.
Blanchard totaled 17.28 points (out of 20 maximum) for her top two waves in the shortboard final, including a near-perfect 9.65 on her second-to-last ride in the 30-minute heat. The regular-foot surfer strung together five consecutive backside carving maneuvers on a Pipeline left to get the score.
"I was kind of looking for the rights, but then that left came through," Blanchard said.
Dawson finished with 10.70 total points in the four-woman shortboard final. Current women's World Championship Tour competitor Rochelle Ballard -- who used a brief break between WCT tour stops to return home to Hawaii and participate in this event -- finished in third place with 10.35. Only 12, Kahuku seventh-grader Kallee Krebs was impressive just by making the final, where she ended up with 7.46 combined and in fourth place.
In the six-woman longboard final, Dawson edged runner-up Megan Godinez, 12.00 total points to 9.83. Finishing behind them, in descending order, were: Candice Appleby, Stacia Ahina, Mimi Horiuchi and Kawehi Whitford.
"On the longboard, I felt really comfortable," said the 20-year-old Dawson, "like I had a right to be out there, defending my title. ... Yeah, we don't get as (deeply barreled) as the guys do, but I fell in love with Pipeline these last two days."
In the bodyboard final, 1996 world champion Claudia Ferrari finally broke through for her first career Pipeline win after never having previously finished higher than second place at other bodyboarding-only events at the prestigious venue.
Ferrari, 40, caught the biggest waves and successfully pulled off the most critical maneuvers during the four-woman final, and was rewarded with an 18.20 total for her top two rides and the $2,000 winner's check.
"I always believed I had the surfing (ability) and technique" to win at Pipeline, said Ferrari, who is originally from Brazil but has lived on the North Shore for almost 20 years. "Today I managed to get the good waves, and that's the key in any contest. It's never too late (to win), and I'll be here next year again."
Natasha Sagardia (16.25) finished as the bodyboard runner-up, while Aoi Koike placed third and Daniela Freitas fourth.