WCT surfer Pancho Sullivan won a tough third-round heat at Pipeline yesterday after winning three heats on Wednesday.
Sullivan bursts through Pipeline’s talent-laden third-round heat
Though he has long been one of the North Shore's best surfers and finished a career-best No. 7 in the world last year, Pupukea's Pancho Sullivan was grateful simply for the chance to surf in the 24th annual Monster Energy Pipeline Pro.
After verbally committing to the event but having his name temporarily "lost in the shuffle" in the lead-up, the elite World Championship Tour surfer elected to start competing in the World Qualifying Series event from the very first trials heat rather than mess with the already-drawn-up brackets.
Normally a surfer of Sullivan's caliber would have received a high seed and byes through the first few rounds. But the 34-year-old former event champion was most concerned about getting a chance to compete at one of his favorite breaks and prepare for the WCT season (reserved for the world's top 45 surfers) starting in Australia at the end of this month.
And Sullivan has shown he's more than capable of starting from the back of the pack, getting through three heats on Wednesday before winning a stacked third-rounder yesterday for a spot in the round of 32.
"I was fine with starting from the very first round. Pipeline is so crowded on any given day that the more opportunity I get to surf it (with only three other guys out) the better it is for me," Sullivan said. "I've had a bit of a break, and I just want to get back into the swing of things and back into pressure situations."
In 6- to 10-foot-face waves, Sullivan nabbed two successful right-breaking barrel rides and 17.10 (out of 20) total points for the pair to win his third-rounder over Roy Powers (11.75), Rob Machado (10.80) and Myles Padaca (7.90).
Kauai's Powers -- who will be joining Sullivan on the WCT this season after winning a Triple Crown of Surfing event near the end of last year -- also moved on by placing second in his first heat of the event. But the 2006 Pipeline Pro winner and former world No. 2 Machado and the former Triple Crown overall champ Padaca were both eliminated.
"I saw the heat (draw), and I thought, 'My god, that's a hard heat to start out my contest,' " Powers, 26, said. "But you want to surf against the best guys, and if not, you're not pushing your ability all the way. I just love to compete and want to get as many heats under my belt as possible to get warmed up for the 'CT. There's a lot of good guys in this event, and on the 'CT everyone is good."
Added Sullivan: "I was hoping to just build my momentum throughout the contest, but that was one heat where I really had to elevate my performance."
Competition may resume today after the last 13 heats of the second round and eight of 16 heats of the third were completed yesterday. Just over a full day's worth of competition remains for the event that must be completed by next Wednesday.
Ola Eleogram, Love Hodel, Evan Valiere, Clay Marzo, Granger Larsen, Joel Centeio, Marcus Hickman, Kekoa Bacalso, Kawika Stillwell, Makuakai Rothman and David Gonsalves were the other Hawaii surfers already securing spots among the final 32 by getting through their third-round heats. Stillwell logged one of just two perfect 10s so far in the event in winning his second-rounder in the morning.
Most noticeably not among them was former three-time world champion Andy Irons of Kauai, the top seed in the event who hit the water for the first time in the last third-rounder of the day. He was not able to establish any rhythm and was eliminated after finishing fourth with a mere 2.50 total.
Other notables to move on included California's Matt Mohagen -- who won the heat that included Irons -- and Brazil's Wiggolly Dantas.
Defending Pipeline Pro champ Jamie O'Brien of the North Shore will make his contest debut this year in the first heat to hit the water when competition resumes. Hawaii WCT surfers Fred Patacchia Jr. and Irons' younger brother, Bruce, have also yet to compete.