Hawaii surfers grab final
spots as Pipe Masters
meet starts

By Greg Ambrose

After six supremely frustrating days of woeful weather and worse waves, contestants joyfully sprinted into the water at the Banzai Pipeline yesterday to begin the Chiemsee Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters.

The waves weren't the awe-inspiring big Pipeline tubes that everyone has come to associate with the Pipe Masters, but the first day of competition was a tubefest nonetheless.

With a north 3- to 5-foot swell made more hollow by perfect offshore winds, most regular-foot surfers (left foot forward) performed disappearing acts on the rights at Backdoor Pipeline. For every five barrels at Backdoor, there was only a single good tube at Pipeline's lefts to allow the goofy-foot surfers (right foot forward) to face the wave.

Only five surfers were destined to make it through the trials competition to join the top 43 Association of Surfing Professionals surfers in the main event. The local surfers shut out trialists from around the world, and victors matched the ratio of rights to lefts surfed during competition: four regular foots and one goofy-foot.

Not everyone sought the coveted rights at Backdoor. While others were scrapping for rights, goofy-foot Larry Rios quietly snagged the occasional good left and pulled his own vanishing act, made more memorable by the rarity of the waves at Pipeline proper.

Longboard stylist Joel Tudor of California surprised everyone but himself by jumping on a shortboard and winning his first heat of the day. In his next heat, Tudor fell victim to Johnny Boy Gomes and Rios, who moved on to the main event, and Davey Gonsalves, who earlier had scored a nearly perfect 27.15 in a heat that included two perfect 10 scores for deep Backdoor barrels.

The two semifinal heats were stunning displays of tube overkill, with local surfers Rios, Gomes, Pancho Sullivan, Myles Padaca, young Andy Irons, veteran Michael Ho and Aussies Tony Ray and Taj Burrow pushing each other deeper into the pit. The spectators screamed themselves hoarse cheering as each surfer got shacked deeper than his competitor on successive waves.

When the turbulence settled, Burrow was out, and Ray and Sullivan were knocked from their spots at the head of the pack of surfers battling for the Triple Crown title, awarded to the surfer who finishes with the highest combined score from the three G-Shock Triple Crown of Surfing events.

Originally, six trialists were to have earned berths in the main event of the Pipe Masters. At the last minute, World Championship Tour surfer Jake Spooner of Australia decided that the waves were small enough that they wouldn't worsen his infected ear, thereby taking away Sullivan's slot.

Spooner was ousted from the event in the first round of the main event, which ran off six rounds before competition was ended yesterday.

With Sullivan beached, Sunny Garcia was left as the top Hawaii competitor in the Triple Crown race, and won his first heat to serve notice that he is dead serious about winning his fourth Triple Crown title.

Contest directors need two days of good surf at Pipeline during the next five days to finish this last event of the WCT season. For contest information, call 638-5024.

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