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8 advance to Pipeline Masters


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POSTED: Saturday, February 07, 2009

In giant, dangerous 16- to 20-foot wave face heights, eight winners emerged from the HIC Pipeline Pro Trials. Some were veterans. Some were young guns. Some wore bandages from the carnage that Pipe unleashed yesterday. Others wore huge smiles from the gaping tubes the Banzai Pipeline offered.

But there is one thing all of them had in common: a golden ticket into the Billabong Pipeline Masters this December. Liam McNamara, Jonah Morgan, Sion Milosky, Mason Ho, Dusty Payne, Gavin Gillette, Hank Gaskell and Flynn Novak are invited to compete in the Pipe Masters, the last event of the 2009 World Tour and the third jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

In all, there are 16 wild-card spots for the Pipeline Masters. Eight came from the HIC Pipeline Pro yesterday, six from a Surfer Peer Poll, one will be reserved for a Tahitian, and the final spot will go to a Triple Crown contender after the first two events of that series.

The top six vote getters of the peer election were Reef McIntosh, Kamalei Alexander, Danny Fuller, Marcus Hickman, Kalani Chapman and Jamie O'Brien. These six surfers are regarded as “;Pipe Specialists”; by their fellow surfers and are automatically invited to the Billabong Pipeline Masters and did not compete at the Pipeline Pro trials.

Those six surfers were fortunate not to surf yesterday, because the Banzai Pipeline was angrier than usual, dealing out massive amounts of carnage to trials competitors. Novak, 25, felt the wrath of Pipe yesterday. Despite winning his quarterfinals heat in convincing fashion and gaining entrance into the Pipe Masters, Novak still hit the reef on his last ride of the day. Novak pulled into a gorgeous, monster barrel, but was too deep and the wave engulfed him.

“;That last wave looked really good and I guess I was a little too deep. I pretty much did everything I could—I pulled in, rode it out to the foam ball,”; said Novak, who is a Pipeline regular and North Shore native. “;Then the foam ball fully bottomed out in the barrel and I fell right onto the reef. I didn't hit water first. I fell straight onto the reef with my tailbone.”;

According to Novak, he got the wind knocked out of him, then hit his head and hip and had to be rescued by the Hawaiian Water Patrol jet ski officials. When Novak got to the beach he was visibly hurt by the wipeout and had a hard time walking up the beach. Blood ran down from the top of his head while safety officials iced his tailbone and treated his wounds.

“;This is definitely the hardest I've ever hit. I wasn't scared because everything happened so fast. I opened my eyes under water and I was seeing black spots,”; Novak said. “;In the heat I felt like I was making it, but it was pretty emotional. It was weird. I'm not super emotional about anything like that at all, but coming in with excruciating pain and I wanna cry out of happiness, but also because of the pain.”;

Novak didn't shed a tear while accepting the Todd Chesser Award for his bravery at the HIC Pipeline Pro Trials, but it was obvious that he was still hurting from the massive wipeout. Yet Novak, like the rest of the competitors was relieved to survive the gnarly conditions and excited at the amazing rides they scored yesterday.