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Bourez and Bacalso square off at Pipeline for rookie of the year


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POSTED: Friday, December 11, 2009

The Billabong Pipeline Masters kicked off yesterday and is shaping up to be a showdown on a couple of levels. This event is the third jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and the last contest of the World Championship Tour.

A northwest swell provided barreling 8- to 12-foot wave heights for the first round and a half of competition. While the ASP world title is the highlight of the Pipe Masters, there is also a battle for WCT rookie of the year between Mililani's Kekoa Bacalso, 24, and Tahiti's Michel Bourez, 23.

Bourez is ranked No. 21 on the World Championship Tour, while Bacalso is at No. 18. Although Bacalso is in the lead, he was shaken up yesterday in the second round when he got pounded on a double-overhead wave.

“;I got pretty smashed on that thing and I'm just stoked I didn't hit my head,”; said Bacalso, who hit his elbow on the reef. “;There's no technique on how to eat it out there. Luckily, I didn't dive for the hills and I just survived that thing. I'm not going to lie, that thing hurt.”;

Bacalso's two-wave total of 12 out of a possible 20 points narrowly beat Sunset Beach's Mason Ho, who scored a 10.67 two-wave total. Bacalso posted a high-scoring ride of 9.33 out of a possible 10 for negotiating a hollow backdoor barrel. The tubes offered at Pipeline are beautiful, but deadly. Five people have died at Pipe in the past decade. According to Bacalso, the intensity of the wave and shallow reef make the Banzai Pipeline really dangerous.

“;It just surges from really, really deep water and just hits the shelf,”; Bacalso said. “;It throws out pretty much 100 feet, and it's a pretty crazy wave. It gets really shallow when it sucks up.”;

Bacalso surfs again in the third round against one of his best friends, Fred Patacchia, while Bourez will face Pipe specialist Flynn Novak in the second round. If Bourez fails to advance in the heat, Bacalso will be the rookie of the year.

Meanwhile, WCT No. 1 Mick Fanning and No. 2 Joel Parkinson square off for the ASP world title. If Fanning loses before the quarterfinal, Parkinson needs to finish third or better to claim his first ASP world title. Both 28-year-old Australians will surf their first heats of the contest in the third round.

“;It's definitely exciting to see the ASP title come down to Pipe,”; Parkinson said. “;Pipeline is one of the most awesome waves ever. It's close to the beach. It's a natural amphitheater and it's only 50 yards out and you're surfing a wave that could kill you, so it's pretty exciting.”;