After days of northeast swell, the strip from Rockpile to Rockies was covered with a thick dusting of sand.
This created playful peaks up and down the beach, with a few select joints offering the occasional subterranean cavern. Yesterday, Backdoor was a rippable point, but with the trials looming, competitors hoped for something with a little more bite.
Enter a mid-sized northwest swell, which made landfall this morning.
Backdoor looked tiny at first light but the sets slowly started to pump. In the day’s first heat, Jack Robinson and Eli Hanneman traded long, hollow right-handers. With the swell filling in throughout the day, everything appeared in place for a stellar trials event.
The reality was slightly less appealing.
Sets were slow—like,really slow—and the bigger they got, the more affected they became by the residual sand in the channel and Pipeline’s mythologized “new swell lump.”
A majority of Round 1 heats were won with a single-digit heat total. Round two’s high heat score was 11.73. Jack Robinson* lost in the semis to Keanu Asing and Imaikalani Devault—we’ll let that fact speak for itself.
Meanwhile, the talented North Shore jester, Mason Ho, was trading roll-in tubes with the 50-deep crowd at Velzyland. If you’re curious why Mason didn’t have a spot in today’s trials, it’s because he didn’t earn his way through this year’s Volcom Pipe Pro.
Also (and we can’t verify this factoid, but someone left it in our Instagram comments, and it does sound correct), Mason’s dismissal from Haleiwa, Sunset, and Pipe made 2019 the first year that the Triple Crown did not include a Ho in at least one of its heat draws.
A sad historical footnote if we’ve ever heard one.
By the finals, a cheesy Kona breeze had ruffled the lineup and wreaked havoc on tubes. Rain or shine, two surfers had to prevail.
After an eternal 40 minutes, it was the supremely impressive any-size surfer Billy Kemper and the Maui style maven Imaikalani deVault who forced their way through more chandeliers than Keanu Asing and Koa Smith. Congrats to the winning Hawaiians for earning a spot in the Pipe Masters main event, which will most likely start tomorrow.
*A little additional info on Jack: the recently qualified 21-year-old didn’t surf Pipe at all this season until Sunset was done. Even when the Banzai was 10-foot and pumping, which it has been on multiple occasions this winter, Jack focused all his time and energy toward Haleiwa and Sunset, as he knew that they would be the key to his long-term success. Talk about a mature yet masochistic approach from the notorious barrel fiend.
Thankfully for Jack, his cone celibacy paid off with a 2020 Championship Tour bid. On the flip side, it’s possible that his avoidance of Pipe contributed to Jack’s loss today. And Medina and Italo couldn’t be happier about it.
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