Surf fans awoke on Monday morning with hopes of seeing a day three of the Billabong Pipeline Masters, the most storied contest in all of professional surfing, kick off with three man heat between Josh Kerr, Gabriel Medina, and 11-time world champion Kelly Slater.
The opening gun never went off, though, as contest organizers decided on Monday morning to place the contest on hold -- and then again on Tuesday. While the waves had been in the six- to eight-foot range for the first two days of competition, the swell has dropped drastically. In fact, the pros figure to have a few days off; the North Shore isn't due to see another solid swell until Friday when a big North West will deliver double overhead breakers.
If lay days are good for anything, they're good stepping back, assessing what we've seen so far and looking ahead at developing story lines. What we've seen so far has been two days chock full of upsets and surprises. Big name World Tour hotshots fell to Pipeline specialists and unknowns. Old dogs brought down young studs.
It all started with the first heat of round two when Michel Bourez fell to some dude named Billy Kemper. Then, in short order, a kid from Kauai named Sebastien Zietz retired Travis Logie and, in the next round, Pipeline prodigy and 2011 Vans Triple Crown winner, John John Florence.
Owen Wright lost his third round heat and so did Adriano De Souza, Julian Wilson, Jordy Smith, Jeremy Flores, and Taj Burrow. Two-time world champ Mick Fanning, who needed an outright win at Pipe to in order to capture the 2012 ASP crown, also lost in a round three nail-biter to big-wave hell man Shane Dorian.
The feel good story of the first two days of competition had to be Zietz, who, after capturing the Reef Pro at Haleiwa and coming in third in the world cup contest at Sunset, locked down the 2012 Van's Triple Crown of Surfing when he defeated Florence.
The big story -- the biggest story -- moving forward, though, will be the World Title race between Kelly Slater and perennial ASP World Title bridesmaid Joel Parkinson.
Prior to the contest the ASP released a number of World Title scenarios. If Parkinson finishes 13th, ninth or fifth at Pipe, Slater needs a fifth or higher to take the 2012 ASP World Title. If Parkinson finishes equal third, Slater needs a third or higher to take the 2012 ASP World Title. And if Parkinson finishes second, Slater needs to win outright.
If the two titans meet head to head, it will be in the final. The stakes have only been raised by persistant speculation that this could be the 40-year old Slater's final professional contest.
"It's turning into a bit of a foot race between Joel and me," Slater said the other day. "We're both just trying to put it out of our heads as much as possible. If you're thinking about it out in the water, you're taking your eye off the ball at Pipe. There's a lot to think about because it's such a challenging wave. You have to be clear minded and be making good decisions and that means concentrating on what's in front of you."