The waiting period of the Volcom Pipe Pro came thundering in on January 27 with conditions too big to run the contest. It would take another three days, and nearly a dozen trips to the Kahuku hospital by wounded surfers for things to finally return to relative normal.
“I hit the bottom and got shredded,” said Flynn Novak, a local North Shore competitor and one of the lay-day casualties. “It's as heavy and scary as Pipe gets.”
Going into the Volcom Pipe Pro the swell forecast was rich with opportunity, and as it turned out, a few days of victory-at-sea surf was just the undercard for the main event. The second round of swells showed up on January 31, delivering what most contestants considered the best surf of the year.
“Just being there and having nobody out, it was firing wave after wave after wave. I can't imagine anything better,” reported defending champ and eventual winner John John Florence, after tallying four consecutive nine-point rides in one heat.
“It's a pretty special feeling. I think this is one of the better days of Pipe all (winter). It was really hard to come in,” he surmised with a smile.
Unlike the Pipe Masters, an ASP World Tour event held in December every year in which the prestigious top 34 surfers compete, the Volcom Pipe Pro is a qualifying event, meaning it attracts surfers from all over the planet. For the would-be professional surfers it's a chance to prove themselves at one of the world's most feared waves, as well as hopefully pick up some ratings points and prize money.
For the local Hawaiians that compete in the contest a good result turns into a wildcard into the Pipe Masters. Add to the equation the fact that the event format utilizes four-man heats, as opposed to the world tour's two-man structure, and thus competition in the water is considerably fiercer.
“It's kind of a dogfight because there is two extra guys out in a heat,” explained Maui's Dusty Payne. “It's kind of a scrap to get your waves, and nobody wants to lose because you want to keep surfing Pipe. I think it's a lot tougher surfing the Pipe Pro.”
With perfect surf on offer, the Volcom Pipe Pro ran for three straight days, and by the time the salt spray was replaced by champagne spray, it was obvious to everybody, nobody throws a more powerful punch than 20-year-old John John Florence. Winning his third consecutive Pipe Pro, he tied Jamie O'Brien for the record.
“It was definitely a special final for me, my third time in a row, I can't even believe it,” said John John after edging out Chris Ward and Josh Kerr in the final.
Earlier in the day, John John snuck through a stacked heat with O'Brien, Reef McIntosh, and Bruce Irons, all former winners.
“That quarterfinal heat was a scary one,” winced the champ when it was all said and done. “So many of the guys that I really respect and have watched since I was so little. I knew I was going to have to go out there and paddle battle because it's small. But I don't want to paddle battle the guys I've been looking up to since I was little, so I kind of just went out and did what I could to sneak in a couple waves.”
As for competitive surfing, the world now turns its collective attention Down Under as the Australian leg of the tour is set to get underway with the Breaka Burleigh Pro that’s underway already, and then the Quiksilver Pro Australia and the Roxy Pro Australia, which are coming up at the beginning of March.
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