The Men’s Pipe Masters Invitational reached the final stage today in challenging barrels that delivered a full range of scores.
Former Pipe Masters champion Jamie O’Brien along with Hank Gaskell, Makai McNamara and Reef McIntosh – all from Hawaii, remain in contention to win the two wildcards into the Billabong Pipe Masters, where they will take on ASP World Title contenders Gabriel Medina (BRA) and Mick Fanning (AUS) in Round 1.
Due to deteriorating conditions the final of the Invitational was not held today and will be staged as the opening heat on the next day of competition, immediately followed by Round 1 of the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons.
The tricky conditions today lent themselves to superior local knowledge, embodied by the four finalists, especially O’Brien who has been tagged as a potential spoiler from the outset. O’Brien is the most decorated of Invitational finalists, having won the Pipe Masters in 2004 after entering the event as a wildcard. He also lives afront the break and is a standout every day that Pipe is barreling.
“To be honest, I’ve really been looking forward to this event,” said O’Brien. “I’ve been real stress free.
“I think the competitors are looking at me like, ‘Oh I have to surf against Jamie’. But I’m looking at them like, ‘Oh I have to surf against all these great surfers’. These guys all surf Pipe all the time and it’s a great field of surfers in the trials. It’s going to be a showdown, whoever gets the best waves will be in the main event.”
Thirty two surfers, primarily from Hawaii, contested the special Invitational event. Joel Centeio (HAW) posted the only perfect 10 of the day for an incredibly deep tube at Backdoor Pipe. After the mist of the wind-blown “spit” of the wave vanished, there stood Centeio with arms open wide like a stage performer.
“That wave came and it kind of swung more towards Ehukai side and I saw it doubling up,” said Centeio, a retired pro surfer who is typically focused on helping the rise of younger stars these days. “The takeoff was so late and that barrel was so throaty. I pushed off the bottom and it was going so fast and then I felt the spit and I knew I had to kind of doggy door it.”
Sixteen-year-old Australian Jack Robinson was also a feature. Despite being the youngest competitor, his approach to the lethal waves of Pipeline was fearless, committed and stylish. Robinson is rapidly earning a reputation for charging serious surf, and today was case in point. Unfortunately, inconsistent conditions and a close, low-scoring heat saw him bundled out in the Quarterfinals.
“I’m so happy there are some good waves and glad they ran it when it’s pumping. It’s good to show what you’ve got out there,” said Robinson.
Robinson is used to heavy waves being from Western Australia, hence his quality performance.
“We have a lot of slabs and stuff around and I’ve always grown up on that.”
With no shortage of surf on the horizon for the remainder of the week, event organizers will reconvene at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow morning to assess conditions and make the next call.