Day 1 of competition at the reimagined Vans Pipe Masters is officially in the books, and it didn’t disappoint. With a number of expertly navigated tubes, some big air attempts, and a handful of stylish maneuvers, we saw a glimpse of the diverse range of talent that the heat draw has to offer.
After eight lay days, patiently waiting for the swell to rise, the event kicked off in glassy yet tricky conditions. Though it wasn’t quite the picture-perfect Pipeline that we all envision, there were still some gems on offer due to the large north-west swell pushing in. Competition got off to a slow start, with Men’s Round 1 taking to the water first. Luckily, the lulls allowed spectators some time to familiarise themselves with the refreshed judging criteria and new scoring format, with waves now being scored out of a possible 30 points, based on the cumulative scores of the three judges. The leaderboard style event is based upon a surfer’s two best scores, from either of the two non-elimination heats, giving them a total score out of 60, with the four highest scoring men and women progressing through to the Finals.
After a slow first couple of heats, Hawaiian local knowledge soon began to prevail in challenging conditions, with Mason Ho and Ivan Florence putting on a tube riding masterclass in Heat 3. Mason locked away the highest single wave score of the day with a 26.6, while Ivan earned himself a total heat score of 29.2, taking him to third overall on the leaderboard. Also noteworthy in Heat 3 was Mikey February’s silky-smooth style as he threaded his way through one of the longest barrels of the day and claimed a spot in the Top 4.
The day continued to progress as a mixed bag, as Pipeline favored some and evaded others. Heats were interspersed with flurries of action and sleepy periods of prolonged inactivity, resulting in some event favorites struggling to put a decent score on the board. Heat 7 began to shape up as another standout, with Hawaiian heavyweight Billy Kemper posting a big number and former Championship Tour surfer Mikey Wright almost ticking all of the boxes of the judging criteria on one wave with an attempt at a turn, barrel, air combo. Teahupo’o local Eimeo Czermak managed to leverage both Pipe and Backdoor to post two decent scores and climb his way into second place overall. With one of the most infamous waves on the WSL Championship Tour as his home break, Eimeo is no stranger to waves of consequence and looked right at home out at Pipeline this afternoon.
Sitting comfortably atop the leaderboard, Balaram Stack stole the show with the most critical wave of the day, knifing the drop and navigating multiple sections to take the lead and set himself up with a good chance of making the final. However, with one more non-elimination round still to go for the men, and waves on the horizon, we’re sure to see some big performances over the coming few days, with plenty more opportunities to shake things up.
Vans Pipe Masters Leaderboard