Yesterday saw the second day of surfing get underway, and the first day of competition for the women. Surf fans were treated to some iconic performances on both sides of the draw. Conditions were big and unruly, yet scattered with moments of Pipeline beauty, reminding us why it is considered one of the best waves in the world. The leaderboard style of competition meant that surfers had to secure themselves a place in the Top 4 in order to advance to the final. This was determined by their two best scores from either of their non-elimination heats.
This made for exciting viewing as the leaderboard jumped around as the day progressed. In a truly pivotal moment for women’s surfing at this iconic venue, Carissa Moore came out and stunned everyone with her last-minute heroics at Backdoor, getting the highest single wave score of the event, man or woman. The women then continued to carry this momentum through the rest of the day, raising the bar for female competitive surfing at Pipeline. Some incredible performances soon followed from the men, with Oahu local, Kaulana Apo stunning the crowd with two classic Pipeline barrels, earning him the top spot ahead of finals day. As the day came to a close, the men’s leaderboard was finalized and the stage was set, with Kaulana Apo, Griffin Colapinto, Balaram Stack, and Joao Chianca heading through to the final.
Finals day kicked off with clean, fun-sized waves on offer. A dreamier, much more inviting image of Pipeline, as opposed to the chaotic version we witnessed the two days previously. The women took to the water for Round 2 and picked up right where they left off. Molly Picklum managed to find herself a runner at Backdoor to jump to fourth place on the leaderboard, displacing the Queen of Pipeline, Moana Jones-Wong, and clinching her spot in the final. Carissa Moore, Bettylou Sakura Johnson, and Caity Simmers claimed the other top spots and also secured their chance to vie for the title of Pipe Master.
The Final came next. After a slow start, Kaulana Apo opened his account with a stylish tube at Backdoor, locking in an early lead. Griffin Colapinto then went on to link four critical turns, showcasing exactly why he’s on the Championship Tour and taking him into second position. The no-priority rule had Joao Chianca’s competitive juices flowing as he searched around for a score, breaking his board on a big air attempt. After a series of exchanges resulting in Griffin taking the lead and with twelve minutes left on the clock, Balaram decided to kick into gear, locking in a 19.3, and then backing it up soon after with a Backdoor bomb earning himself a 23.0. After sitting atop the leaderboard for almost the entire event and sealing the deal with the wave of the final, Balaram proved himself a worthy Pipe Master, with Griffin Colapinto taking out the runner-up position.
Keeping the momentum going, the Women’s final got off to a quick start with Molly Picklum attacking the Backdoor end section and taking the lead. Carissa Moore, Bettylou, and Caity Simmers all answered back with a rapid succession of waves, with Carissa coming out on top. The heat leader then proceeded to change countless times throughout the heat, as the women battled the elements with the strengthening wind and heavy rain squalls. Molly found the highest score of the final on a technical backside tube and kept a stylish wave at Backdoor as her backup. Bettylou locked in a series of graceful turns that earned her a 15.3 while Caity Simmers showed off her trademark style but struggled to lock in anything substantial. Carissa found herself in an unfortunate interference situation right at the end which impaired her scoring potential and cost her the runner-up trophy, handing it over to Bettylou. Molly claimed the win and the $100k prize and proved she will be a surfer to watch at the Billabong Pipe Pro in January.
With all four women’s finalists, and two out of four men’s finalists all competing on the 2023 WSL Championship Tour, the Vans Pipe Masters has no doubt been a great preview for the CT opener at the Billabong Pipe Pro on January 29. The Vans Pipe Masters has no doubt ignited the fire ahead of the Billabong Pipe Pro next January.