World Surf League announce big changes to the tour…

World Surf League announce big changes to the tour…

Julian Wilson flying in the Hoss’. Photo Sharpy.

The WSL has been making good use of the pandemic shutdown to work on changing up the tours moving forward.

Erik Logan, the WSL CEO, has announced a raft of changes in a vid on the WSL site for next year’s comps. The main takeaways are, apart from this year’s events being postponed until end June, including the Oi Rio Pro, follow:

The world title will, from 2021, be decided by a surf off.

Inspired by the epic Italo v Gabe showdown last year at Pipe from next season the title won’t be decided by consistency through the season. The men’s and women’s world title will be decided in a single day of competition in a surf-off format. Seeding will, of course, play a part. The higher your seed the more the advantage, as you’d hope. As to dominate all year to get shafted by one bad day does seem a tad harsh. More details will follow. (EDIT: it wasn’t clear in the video how many surfers would be involved but from Conner Coffin’s comment in the press release just received if it’s just the top two then it’s basically a chance for the No2 in the season to gazump the No1.)

The Challenger QS event series will now be a direct feed for the same season’s CT events.

The biggest QS events will be grouped at the start of the season allowing the best guys onto the CT in the same season. So no more doing a year in purgatory if you fall off tour. The QS, with the inevitable travel restrictions and flight costs soaring, in its current form is likely to be unsustainable so this makes a lot of sense. It makes those QS events far more exciting and interesting for the punters too.

Regional QS system to replace lower end events.

Again, with sponsorship drying up and travel costs escalating, the smaller events will be tricky. So the development tier, as E-Lo calls it, will become a regional affair. Much like the Euro tour is already. But this makes the travel requirements a lot easier. Compete in your home area to qualify for the Challenger series and from there be in with a shot at the big leagues.

All in all some interesting ideas which fit with how the world will be once we come out the end of this whole kerfuffle.


Due to the continued evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Surf League (WSL) is postponing or canceling all events, at all levels of competition, through the end of June. The WSL will continue to monitor the situation and make the next call in early June.

In a video released on all WSL Channels today, WSL’s CEO Erik Logan said to fans: “Where and when we will run this year is still very much an open question, but we will continue to work with governments, world health authorities and our local communities on returning to the lineup.”

“That said, we are extending the postponement of all WSL events through June. This means the scheduled Championship Tour stop in June, the Oi Rio Pro, is officially postponed in hopes that travel conditions ease enough to run this year. Our ‘Next Call’ update for the 2020 Championship Tour season and all our events will be on June 1.”

The WSL has also announced an evolved Tours and Competitions format for 2021 covering the Championship Tour, the Challenger Series, and the Qualifying Series.

In the video, Logan also said: “Prior to COVID-19, we had been working hard on how we would evolve the Championship Tour, the path to the CT, and all our tours in 2022 and beyond. The more we worked on this transformation, the more we became excited and it became clear that our pause due to COVID really allowed us to see that now is the time to accelerate these changes.”

Starting in 2021 the women’s and men’s World Titles will be decided in a single day of competition on the last day of the Championship Tour season, with the top surfers battling for their respective titles in a new surf-off format. This evolution has been part of a multi-year discussion, and the final design is a collaboration between the surfers, partners, and the WSL.

Two-time WSL Champion, Tyler Wright, said, “I feel like the new format raises the intensity of the entire World Title situation. The difference is that you get to win in the water, which is huge! It comes down to nobody else, and that kind of intensity, that kind of competitive pressure, raises the bar. It’s pretty exciting!”

“The world title being decided in the final, between two surfers in the running, is super exciting,” said WSL Surfer’s Representative, Conner Coffin. “I was glued to Pipe last year on the last day. So it’s a great moment for the sport and it’s exciting to think that from 2021 onwards that will always be how the world title is decided.”

In addition to the redesign of the Championship Tour (CT), the schedule will be updated to create distinct seasons between the CT and the Challenger Series. This update will not only provide an enhanced showcase for the surfers, but also allow those who fail to requalify through the CT the opportunity to perform on the Challenger Series and requalify for the elite CT the very next season as opposed to waiting an entire year.

“With the Challenger Series at a different time of the year you can highlight the up comers, you can highlight who is in the Challenger Series, you can highlight what’s new, who is coming up that is fresh, who is requalifying, and the people that drop off the CT will have an opportunity to go on and completely focus on the Challenger Series,” continued Wright.

Increased weight and value will also be given to regional Qualifying Series events to encourage up-and-coming surfers to develop closer to home without financially overleveraging themselves before jumping to the Challenger Series and beyond. The regional series will provide increased opportunities to celebrate regional stars, reduce economic pressure for surfers and sponsors, as well as drive media interest around those athletes.

“We’ll have more details soon but we’re really excited about what this means for surfers and surfing worldwide. We are approaching these updates and evolutions as holistically as possible,” said Logan. “Working with our entire community, we know we are going to emerge through this pandemic with a strong, exciting platform that propels professional surfing, and all surfing, forward in a positive and impactful manner.”

For more information, please visit

French crew dominate at the Cabreiroá Pro Las Americas, Tenerife.

French crew dominate at the Cabreiroá Pro Las Americas, Tenerife.

Gaspard Larsonneur (FRA) and Pauline Ado (FRA) have won the QS1,500 Cabreiroá Pro Las Americas, claiming victory in the Finals against Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) and Ariane Ochoa (EUK) held in wind-affected two-to-three foot surf at Las Américas.

Podiums Winners of the Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas 2020

Stop No. 2 on the 2020 World Surf League (WSL) European Qualifying Series (QS), the Cabreiroá Las Americas Pro Tenerife enjoyed a good run of swell and big performances by Europe’s best surfers, culminating today in the Finals.

Larsonneur Claims First-Ever QS Win in Tenerife

Local Tenerife legend Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) took on Gaspard Larsonneur (FRA) in the men’s Final. The Canarian marched his way to the Final with seven straight heat wins and excellent scores in nearly all of them, including an incredible 9.53 in Round 5.

Gaspard Larsonneur (FRA) during day 6 of Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas 2020

The Frenchman, on the other hand, launched his event in Round 3 and started collecting wins when he eliminated the defending event winner Timothee Bisso (FRA) in Round 4 alongside Jensen whom he would later dispatch in the Semifinal.

The Final started with a very close exchange on back-to-back waves with each surfer within 0.10 of each other and continued with an even closer battle on their second wave, finishing within 0.04. After four waves, Larsonneur had the tiniest margin over Gonzalez, 14.06 to the Canarian’s 14.00.

Gaspard Larsonneur (FRA) during day 6 of Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas 2020

Gonzalez managed to turn the heat midway through with a good wave scored 7.70 while Larsonneur got stuck on his turns and only raked in a medium score. The French surfer didn’t let the pressure affect him and managed to come back with an excellent 8.17 in the dying minutes of the heat to claim his first-ever victory on the Qualifying Series.

“I’m so stoked,” he said. “This is my first-ever win on the QS, I have no words to describe how happy I am right now! It was just the perfect week. I had a really good time here with good friends, nice weather and good waves so I’m just beyond happy.”

Larsonneur is only really starting on the QS, last year being his busiest season with 8 events surfed mostly on the European continent. Today’s victory marks his first on the WSL tours and a promising start of the season ahead for the surfer from Brittany.

“Today was tough with that long break between the Semis and Final,” he added. “I tried to stay focused and rest a little and when I came back I was fired up to go again. ”

Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) during day 6 of Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas 2020

A QS standout for the last decade now, Gonzalez peaked in 2014 with a Top 25 finish. The last couple of years the Canarian carefully selected his events but couldn’t possibly pass on the opportunity to compete right at home. This runner-up finish marks his first Final since 2016.

‘It was a really hard-fought final and it came down to details,” he said. “I was surfing well during the entire competition so I am happy with that, but I had to surf perfectly against him to win the final. It was really really close but the competitions are like that with nothing decided until the final. I have to admit I felt the pressure of everybody watching and I couldn’t quite control it. I’m still super happy to celebrate second place with all my friends here.”

Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) during day 6 of Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas 2020

Gonzalez and Larsonneur had previously eliminated Thomas Debierre (FRA) and Lenni Jensen (DEU) respectively in the Semis.

Second Time’s a Charm for Ado at Las Americas

Ariane Ochoa (EUK) and Pauline Ado (FRA) met in the women’s Final and this time both surfers had to earn their way since Round 1.

Pauline Ado (FRA) during day 6 of Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas 2020

In a slow Final, both surfers got very selective and while the first couple of swings went Ado’s way, Ochoa started to put pressure on the French surfer with a great wave to get back into fighting distance. She quickly turned the heat, leaving Ado scouring the lineup for a mid-5.

Pauline Ado (FRA) during day 6 of Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas 2020

With two minutes on the clock, a beautiful set rolled in, giving both surfers the opportunity to improve their scoreboard. Both did, but this time Ado got the upper hand with an excellent 8.27 over Ochoa’s 7.50 to re-claim the lead. The Basque goofy foot got a final chance but was unable to turn in the high-6 required and Ado claimed the 2020 Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas title.

“I’m super happy and I feel lucky I got that really good wave at the end,” she said. “I wasn’t in a great place towards the end there and Ariane got some great scores, thankfully I gave everything on last wave and it was enough to take it. I’m really happy with my week here on Tenerife.”

Ado is a 10-time European champion (7 titles on the QS and 3 in the junior division) who spent 5 full seasons on the Championship Tour claiming multiple Quarter and Semifinal results at the highest level. Off tour for the past two seasons, the French powerhouse is highly motivated to get back up with the Elite Top 17 and join her compatriot Johanne Defay next season. A Round 4 berth in China and today’s victory should prove a great warm-up before Ado starts the real work next month in Australia.

“I placed second here two years ago so I really wanted to win that Final,” she added. “It really just came down to that last good wave we both had and I’m happy I got the score.”

Ochoa has been competing on the Qualifying Series since 2015 and has picked up two wins in Spain and South Africa. The talented goofy foot from the Basque Country was a standout on the European junior tour but is yet to make her mark on the bigger QS stage. Today’s runner-up finish will certainly spark a successive year ahead as she embarks on a third full season competing worldwide.

Ariane Ochoa (EUK) during day 6 of Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas 2020

“I’m super happy to have made the Final here in Tenerife this year,” she said. “It’s been a really good contest for me, I’ve been building up since the first heat and finished with a super close Final with Pauline. I’ve really done my best and am happy with my performance, and I’ll just keep working until the next event.”

Ochoa and Ado had previously eliminated Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) and Nadia Erostarbe (EUK) in their respective Semifinal bouts.

Ariane Ochoa (EUK) during day 6 of Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas 2020

Previously at the Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas

The third edition of the Cabreiroa Pro Las Americas started on Monday in spectacular conditions with over 160 athletes taking on the pumping lefts in Tenerife. The first couple of rounds witnessed the unlikely success story of Senegal’s Cherif Fall who dominated his first heats and only barely fell short in Round 3 behind eventual winner Larsonneur.

In the women’s event it was all about Yolanda Hopkins (PRT) who dropped massive scores all the way to a wave-starved Quarterfinal where she was eliminated by Bonvalot.

Daniela Boldini (CNY) and Timothee Bisso (FRA), the winners of the 2019 edition, were both eliminated much earlier than anticipated, Round 1 for the Canarian and Round 4 for the Frenchman who just came from a solid result in Morocco.

The men’s Canarian contingent all together put up a strong fight with Luis Diaz (CNY) reaching the Quarters and Yael Pena (CNY) Round 5, while in the women’s event, no surfer from the Atlantic archipelago made it past the second round of the competition.

With the completion of the Cabreiroá Las Americas Pro Tenerife, the European rankings have evolved, here is the new current Top 5:

European Men’s QS Top 5:
1 – Gaspard Larsonneur (FRA)
2 – Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY)
3 – Thomas Debierre (FRA)
4 – Maxime Huscenot (FRA)
5 – Vasco Ribeiro (PRT)
5 – Frederico Morais (PRT)
5 – Lenni Jensen (DEU)

European Women’s QS Top 5:
1 – Pauline Ado (FRA)
2 – Ariane Ochoa (EUK)
3 – Nadia Erostarbe (EUK)
3 – Teresa Bonvalot (PRT)
5 – Yolanda Hopkins (PRT)
5 – Lucia Martino (ESP)
5 – Marion Philippe (PYF)

Surfers will now have five weeks to prepare for the next event on the 2020 European Qualifying Series, the SEAT Pro Netanya.

The Cabreiroá Pro Las Américas is organized by the Canarian Surf Federation and has the main sponsorship of Turismo de Arona-Tenerife Sur, Promotur Turismo de Canarias, Turismo de Tenerife, Cabreiroá, Estrella Galicia and Spring Hotels Group, sponsored by Fred. Olsen Express & Baleària, and Vithas, as well as the collaboration of Multiinformática, Kontraola Surf School, Garden Center Playa Fañabé, Veinte 04 Surf Café, Tibu, Palm Beach Surfing Experts , Gam and Rahn Group.

Cherif Fall ( SEN) during day 1 of the Cabreiroá Pro Las Americas 2020

Line Up during day 1 of Cabreiroá Pro Las Americas 2020




OAHU, UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 19: World Title contender Italo Ferreira of Brazil wins the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters after winning the final at Pipeline on December 19, 2019 in Oahu, United States. (Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL via Getty Images)

Italo Ferreira (BRA) is the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Champion after defeating his closest rival, Gabriel Medina (BRA), in a heated Final in six-to-eight foot (1.8 – 2.4 meter) waves at the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters, the final stop on the Men’s WSL Championship Tour (CT) and third gem of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Ferreira is only the third Brasilian to win the World Title and Billabong Pipe Masters trophy and celebrated the double-win with an emotional chair up the beach to the awards stage.

OAHU, UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 19: Italo Ferreira of Brazil wins the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters and the WSL World Title after winning the final at Pipeline on December 19, 2019 in Oahu, United States. (Photo by Tony Heff/WSL via Getty Images)

“I can’t believe it, it’s unreal,” said Ferreira. “I’ve dedicated my whole life to get one trophy and I did. This is going to my grandmother and my uncle first. I came to Pipe a month ago to train and test my boards. This trophy means a lot to me and I just don’t have the words. Those were good heats against Kelly (Slater), Gabriel (Medina), Yago (Dora) and all the boys. You guys all give me a lot of energy and I just try to do my best every single day.”

OAHU, UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 19: Italo Ferreira of Brazil winning his maiden WSL World Title at the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters after winning the final at Pipeline on December 19, 2019 in Oahu, United States. (Photo by Kelly Cestari/WSL via Getty Images)

On Ferreira’s path to victory, he overcame Medina, two-time World Champion and formidable competitor, in the Final, and Kelly Slater (USA), 11-time World Champion and seven-time Billabong Pipe Master in the Semifinals. Ferreira’s wave selection reigned supreme under pressure, in part thanks to Pipeline specialist Shane Dorian (HAW), who helped coach and guide the Brasilian, but largely due to his perseverance. He committed to being on the North Shore for a month ahead of this event and had one goal in mind, which was only achievable by conquering Medina.


Italo Ferreira takes Pipe and the world title!Footage: World Surf League

Posted by CARVE Surfing Magazine on Friday, 20 December 2019

“This year was so crazy with ups and downs so this means a lot,” continued Ferreira. “Before I started this competition, I was looking at this trophy and thinking I really want that. But now it’s in my hands and the celebration can start. This year was really different for me and special and I want to thank God for everything!”

Ferreira opened the final heat of the season in the first fifteen seconds with inside position and earned the best single-wave score of the Final, a 7.83 (out of a possible 10), for a rare Backdoor barrel on his backhand. He never gave up the lead and put pressure on Medina from start to finish and ultimately ended with a 15.56 scoreline to Medina’s 12.94. Conditions progressed throughout the day to deliver proper Pipeline barrels that pushed twelve-foot faces for the Brasilian showdown.

OAHU, UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 19: Two-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina of Brazil finishes runner-up in the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters after placing second in the final at Pipeline on December 19, 2019 in Oahu, United States. (Photo by Tony Heff/WSL via Getty Images)

Medina had a brilliant performance against John John Florence (HAW) in Quarterfinal 3 and scored a near-perfect 9.23 for a cavernous Pipeline left, along with an 8.40 to combo Florence. Medina’s dominance seemed unbeatable, especially with his expertise in big frontside barrels.

“I just want to thank everyone for cheering for us,” said Medina. “It’s been a fun week and that wave was a really fun one, maybe it was the heat we got a lot of waves. Against John, it’s even more special because he’s one of the best surfers in the world and I love to compete against him. I just feel really good surfing these waves. I just want to thank all the locals for letting us surf this wave because it’s one of my favorites that I surf. I’m proud of myself and now looking forward to the next one.”

En route to his second-place finish, Medina also eliminated Caio Ibelli (BRA) in dramatic fashion with an interference to top off his win in Heat 5, R/16. This heat was a rematch of the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Quarterfinals where Medina earned an interference penalty against Ibelli. Ibelli exits with a 9th place result, matching his personal best at the Billabong Pipe Masters.

“Just playing the game,” said Medina. “It was my priority, I knew if I had an interference that I was going to count my big wave. There was like 20 seconds left so it’s all good. I wasn’t sure [if Caio would have gotten the score], that’s why I went. He needed a 5, but it was really hard out there. I just had to play the game. Sometimes if it’s in the rules, you gotta play the game.”
Kelly Slater Wins Third Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Title

After 21 years, Kelly Slater (USA) made a historic comeback to win his third Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title by besting an international trio that included former Billabong Pipe Master Michel Bourez (FRA), Jack Freestone (AUS) and Ethan Ewing (AUS) heading into Finals day. It was a hard-fought race as this Vans Triple Crown saw one of the best seasons for surf in recent history, including all-time conditions at Haleiwa for event No. 1, the Hawaiian Pro, and massive, challenging surf at event No. 2, the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach.

“I’ve been planning this attack for 21 years [laughing],” said Slater. “The first two (Vans Triple Crown titles) that I won I really wasn’t even thinking about them because I was so focused on trying to win a World Title and focused on Pipeline at the time. I’m just stoked, I had a really fun finish to the year for me. I just want to say thanks to everyone, it’s been a super fun year and damn I wanted that thing today. If I got here this year and only caught that wave (the perfect 10-point ride during R/32 Heat 8) it would have been a success, so I’m stoked.”

The Vans Triple Crown is in its 37th year of crowning the best surfer of the North Shore competitive season and is the world’s longest-running annual heritage surf series. Culture-defining, the Vans Triple Crown is a highly-coveted title and legendary surfers the likes of Sunny Garcia (HAW), Michael and Derek Ho (HAW), Andy Irons (HAW) and Joel Parkinson (AUS) have had benchmark career moments from their victories here in Hawaii. Vans, partner and community centerpiece, has continued to advocate for world-class competition in parallel with North Shore activations and a robust sustainability program to help build a community-first mindset. While the Vans Triple Crown officially culminates with the finish of the Billabong Pipe Masters, it begins at the Vans Pro Men’s QS 3,000 with local qualification spots, a true testament to Vans’ commitment to the North Shore.

Only ten non-Hawaii athletes have claimed the Vans Triple Crown title in the past 37 years, two coming from the USA (Slater and Griffin Colapinto). The 11-time World Champion leaves today with a beloved trophy carved out of a broken surfboard by sustainable artist Ruben Aira.
First 10 Men’s Provisional Olympic Qualifiers Are Set

John John Florence (USA) and Julian Wilson (AUS) have provisionally qualified through the WSL CT to represent the USA and Australia, respectively, at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“It feels super good and that was the goal I set for this event and coming back for the Pipe Masters,” said Florence. “I’m fired up to accomplish that goal! I wanted to surf the least amount of heats possible for my knee and my recovery so I’m stoked. I am so happy to go to the Olympics and represent the USA and I couldn’t have done it without all the support here in Hawaii. A month ago I couldn’t even stand on my board so to be here today and surfing in the Quarters against Gabriel is more than I can ask for.”

“This is an incredible opportunity and it’s very surreal,” said Wilson. “I had a month off after Portugal and I trained my butt off to earn this spot on the Australian team. It’s a chicken-skin moment to know that I’m going to go to the Olympics and represent my country and I’m proud of myself.”

Surfing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020 and the 2019 WSL CT was a crucial qualification pathway for the world’s best surfers. Following the season finale in Hawaii, the WSL rankings have determined the first 10 eligible men to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, subject to all qualified surfers meeting the ISA’s and IOC’s eligibility requirements and being selected by their respective National Olympic Committees.

The ten provisional qualifiers are:
USA – Kolohe Andino and John John Florence
Australia – Owen Wright and Julian Wilson
Brasil – Italo Ferreira and Gabriel Medina
France – Jeremy Flores and Michel Bourez
South Africa – Jordy Smith
Japan – Kanoa Igarashi
For highlights from the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons and the 2019 Championship Tour, please visit
Billabong Pipe Masters Final Results:
1 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.56
2 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.94

Billabong Pipe Masters Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.77 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 2.57
SF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.00 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 7.10

Billabong Pipe Masters Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.66 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 13.50
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 12.94 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.26
QF 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.63 DEF. John John Florence (HAW) 12.33
QF 4: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 9.84 DEF. Michel Bourez (FRA) 8.77

Billabong Pipe Masters Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 11.84 DEF. Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 4.23
HEAT 2: Yago Dora (BRA) 7.50 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 6.27
HEAT 3: Jack Freestone (AUS) 5.00 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 4.23
HEAT 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 7.33 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 6.20
HEAT 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 4.23 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 1.13
HEAT 6: John John Florence (HAW) 5.66 DEF. Soli Bailey (AUS) 3.90
HEAT 7: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 10.67 DEF. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 8.50
HEAT 8: Michel Bourez (FRA) 13.43 DEF. Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.50

Men’s 2019 WSL CT Jeep Leaderboard (after Billabong Pipe Masters):
1 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) 59,740 pts
2 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 56,475 pts
3 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 49,985 pts
4 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) 49,145 pts
5 – Kolohe Andino (USA) 46,655 pts

Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Top 5:
1 – Kelly Slater (USA) 13,900 pts
2 – Ethan Ewing (AUS) 13,750 pts
3 – Michel Bourez (FRA) 12,700 pts
4 – Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12,600 pts
5 – Frederico Morais (PRT) 12,200 pts

Paige Alms and Billy Kemper charge to victory at the Jaws Challenge.

Paige Alms and Billy Kemper charge to victory at the Jaws Challenge.

Tom Lowe sending it for the UK crew. Photo by Keoki Saguibo/WSL

Overnight (UK time that is) Paige Alms (HAW) and Billy Kemper (HAW) won the World Surf League (WSL) cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships in 30-to-50 foot (9 – 15 meter) waves at the famed Pe’ahi surf break on the north shore of Maui, Hawaii.

Paige Alms of Hawaii winning the 2019 cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships for the third time in her career at Peah’i. Photo by Keoki Saguibo/WSL

The Maui natives swept the event for a second time in their respective careers with Alms earning a historic third victory and Kemper an unprecedented fourth Jaws Challenge title – defending his 2018 win.

“I’m so happy and stoked – pretty excited for a cocktail (laughs),” said Alms. “It was some super challenging conditions today. As soon as I paddled out in my first heat the wind was here and I knew the Maui glass was on. To do it three times is all a blur and I’m pretty baffled at the moment. I try to make smart decisions out here and I obviously got pretty beat up at the end of that first wave. I try and pick the good ones, I’m not out there to prove anything to anyone except myself. It’s the ultimate feeling being on a giant wave, it’s when I feel the most alive and so it’s the double-edged sword. You’re putting your body and life on the line to ride these wave but when you successfully ride one nothing beats it.”

cbdMD Jaws Challenge highlights

Paige Alms and Billy Kemper take the honours on a cracking day at Jaws. Results and photos here:

Posted by CARVE Surfing Magazine on Friday, 13 December 2019

The ocean came to life after a slow 20-minute start that Maui’s Alms was able to scratch into and drop down the critical face before being swallowed by a mountain of white water. The 2016 and 2017 Jaws Challenge victor sustained a hamstring injury in the process but grabbed a backup jersey and returned back to the lineup. Fellow Maui native and one of the crowd favorites Annie Reickert made her incredible Big Wave debut at just age 18 and stunned those in attendance to earn a third-place finish behind runner-up Felicity Palmateer (AUS) who threw herself over the ledge into death-defying drops to put on a showcase throughout her performances.

“I think (showing up early) is partially a good thing and partially a bad thing,” said Reickert. “I showed up and had hours to watch and study the surf and get advice from everybody. But the more you’re out here the more the nerves get to you and get into your head so it was all just about paying attention to what the sets are doing and mentally staying prepared for what you’re about to go do.

“I’m honored to be out here. I didn’t know what to expect and of course my goal was to make it to the Final and just give it my all as well as share the water with these inspirational people like Paige (Alms) who’ve I’ve always looked up to.”

Felicity Palmateer. Photo by Keoki Saguibo/WSL

The men’s side also proved historic as Maui’s own Kemper claimed an unprecedented fourth victory, going back-to-back once more, at his home break of Pe’ahi – winning the event in 2015, 2016 and 2018 previously. The 29-year-old put on a showcase at the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons and carried that momentum into a dominant performance with the day’s highest heat total, a 21.26 (out of a possible 30), in the Final to defend his title.

Billy Kemper. Photo by Cait Miers/WSL

“I feel so amazing right now, I’m over the moon,” said Kemper. “It felt like such a tough dogfight leading all the way to the Final. Every morning I wake up early and I work hard and every sacrifice, time I’ve taken away from my wife and kids, it’s all for this right here. This is my pride and joy. I leave blood, sweat and tears out at Jaws. This is my backyard and I’m very territorial (laughs).

“I bring my mom everywhere I go, I brought her out there with me today and she kept me safe and my brother Eric I love you guys. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. This is a really special one after the dogfight. I had a rough Triple Crown after I felt like I performed really well but was just let down in the way things went but what can I say, I did what I wanted to do and this was just my day. I told myself when I went out there in this Final there’s no way I was coming home with second place.”

Kemper heaved himself over the ledge of the Final’s first set and locked into a massive barrel which he was able to find an exit from to earn a 7.83. But, he had fellow Maui natives, former Jaws Challenge winner Ian Walsh (HAW) and three-time Finalist Kai Lenny, along with big wave chargers Makuakai Rothman (HAW), Nathan Florence (HAW) and Lucas Chianca (BRA). Lenny stole the lead from Kemper momentarily with his signature power carves on the massive canvas of Pe’ahi’s wave face before Kemper’s near-barrel make earned him a 5.60 for his commitment and wave size. Walsh’s last effort witnessed the island native make an incredible drop down a steep face and narrowly escape a cascading wave behind him to earn a 7.00, just 1.23 short of the requirement.

Ian Walsh. Photo by Cait Miers/WSL

“Once the clock starts it’s definitely a different mindset and for me it’s just being on the mental page of ready to send it,” said cbdMD Jaws Challenge Big Wave Championships runner-up Walsh. “Just try to focus on your positioning give yourself an opportunity to make the wave. I think toward the end I start talking to Jaws and asking for a big, black barrel but other than that I’m just staying in the moment and being ready for whatever happens right then. Some of them weren’t approachable and it’s more of the wave catching you than you catching the wave.”
The cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships is proudly supported by cbdMD, Michelob Ultra, Red Bull, and Alexander & Baldwin.

Russell Bierke opened the day strong in heat 1. Photo by Cait Miers/WSL

cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships Women’s Final Results:
1 – Paige Alms (HAW) 12.34
2 – Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 5.43
3 – Annie Reichart (HAW) 9.13
4 – Keala Kennelly (HAW) 8.17
5 – Emily Erikson (HAW) 1.40
6 – Michaela Fregonese (BRA) 0.00

cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships Men’s Final Results:
1 – Billy Kemper (HAW) 21.26
2 – Ian Walsh (HAW) 20.03
3 – Nathan Florence (HAW) 16.76
4 – Kai Lenny (HAW) 16.26
5 – Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 9.37
6 – Lucas Chianca (BRA) 1.40

Lucas Chianca. Photo by Cait Miers/WSL

cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships Women’s Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 11.90, Keala Kennelly (HAW) 3.54, Paige Alms (HAW) 0.80, Justine Dupont (FRA) 0.71, Skylar Lickle (HAW) 0.00
Heat 2: Annie Reichert (HAW) 5.67, Michaela Fregonese (BRA) 4.46, Emily Erickson (HAW) 3.66, Bianca Valenti (USA) 0.00, Raquel Heckert (BRA) 0.00

cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships Men’s Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Kai Lenny (HAW) 13.17, Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 11.54, Ian Walsh (HAW) 9.64, Russell Bierke (AUS) 6.34, Nic von Rupp (PRT) 5.16, Eli Olson (HAW) 0.00
Heat 2: Nathan Florence (HAW) 15.93, Billy Kemper (HAW) 14.17, Lucas Chianca (BRA) 12.23, Torrey Meister (HAW) 9.49, Koa Rothman (HAW) 5.86

cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships Men’s Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Eli Olson (HAW) 20.71, Russell Bierke (AUS) 20.36, Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 16.21, Grant Baker (ZAF) 13.49, Jojo Roper (USA) 5.77, Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 3.49
Heat 2: Kai Lenny (HAW) 9.40, Ian Walsh (HAW) 8.40, Nic von Rupp (PRT) 6.00, Will Skudin (USA) 5.00, Mark Healey (HAW) 2.30, Alex Botelho (PRT) 0.00
Heat 3:Nathan Florence (HAW) 19.91, Nic Lamb (USA) 10.47, Billy Kemper (HAW) 10.11, Greg Long (USA) 9.00, Tom Lowe (GBR) 5.89, Albee Layer (HAW) 4.93
Heat 4: Lucas Chianca (BRA) 16.91, Koa Rothman (HAW) 9.77, Torrey Meister (HAW) 7.63, Tyler Larronde (HAW) 7.54, Ty Simpson-Kane (HAW) 6.49, João De Macedo (PRT) 4.33

Alex Botelho of Portugal. Photo by Cait Miers/WSL

Nathan Florence. Photo by Cait Miers/WSL

Keala Kennelly. Photo by Keoki Saguibo/WSL

Kai Lenny. Photo by Cait Miers/WSL

Jamie Mitchell and one of the wipeouts of 2019. Photo by Cait Miers/WSL.

All hail the GOAT and other stories from the Pipe comp.

All hail the GOAT and other stories from the Pipe comp.

Wade Carmichael. Photo by Kelly Cestari/WSL.

The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, the final stop on the 2019 World Surf League Men’s Championship Tour (CT) and third gem of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, witnessed a dramatic day of intense matchups in the Round of 32 as the world’s best surfers battled in eight-to-ten foot waves.

Kelly's 10-pointer

Kelly Slater on his slice of wizardry from the Pipe comp, just in case you missed it last night… The GOAT has still got it.Footage: World Surf League

Posted by CARVE Surfing Magazine on Thursday, 12 December 2019

Today’s competition saw World No. 1 Italo Ferreira (BRA) and No. 2 Gabriel Medina (BRA) advance out of a suspenseful Round of 32 to tighten the World Title race. World No. 3 Jordy Smith (ZAF) and No. 4, Filipe Toledo (BRA), fell out of the running after heartbreaking defeats by Ricardo Christie (NZL) and 2018 Vans Triple Crown Champion Jesse Mendes (BRA), respectively.

Toledo and Smith Knocked out of World Title Race at Billabong Pipe Masters
With so much on the line in today’s competition, each heat was a mini-drama series as World Title hopeful Toledo became the first casualty at the hands of New Zealand’s Christie, 11.04 to 9.84. Christie and Toledo went into Heat 5 with opposite mindsets, Christie with a casual approach and Toledo with everything to lose.

“I made some priority mistakes in the heat,” said Toledo. “Paddled for some waves that I should have kept priority and waited for a better wave. I’m just tired. It’s tough. You’re trying not to prove to anyone what you can do but at the same time in the back of your mind, you’re actually trying to. So I just had to put pressure on myself.”

After a win at the Oi Rio Pro and two runner-up finishes (Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and Freshwater Pro) this season, Toledo was in title contention for the second consecutive year and came into the Billabong Pipe Masters in the No. 4 position. Meanwhile, Christie was simply out to get some of the best waves of his life since he was out of requalification contention for 2020.

“I wasn’t really thinking about that, to be honest (playing World Title spoiler),” said Christie. “I just wanted to get some good waves. I had Filipe yesterday and he got me then and I got cut so I just wanted to redeem myself and get a good wave. I got a pretty sick one I’m stoked on.”

After surfing well in his opening round heat and advancing straight into the Round of 32, World No. 3 Smith came up against the 2018 Vans Triple Crown champion Jesse Mendes (BRA). With deteriorating conditions during his heat, the lineup went from dreamy to blown out in a matter of minutes creating challenging conditions for the surfers. With ten minutes remaining, Mendes secured a score for the lead while Smith got caught inside as time winded down. Forced to return to the beach to retrieve his back-up board, the South African ran out of time to get the required result and was eliminated in Equal 17th place.

“I just feel like I didn’t make a conscious decision to catch the actual wave,” said Smith. “I had a small glance at him and then I decided I was going to have a look at it and I didn’t really want it and I guess they deemed that it looked like I did. It just really hurts because at the bottom of my heart… I really didn’t want the wave and we could all see that the wave wasn’t anything special. Obviously, the wind came up, and on the very next wave he got a five and he went to the lead.”

Despite the loss, Smith has had an incredibly consistent season with only four losses before the Quarterfinals. This was also Smith’s fifth time falling short in the World Title race (2nd in 2010, 4th in 2013, 2nd in 2016, 4th in 2017, 3rd in 2019). The 31-year-old will now look ahead to 2020, where he will once again battle for a maiden World Title and also represent South Africa after his provisional qualification for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“It’s a hard one to swallow at the end of a big year,” continued Smith. “Way to break your board and to just kind of end that way just doesn’t seem that good. I think the highlight is probably the consistency, every year I just try and kind of pick up that consistency. Those other guys surfed really well the whole year, they got a couple of victories and that really put them ahead. It’s a tough one to swallow. You wake up in the morning and you just kind of give it your all. The last three weeks have been pretty tough. But you just fight every day for what it is and come back stronger and that’s it. Just try and make yourself proud I guess.”

Billabong Pipe Masters Rd32 Highlights…

While Kelly's 10 stole the show there was some damn fine surfing from the rest of the CT crew. We just whacked this together from the World Surf League news feed they send out. What with the next Pipe round and maybe Jaws going live this evening, not to mention the results of the election here in Blighty, it's going to be a busy one. Grab some beers and settle in.

Posted by CARVE Surfing Magazine on Thursday, 12 December 2019

Final Three World Title Contenders Left Standing: Ferreira, Medina, Andino
A new large NNW swell filled in through the night and contest organizers and competitors arrived to pristine albeit challenging conditions at the famed break. Ferreira paddled out for the first heat of the day against good friend Jadson Andre (BRA) and went on to win with an 8.53 two-wave total (out of a possible 10) to Andre’s 7.20. With a World Title on his shoulders, Ferreira handled the weight well and found mid-range scores alongside Andre.

“It was hard to sleep last night, I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and watched some movies,” said Ferreira. “It’s so hard out there, ya know. I tried to get the best waves. I got one good one but I fell in the end, the foam ball hit me. Every heat is history, let’s keep going. I hope in the next one I can do better than this.”

Italo Ferreira. Photo by Tony Heff/WSL.

Ferreira has been working with legendary Pipeline veteran Shane Dorian (HAW) to help work out the intricacies of Pipe and Backdoor, which showed in the Brazilian’s approach and wave selection today.

“We still working on this comp, Shane is a good guy and gave me a lot of details on Backdoor and Pipe and still helps me a lot,” Ferreira continued. “He’s still one of the best guys in on the Big Wave Tour, so happy to work with him, he’s a legend.”

Two-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina. Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL.

Pipe Invitational wildcard, Imaikalani deVault (HAW), made two-time World Champion Medina work for the heat win after he earned the best wave of the exchange, an excellent 9.57. DeVault threaded multiple sections on a clean Pipeline wave and had a confident exit, but was unable to find a good backup score to edge out the Brazilian. Medina’s 17.07 scoreline was one of the highest in the event and he locked in on multiple frontside barrels to defend both his World Title and Billabong Pipe Masters title.

“That was a fun heat, a really tense heat because he got a nice wave in the end,” said Medina. “I’m happy to surf these kinds of waves with another guy. It was really fun, I just want to thank God for another heat and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity.”

World No. 5 Andino closed out the day with a win over Sebastian Zietz (HAW) in Heat 16. The battle saw Andino facing World Title dreams while Zietz fought for requalification to return to the 2020 CT. After a day of big scores and Perfect 10s, only mid-range scores were thrown down. Andino narrowly edged out Zietz with a 1.84-point lead. Zietz exits the final event of the season in 17th place, not enough to return to the CT next year.

“There were heats today where guys were losing with 9.5s, so I’d definitely rather have a low-scoring heat and come out on top,” said Andino. “It was quite a bummer that I had to come up against Seabass because obviously, I want to do well in this event but he’s not going to be on Tour next year and I just love having him on tour, he’s such a good guy so it’s quite a bummer but I’m just really stoked to be in Finals Day.”

11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater. Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL.

Kelly Slater Finds Perfection at Backdoor, John John Florence Finds Redemption
11-time World Champion and seven-time Billabong Pipe Master Kelly Slater (USA) earned a perfect 10-point ride for an unthinkable right-handed Backdoor barrel that he deemed the best in years. Slater’s heat win against Joan Duru (FRA) kept his Olympic qualification hopes thriving, meanwhile, two-time World Champion John John Florence (HAW) got the magic back and secured his own near-perfect ride, a 9.70, after driving through multiple sections on a beautiful Pipe barrel.

“That’s the best wave I’ve had out here in a few years I think at Backdoor,” said Slater. “I kept trying to doggy door the thing and I couldn’t and I was like, ‘No it’s not going to let me out, it’s not going to let me out!’ It reminded me of one I had in the first Backdoor Shootout where I just kept going and going and kept bouncing open for me and I just snuck out the end. I didn’t take the line I wanted because I was trying to come out earlier, but I just had to keep going and hope the white water didn’t get me before I got out.”

This event marks Florence’s return to competition in 2019 after a critical knee injury sidelined him for five out of eleven CT events. Yesterday, fans were disappointed to see him relegated to the Elimination Round, but today, Florence looked in-form with the same brilliant performances he was used to putting on prior to injury.

Florence came up against local rival Ezekiel Lau (HAW) and started the non-priority, overlapping heat with an 8.00 for a completed Backdoor barrel, which eventually became a throw-away score. After 25 minutes, the Hawaii Heat 11 gained priority over Heat 12 in the lineup and Florence waited patiently for the waves that came to him with priority. His strategy paid off when a classic Pipeline peak appeared on the horizon; Florence was in position. He dropped in grabbing his rail and set his line with expertise, then drove through multiple sections to eventually come out clean into the channel, his knee brace visible as he claimed the best wave he’s had since his return — a near-perfect 9.70.

The excitement was palpable as beach fans erupted in cheers; all of Pipeline seemed to celebrate the hometown hero’s return. Florence went on to find another backhand barrel, slightly smaller but equally impressive and earned an 8.80 from judges to garner the highest heat total of the event. Florence doesn’t claim many waves, but as he styled his way into the channel, it was clear he celebrated a successful rehabilitation and the return to his favorite wave.

“Kelly and Gabe got me fired up and the waves are absolutely pumping right now, just so clean and perfect out there,” said Florence. “I feel like I’m just warming up and getting back into things, I’m so excited to be getting barreled again!”

Being a two-time World Champion, Florence is no stranger to the pressure the World Title contenders are feeling. When asked about a third World Title for Medina, Florence appeared even more charged: “It will motivate me a ton. It will make me a little pissed off because he’ll have one better than me. It’ll just fire me up more for next year.”
Gabriel Medina, Owen Wright and Michel Bourez Have Provisionally Qualified Through the WSL Championship Tour for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Michel Bourez. Photo by Tony Heff/WSL.

Medina, Owen Wright (AUS) and Michel Bourez (FRA) have qualified through the WSL Championship Tour (CT) to represent Brasil, Australia, and France, respectively, at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“I’m so happy to make it,” said Medina. “The fight for the qualification for the Olympics was really tight, me, Filipe (Toledo) and Italo (Ferreira). It feels good to get this thing because it’s something that I’ve been working towards this year and I’m really happy to make it. It’s a dream come true for me to represent my country in the Olympics.”

Owen Wright. Photo by Tony Heff/WSL.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Wright. “I guess that Tahiti win is why I’m standing here. To qualify for the Olympics is just massive. I started out this year with that goal. I feel like I’ve had a great year. I didn’t have the performance I wanted here at Pipe but still qualified and to be provisionally qualified for the Olympics is amazing. I’m over the moon, I’m so happy.”

“It’s a mixed feeling, paddling with three of my best friends ever (Jeremy Flores and Joan Duru) and just to be on Tour with them was amazing, we had such a good year together,” said Bourez. “The sad thing is Joan didn’t qualify. If he made like two more heats he would have been in. But at the end of the day, that’s the game. But then when he lost, I could qualify for the Olympics so to me, it’s a great moment.

“I never thought I’d be in the Olympics before, it’s never been a dream of mine because you never thought surfing would be in the Olympics. Just to be able to participate and to be there with all kinds of athletes, the best in the world, to me means the world. That’s a big achievement in my career for sure.”

Surfing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020 and the 2019 WSL CT, the elite year-long tour that crowns the World Champions each season, will be an important qualification pathway for the world’s best surfers.
Surfline Forecast for the Billabong Pipe Masters

The next call for the Billabong Pipe Masters will be tomorrow, December 12, at 7:00 a.m. HST for a possible 8:00 a.m, start.

Billabong Pipe Masters Round of 32 Results:
HEAT 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 8.53 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 7.20
HEAT 2: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 10.17 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 9.77
HEAT 3: Yago Dora (BRA) 11.30 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 10.50
HEAT 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 8.30 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 3.40
HEAT 5: Ricardo Christie (NZL) 11.04 DEF. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 9.84
HEAT 6: Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.76 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 7.53
HEAT 7: Seth Moniz (HAW) 15.26 DEF. Billy Kemper (HAW) 13.00
HEAT 8: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.33 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 14.23
HEAT 9: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.07 DEF. Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 13.90
HEAT 10: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 8.84 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 4.43
HEAT 11: John John Florence (HAW) 18.50 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 4.50
HEAT 12: Soli Bailey (AUS) 9.10 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 7.54
HEAT 13: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 9.10 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.50
HEAT 14: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 9.34 DEF. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.10
HEAT 15: Michel Bourez (FRA) 15.24 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 8.94
HEAT 16: Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.17 DEF. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 8.33

Billabong Pipe Masters Round of 16 Matchups:
HEAT 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
HEAT 2: Yago Dora (BRA) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
HEAT 3: Ricardo Christie (NZL) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
HEAT 4: Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
HEAT 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
HEAT 6: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Soli Bailey (AUS)
HEAT 7: Jesse Mendes (BRA) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
HEAT 8: Michel Bourez (FRA) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)

Yago Dora. Photo by Tony Heff/WSL.

Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons kicks off. World title hopefuls keep dreams alive.

Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons kicks off. World title hopefuls keep dreams alive.

Kolohe Andino. Photo by Kelly Cestarii/WSL

The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, the final stop on the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Men’s Championship Tour (CT) and third gem of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, completed its first two rounds of competition in six-to-ten foot waves at the world-famous Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu.

Italo Ferreira. Photo by Kelly Cestarii/WSL.

World Title Contenders on Track in Opening Round
Five surfers are mathematically in contention to win the 2019 World Title at this event: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Jordy Smith (ZAF), Filipe Toledo (BRA), and Kolohe Andino (USA). The opening rounds today saw all five make it straight through to the Round of 32.

Two-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina. Photo by Kelly Cestarii/WSL.

Two-time World Champion and No. 2 in the world, Medina, scored an 8.80 (out of a possible 10) in Round 1 Heat 5 for an impossibly deep frontside barrel followed by a layback snap to finish off the ride. With confident surfing, Medina didn’t seem to break a sweat under pressure and moved effortlessly into the Round of 32, where he will match up against wildcard Imaikalani deVault (HAW), who is surfing his very first CT event.

Pipe Invitational runner-up and wildcard, deVault clicked into gear and earned a 5.17 in Round 1 after threading through Backdoor, but fell to last place behind Medina and Willian Cardoso (BRA) and was forced to surf in the Elimination Round against Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) and Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA). The Maui surfer stayed alive in the competition after earning a 4.90 on a Backdoor wave, while Igarashi dropped in on a deep, Pipeline left for an 8.60 and the heat win.

World No.3 Smith avoided the Elimination Round with controlled surfing that landed him safely into second position ahead of injury replacement Frederico Morias (PRT). World No. 4 Toledo and No. 5 Andino won their opening Heats 2 and 3, respectively, and will surf again in the Round of 32.

“I feel like I have a good rhythm on how I’m competing this year and I just want to continue that rhythm for the rest of my career,” said Andino. “I just want to go out in my heats and compete. I felt like when I’ve surfed out here before or in the past I kind of surfed from a place of ego where I’m trying to prove something in my heat when actually it’s just a heat, and to advance is the most important thing so I just want to try and do that.”

Toledo competed with a different type of weight on his shoulders today, but was able to advance through his Round 1 heat on top with a combined heat total of 11.93.

“I’ve been through a lot actually, my baby boy has been sick for a couple of days now and I’ve been to the doctor with him twice,” said Toledo. “It just feels good to be around family and all the love from my mom and dad, it’s been amazing. Just that connection with God too has been super healthy for me. I feel good, I feel really good, I feel 100% for sure. Especially when it comes to barrels, I’m not pushing too much I just feel great.”

Billy Kemper. Photo by Kelly Cestarii/WSL.

Billy Kemper (HAW), yesterday’s Pipe Invitational winner, showed up in a big way taking on World No. 1 Ferreira and Michael Rodriguez (BRA), truly shaking up the World Title Race as intended following yesterday’s win. Kemper’s first wave was a committed late drop under the lip on the biggest Backdoor wave of the morning. He disappeared until the closeout section toward Off the Wall, then snuck out perfectly for a 9.4, the second-highest wave score of the day. Despite the swell direction favouring the lefts, Kemper’s work ethic and experience at the break saw him back up the excellent 9.4 with a 6.23 for a smaller Backdoor wave. With a similar approach, he raced down the line and once again snuck out of the barrel before the closeout section.

“Obviously, it’s an honour to share the water with the number one surfer in the world,” said Kemper. “At this point, I don’t care if you’re number 1 or 100 I want to beat everyone. I love competing. This is my backyard and just enjoying myself. I have my wife and children down here, my coach Kahea (Hart) and like I said, just having fun.”

As the competition encounters one of the best forecasts in recent memory, Kemper seriously has work cut out for him with the cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships set to run this Thursday and a possible Billabong Pipe Masters Final day on Friday.

“I trained really hard for this and am very excited about this week,” continued Kemper. “Jamie Mitchell took some of my boards over to Pe’ahi for me last night. In my mind, I planned on making it through today and going on to tomorrow. I hope I go on through my heat tomorrow and then will be over on Maui for the Big Wave for Thursday and then straight back here for Finals Day.”

Two-time WSL Champion John John Florence. Photo by Tony Heff/WSL.

John John Florence Returns to Competition, Advances to Round of 32 Alongside Kelly Slater
John John Florence (HAW) returned to CT competition for the first time since the Oi Rio Pro in June where he injured his knee. Prior to the injury, Florence captured two major event wins (Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and Margaret River Pro) and created an outstanding lead for himself early on. In his first heat back today, Florence ended with a disappointing result but the two-time WSL Champion bounced back in Elimination Round 2 against Zietz and Morais to advance into the next round with a 6.50 and 4.43. His higher score came after he dropped in behind the peak on a draining Backdoor barrel, which put him in the lead.

“This year I’ve had a few sessions here and there, kind of getting the knee moving and stuff,” said Florence. “I’m just stoked to be in the water and surfing and getting little barrels. The knee is feeling super good, I’ve only surfed a handful of times so far, I’ve just been surfing in front of my house. It was nerve-wracking this morning getting back in the jersey, “Okay, here we go!” But once I got a few waves you just don’t even think about it anymore.”

On the line for Florence is a maiden victory at the Billabong Pipe Masters and more importantly, the opportunity to represent Hawaii with Team USA at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The North Shore native is in the race with eleven-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) for the last provisional qualification spot after the first was clinched by Andino following his performance at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal.

“It’d be awesome to be in the Olympics,” Florence continued. “That was one of the main reasons I came back. We’ll see what happens. I’m just stoked on the challenge it was to get back into this event. I think it’s going to be pumping. Tomorrow we’ll see what it does with the new swell filling in, it will probably be really good in the morning and maybe too big in the afternoon. It looks like next week there’s another swell coming. I’m excited, I hope we get some good proper Pipe.”

11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater. Photo by Tony Heff/WSL.

Slater is surfing in his 27th Billabong Pipe Masters this week and although he didn’t win his heat outright, he surfed well enough to advance into the Round of 32 behind heat winner Michel Bourez (FRA). Slater has won this event a record seven times over the span of three decades and is not only looking to win his eighth Billabong Pipe Masters, but also a third Vans Triple Crown Title and the historic Olympic berth.

“At the end of the day I probably have to beat John by two or three results,” said Slater. “If I get first he has to get fifth, something like that. Look he’s in, he surfed a great year. If I do happen to get it, I’ll think about it but to be ahead of me still after all this time shows how good a year he had going for himself and I wish we could both be in. But if he gets a spot I’m happy for him and if I get it it means I had a great contest so we’ll see what happens.”

Ezekiel Lau. Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL

Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau Excels in Opening Round
Honolulu’s Ezekiel Lau found the highest single-wave score of the day, a near-perfect 9.73 for a proper Pipeline set wave during Round 1 Heat 9. The Hawaiian dropped in while grabbing rail to find his line, then let go of the rail inside the barrel and came flying out behind the spit.

“I’m really stoked to get that wave,” said Lau. “To get waves like that and the moments that matter in heats like that mean the world to me. I’m just stoked. I told myself, ‘The waves will pick you,’ and I just sat there and it came to me so I was really stoked that I was able to make it.”

Lau is surfing for requalification as he currently sits No. 28 on the CT. He narrowly missed out on qualifying for the dream tour via the Qualifying Series (QS) after finishing second at the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach and is using that pressure to fuel his campaign. Lau is also one of the frontrunners for a Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Title and is looking to add his first Pipeline victory to the list of accolades, not to mention playing spoiler to the World Title contenders. Lau thrives under pressure and has been in intense scenarios before, including the Billabong Pipe Masters heat that determined his maiden run on the CT back in 2016.

“There’s a lot going on and I’m just trying to use my energy smart and channel everything and make every heat,” said Lau. “We’re going to take it one heat at a time, one wave at a time. Now I’m in the running for a Triple Crown, that’s where I want to be. I’m right where I want to be, I’m happy.”

Hawaii’s Seth Moniz and Zietz also advanced to the Round of 32. Rookie Moniz will be against compatriot Kemper in Heat 7, while Zietz will face off with Andino in Heat 16.

Italo. Photo by Kelly Cestarii/WSL.

Billabong Pipe Masters Seeding Round 1 Results:
HEAT 1: Soli Bailey (AUS) 14.33 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 7.17, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 4.70
HEAT 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 7.27 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 4.34, Jadson Andre (BRA) 3.33
HEAT 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.93 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 6.07, Ricardo Christie (NZL) 4.10
HEAT 4: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 7.36 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.33, Frederico Morais (PRT) 2.60
HEAT 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.30 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 7.56, Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 6.10
HEAT 6: Billy Kemper (HAW) 15.63 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 10.67, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 5.60
HEAT 7: Owen Wright (AUS) 7.94 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 4.90, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 1.40
HEAT 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 7.76 DEF. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 7.33, John John Florence (HAW) 4.57
HEAT 9: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 16.93 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 15.00, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.60
HEAT 10: Michel Bourez (FRA) 11.33 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 9.10, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 4.90
HEAT 11: Joan Duru (FRA) 15.00 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 4.60, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 4.23
HEAT 12: Seth Moniz (HAW) 9.34 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 5.77, Yago Dora (BRA) 1.90

Billabong Pipe Masters Elimination Round 2 Results:
HEAT 1: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.60 DEF. Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 8.00, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 3.26
HEAT 2: John John Florence (HAW) 10.93 DEF. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.16, Frederico Morais (PRT) 2.70
HEAT 3: Yago Dora (BRA) 8.60 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 6.80, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 6.04
HEAT 4: Jadson Andre (BRA) 12.40 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 9.57, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 8.07

Billabong Pipe Masters Round of 32 Results:
HEAT 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
HEAT 2: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
HEAT 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
HEAT 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)
HEAT 6: Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
HEAT 7: Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Billy Kemper (HAW)
HEAT 8: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
HEAT 9: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Imaikalani deVault (HAW)
HEAT 10: Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
HEAT 11: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
HEAT 12: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Soli Bailey (AUS)
HEAT 13: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
HEAT 14: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
HEAT 15: Michel Bourez (FRA) vs. Deivid Silva (BRA)
HEAT 16: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)

Wade Carmichael. Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL