BANZAI PIPELINE, Oahu/Hawaii – 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 (1.8 – 3 meter) waves at the world-famous Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu.
As the final event of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the Billabong Pipe Masters will see the 37th Champion crowned following six weeks of exciting activities along the North Shore. From all-time wave conditions and world-class competitive clashes to movie premieres, skate jams and community giveback activations, the heritage series continues to define the culture of surfing in the sport’s Mecca.
World Title Contenders on Track in Opening RoundFive 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 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 (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 favoring 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 honor 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.”
The event will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, the free WSL app, and VansTripleCrownofSurfing.com. Also, check local listings for coverage from the WSL’s broadcast partners. Fans in Hawaii can tune into Spectrum SURF channels 20 and 1020HD, which will televise the live action and event replays.