The Volcom Pipe Pro kicked off with two of the younger competitors – Noa Mizuno (HAW), 19, and Matthew McGillivray (ZAF), 20, – scoring the best waves of opening day to launch the World Surf League (WSL) Men’s Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 with equal, excellent 8.0 rides. The conditions provided scoring opportunity during Round 1 and featured 4-6ft. surf with wave faces reaching up to 8ft., however conditions declined by mid-morning and the competition was called off after Round 2 Heat 2.
Mizuno, 2016 Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Regional Junior Champ, donned a jersey for the first time since last year’s Volcom Pipe Pro and triggered the first excellent score of the day with a Backdoor barrel combined with a roundhouse turn.
“It feels awesome, I’m rejuvenated, finally I’m excited to wake up in the morning now and go for a warm-up surf, super excited to get back into a jersey and ready for 2018,” commented Mizuno post-heat. “I think today is one of those days where you have to really move around, just staying busy is how I found that wave,” he continued of his excellent score. “Finally, that one just cornered perfectly. I don’t really go Backdoor very often but I could tell that was a good wave so I just went. I had one really big pump and then got enough speed to where I could get really comfortable in it and I just came out, it was a really good exit. Perfect goofy-foot wave for Backdoor.”
South Africa’s McGillivray switched tactics by taking to the air in Round 2 Heat 1 and nailing two frontside aerial reverses on back-to-back waves. The J-Bay local used wind knowledge to his favor and ended up tying Mizuno for the high score of the day, an 8.0.
“Going into this contest, you wouldn’t really be thinking about airs at all, but with surfing you just have to adapt a lot, the conditions are always changing,” said McGillivray. “The wind is really good, it’s a devil wind so it’s blowing into the wave face, and I knew it would be good to try to do an air or two and thankfully I pulled one off on both my scores.”
McGillivray is off to a confident start for 2018 after winning the Seat Pro Netanya pres by Reef, a QS3,000 in Israel only 10 days ago. After a heat win today, he continues to build momentum and is looking forward to the swell picking up so he can shift his air game back to barrels.
Another standout included 2015 Big Wave World Champion Makuakai Rothman (HAW), who advanced out of Round 1 after posting a combined heat total of 13.57 against Mizuno, Sheldon Paishon (HAW) and Volcom team rider Tom Dosland (HAW). Rothman locked into one of the cleaner barrels of the day for a 7.07 from judges and will surf in Round 2 Heat 3 once competition resumes.
Two other big wave notables, Kai Lenny (HAW) and Ian Walsh (HAW) had successful starts in the competition after moving through Heats 3 and 5 respectively. Walsh squeaked through behind Hawaiian powerhouse and decorated athlete Sunny Garcia (HAW) and went on to describe the balance between surfing at home on Maui versus competing along the North Shore.
“If it’s 2-3ft. Backdoor or if it’s 50-60ft Jaws, whatever my focus is that day then I’m entirely focused on it and if I’m there I want to put the time and energy into doing well,” said Walsh. “I just want to perform at a high level for myself.”
The recent Pe‘ahi Challenge winner also mentioned that aside from a WSL Big Wave Tour event at Maverick’s or Nazare, this will be his last competition until the northern hemisphere shifts back into focus in October.
“That’s kind of been my rhythm the last few years is compete at home, because I love competing in Hawaii and I enjoy surfing these waves with a lot of the guys I’ve grown up surfing with,” said Walsh. “It’s fun to be able to surf Pipe and Sunset and Haleiwa with only three other guys out, other than that I like to put my focus towards other projects… I have a few really big things in the works for 2018 and 2019 with some exploration stuff.”
International athletes Eliott Napias (PYF), John Mel (USA) and Cole Houshmand (USA) were among the 20 athletes to advance today and will look toward the next day of competition to measure their skills again against some of the North Shore’s finest. Round 2 features a cultural representation of Hawaii, South Africa, USA, Portugal, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, France, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Tahiti.
With the N swell easing tomorrow and a new/solid WNW-NW swell buillding later this week, contest organizers are eyeing run days for Thursday and through the weekend. Officials will reconvene however tomorrow morning to assess the surf at hand and make a call by 7:30amHawaii Standard Time (HST). For updates, please check out WorldSurfLeague.com.
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