Banzai Pipeline, O`ahu, Hawai`i (Dec.17, 1996) -- On December 9 the
holding period began for the Chiemsee Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters, the last
contest in the Red Dog Triple Crown of Surfing and the 1996 finale to the
Coca-Cola-ASP World Championship Tour.
For eight days surfers, officials and over 150 on-site media waited patiently. They Christmas shopped, watched TV, and asked each other "when do you think we'll get waves?"
Like the Sphinx in a desert storm, the main stage, covered with sponsors logos, stood deserted on the windblown sand. When waves finally arrived they were 18- to 22-foot "Victory At Sea" monsters, precluding anything other than Civil Defense drills.
Finally, on day ten the trials began in six-to-eight-foot surf that wasn't exactly perfect -- but the professional surfers made it look perfect anyway. Trials were held to provide many surfers who do not follow the tour an opportunity to compete in Hawaii's premier professional competition. Given the time remaining, however, officials eliminated the normal repechage round and switched to man-on-man heats for the Main event.
Todays trials saw many of the world's more experienced surfers make it through including 1982 Pipe Masters winner Michael Ho and veteran Australian Simon Law.
"This is my 10th full year on the tour and I was looking forward to the Pipe Masters here," said Law, 31 from Newcastle. "The waves were a little different from last year, predominantly left handers. Today the swells from the North are making the right handers a lot better, except there's a little bit of funny sand movement out there which makes the waves really hard to maneuver through." (Normally, the winter surf washes away the sand bar that forms in the summer, but as yet not been washed away this year.)
"The waves are a lot shallower this year than previous years because of the sand and it reminds me a little bit of Kirra and Burleigh up in Queensland," Law said. The waves are tubing but on very shallow water. They're not as big as last year, but the waves are still very good." Law made it through his heat against newcomers Kalani Robb (Haw) and Jake Paterson (Aus). I was up against two younger guys on the tour and luckily for me today the waves are a little bit more for the experienced and patient surfer. The last four years I've reached the quarter finals and the semi finals, so I feel pretty strong." Law made it through to Round 2.
Earlier, Ho , a former Triple Crown Champion, proved Law's point winning two heats in a row to make it into the Main Event. Ho didn't catch a wave until well in to the heat, but he picked his waves well and made every move count. "Every heat's tough nowadays. to get through one heat, I'm more than happy."
When asked what he'd do if he ended up in a heat with his brother Derek, also a former Triple Crown and Pipe Masters champion Ho answered: "We'll just see what happens. If it's big lefts I'm sure he's got the advantage, if it's little rights I'd have to say I've got the advantage. I don't know if he'd like to hear that." Ho learned later that in round two, heat seven, he will surf against his brother and Australia's Luke Egan.
Kaipo Jaquias won his heat and continues his quest for the Holy Grail of Surfing-- The Triple Crown Championship -- given only on Oahu's North Shore. Today he was hampered by a lingering chest cold, making his heat difficult, but not impossible. Did it affect his heat?
"I don't know, I thought it did, but everyone said I looked good, so it's the difference of feel and see, Jaquias said. "When I fell the wave caught me a little, it's one thing that's on my mind (the cold) and kind of holding me back. If I can get over it I would have that much less to worry about, but as long as I'm going forward, that's the main thing."
Knocked out of the top 44 were: 13-year tour veteran Stuart Bedford-Brown, Aus; Paul Canning, So Africa; Dean Randazzo, USA; Renan Rocha and Renato Wanderley, Brazil. Making It Through: The 56 surfers making it through the trials and into tomorrow's Main Event were all from Hawai`i: John Gomes, Braden Dias, Michael Ho, Liam McNamara. Two surfers -- both from Hawai`i -- got perfect 10 scores: Pancho Sullivan, O`ahu, and Shane Dorian from the Big Island. Major Upsets: Mark Occhilupo, Australia; Rob Machado, California; Kalani Robb, Hawai`i.
The competition continues tomorrow, surf permitting.
The hotline number for updated, recorded contest information is: 808/638-5024
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