Pipeline, Oahu - The recent massive surf episode experienced on Oahu's famous North Shore, with waves of up to 60 feet, has made life tough for professional surfers in town for the $130,000 Volcom Pipe Pro - a 5-star ASP-rated event.
Athletes have spent the past four days waiting for rough storm surf and winds to subside so they can get back to business. Today they hit the water for the early rounds of competition in head-high surf to the north of true Pipeline.
Literally tons of sand have been eroded from the shoreline here, and re-deposited offshore on the world class surfing reef to create an unusual sandbar. Coupled with today's unfavorable northerly swell direction, the wave zone has been shifted a full football field in length to the right of the usual contest area, to a fickle spot called "Gums".
It is the reef at Pipeline that creates the hollow, barreling wave that is every surfer's dream. What they were left with today was a head-high sandbar wave that called for a complete change of strategy and equipment.
Local surfer Jamie O'Brien, 30, is a former Pipe Master and winner of the 2010 Volcom Pipe Pro. He has surfed out here as much as any human being on the planet and has seen all of Pipeline's machinations. Today he won the Volcom wildcard into the round of 96 during a special heat.
"I looked out there and figured it could have been anywhere in the world," said O'Brien. "But I surf Gums all the time, it's a fun wave and I'm excited. I just did a lot of paddling (in the heat), did a lot of work and it paid off.
"It requires a totally different approach, different boards - you're paddling your small wave boards again and you're groveling. But you've got to get through the bad to get to the good and I'd say the swell forecast looks pretty good.
“I see some solid surf coming, the right direction, maybe not the right winds but we can work with it. I'm stoked to compete in the Hawaii events. That's my main goal right now." O'Brien earned the third highest wave score of the day in that heat: 8.5 out of 10.
Today's highest wave and heat score were posted by another North Shore local, Luke Shepardson in the first round. Unfortunately he was a second round casualty and is out of the competition. Shepardson found a tubing right-hander at Gums that saw him disappear for five seconds and a wave score of 8.9 points. He ended with a heat total of 13.57 points out of 20.
Other standouts today included Brent Dorrington (Kirra, Australia); Luke Davis (Capistrano Beach, CA); Dege O'Connell (Hana, Maui); and Cristobal De Col (Peru). When competition resumes, it will be with the top seeds of the event: Kelly Slater (USA); John John Florence (Hawaii); Tanner Gudauskas (USA); Ezekiel Lau (Hawaii), and Dusty Payne (Hawaii)
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