BANZAI PIPELINE, Oahu/Hawaii (Wednesday, December 7, 2016) – The world’s best surfers are readying themselves to take on Banzai Pipeline, one of the most legendary waves on the planet located on the North Shore of Oahu. With the competition window opening on December 8 and running through December 20, Pipe will host the final stop on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons.
Newly crowned WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW) has his heart set on his first victory at the Billabong Pipe Masters. Florence has been competing in this event since 2008, but has yet to secure a victory at his homebreak. After the Hawaiian’s incredible season, including his win at the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau and emotional clinching of the World Surfing Title in Portugal, Florence will look to complete his year with a win in his backyard.
“Pipe is my favorite wave in the entire world,” said Florence. “But, the Pipe Masters is one of the hardest events to win because you have a left and you have a right, and on top of that you have the best surfers in the world who are all very good at getting barreled. If I could finish it off to win Pipe, I would be super stoked, but at the same time I am going to have fun and not put that pressure on myself. I surfed the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa relaxed and ended up winning, so I am going to take that attitude.”
Florence’s recent Hawaii homecoming after his World Championship win saw him take down the Hawaiian Pro, the first event of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing WSL Specialty Series. The Billabong Pipe Masters is the third and final stage of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, and Florence’s success in this event would be an incredibly historic feat.
“This year has been the best year of competitive surfing of my life with winning the Eddie and the World Title,” continued Florence. “Winning the Triple Crown is one of the coolest things next to winning the World Title because the three events are at totally different waves. Each wave can be really big or really small, so you have almost every different type of surfing pushed into these three events, along with all the best surfers in the world. If you can come out on top after those three events, it is a pretty prestigious thing because it is a hard thing to do.”
Defending Vans Triple Crown winner Gabriel Medina (BRA) is also preparing for battle on the North Shore. Medina currently sits in second on the Jeep Leaderboard and will pursue his first win at the Billabong Pipe Masters. The 2014 WSL Champion will surf against 2016 WSL Rookie Kanoa Igarashi (USA) and one of the top two finishers of the Pipeline Invitational.
“Pipe is such a sick event,” Medina said. “For the past two years, I have made the final and it is a difficult wave. It is dangerous and scary, and I think it is the most exciting to watch. It is a wave where you never know what is going to happen. It would be an honor to be a champion at Pipe. Every good surfer that has won here is a legend because it is such a hard event to win.”
Pipeline will also serve as the battleground for the Pipeline Invitational, where a 32-man field will compete for the two coveted wildcard entries into the main event. In addition to earning the opportunity to battle against WSL Champions Florence and Media in Round 1, the Pipeline Invitational has a total prize purse of $100,000. The Pipeline Invitational will run on the first competition day of the Billabong Pipe Masters and consist of the best surfers from around the world, including top finishers from the Volcom Pipe Pro held earlier this year and highest internationally ranked QS surfers.
Frederico Morais (PRT), qualifier for 2017 WSL Championship Tour and current leader of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, will be seeded directly into the main event after receiving a position from the Commissioner’s Office to replace an injured Alejo Muniz (BRA).
Joining Muniz on the injury withdrawal list is Matt Banting (AUS). The WSL Commissioner’s Office has provided Banting’s replacement spot to Billabong who have, in turn, allocated it to 2001 Pipe Masters winner Bruce Irons (HAW). Morais and Irons will be seeded after the completion of the Pipeline Invitational.
There will be a Round Table session broadcast LIVE tomorrow on the first day of the holding period, Thursday, December 8, which will include former Billabong Pipe Masters champions Adriano de Souza (BRA), Kelly Slater (USA), Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Jeremy Flores (FRA).
The Billabong Pipe Masters will be webcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com
The event is also being carried by the WSL’s LIVE broadcast partner Oceanic Time Warner Cable 250 & 1250 in Hawaii.
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Ryan Callinan (AUS)