PIPELINE, Oahu/Hawaii (Friday, January 29, 2010) – Nobody at the world’s most venerated surfing spot, the Banzai Pipeline, expected a young kid from North Carolina to show up in the middle of a record big-wave winter and steal the show. But 20-year-old Brett Barley did exactly that today, during Day 2 of the ASP WQS 5-Star Volcom Pipeline Pro. Barley posted the highest score of the event so far with two incredible rides at the right peak known as “Backdoor”: 19.67 points out of a possible 20. Even more crazy, he has only ridden a total of three waves at Backdoor in his life, and those were two of them, under the pressure of a 25-minute heat and with thousands of people watching. One and a half more days of this $120,000 ASP pro-sanctioned event remains.
Wave face heights were in the 10- to 15-foot range this-morning, smooth as glass and peeling turquoise perfection like you only find in Hawaii. Barley wasted no time, paddling straight into his first wave that would be the 10. Watching on in amazement was none other than the living legend of Pipe: Gerry Lopez, who had this to say about him:
“Boy, that kid, the horn went, he paddled into a wave and got the best right that anyone had all morning,” said Lopez.
“It was really difficult because it was on his backhand. It was one of those waves that just stayed hollow enough. He had a low line. Normally, I would never have given him much chance of coming out. But that wave barreled all the way to the end. He popped out at the very bottom of the wave at the end. He made it out! I watched the replay and the close-up on his face – I think he was surprised as we all were on the beach.
“They gave him a perfect 10. Then he went back out and did almost as good a ride as he did on the first one – an equally deep tube ride, very difficult on his backhand. Unbelievable! I guess Cape Hatteras is considered the best place on the whole east coast. It must have taught him something, because he rode those waves really well.”
Despite the ripples of excitement on the beach, Barley was all smiles but surprisingly calm and collected when he returned to shore.
“I didn’t really have any expectations,” said Barley. “I was just happy to go out there and surf with just a couple of guys – you never get that opportunity out here. All I wanted to do was catch waves. I actually haven’t gotten to surf here a whole lot, but it kind of breaks like home, it’s real steep and fast, so that helps.”
On his perfect 10: “I was in shock,” he said. “When I took off I didn’t really know what was going to happen and when I pulled in I couldn’t really see because a little chandelier of whitewater came down so I was like ‘hold on!’. Right at the end I knew that if I didn’t straighten out I wouldn’t make it, and nine times out of 10 you get clipped by the lip, so I was just happy that I came out.
“That’s a win. I don’t even care what happens anymore. That first wave? Even if I didn’t get the second one, that was all I wanted. I know that I can surf these waves, but I never would have imagined getting a 10, much less another nine, so I’m thrilled.”
Barley’s score still stands at the end of two day’s of competition, and he is through to the business end of the event, which may wrap up this weekend, surf pending.
Australia’s Anthony Walsh was the highest scoring non-Hawaii surfer after Barley today, keeping a good pace going in this event as he looks forward to a return to big waves this weekend. The fore is leaning towards Sunday for the final, in conditions very similar in size and shape to yesterday’s macking 20-foot-plus faces.
Walsh was scratching through the first half of his heat today, battling to find an open wave. It seemed that the Backdoor was spent by the time midday rolled around.
“It’s really tricky,” said Walsh. “The current’s sucking straight through the lineup and I had a bad start. I had two (at Backdoor), I didn’t make them, and then got two (at Pipe) at the end that did make it. I went out there with the theory of going right. I hadn’t really seen too many lefts. So I was just out there trying to get rights. Those two little wedgy lefts, they were really tricky… so I had to really power through it and stand safety stance almost just to push through it.”
The sentimental favorite, 13-year-old Landon McNamara was unfortunately eliminated today, but had nothing to be ashamed of after losing to a trio of the best Pipe riders in the world: Bruce Irons – who scored the only other perfect 10 of the day, Mark Healey, and Tom Whitaker (Australia). (NOTE: It was incorrectly reported yesterday that Landon was 16.) Landon’s debut heat yesterday in extremely serious Pipeline surf was still the talk of the town today a gutsy, mature, and passionate performance that proved the future of Pipeline is in very capable hands.
Surfline.com has put the fire under competitors remaining in the Volcom Pipeline Pro with a call for solid surf in the 15-20+ wave face height range for Sunday. Tomorrow will see another temporary decline in surf size and quality before ramping up in the afternoon.
The highest heat scores of the day:
19.67 – Brett Barley (NC), also the highest heat score of the competition so far
16.77 – Bruce Irons (Kauai)
15.74 – John John Florence (Oahu)
15.50 – Marcus Hickman (Oahu)
15.43 – Anthony Walsh (Australia)
14.90 – Reef McIntosh (Kauai)