PIPELINE, Oahu/Hawaii (Sunday, January 31, 2010) – North Carolina’s Brett Barley was no darkhorse today, surviving three tough rounds in huge, dangerous Pipeline surf to reach the semi-finals of the $120,000 Volcom Pipeline Pro. On Thursday he stunned the crowd with his perfect 10 and highest heat score of the event – which still stands. Today he had the home crowd cheering for him, including the legendary Pipe Master himself: Gerry Lopez.
Barley is one of the last eight surfers standing, reaching the semi-finals along with Australian pair Mark Mathews and Anthony Walsh, and Pipeline locals Ian Walsh (Maui), Jamie O’Brien, Danny Fuller, John John Florence, and Kiron Jabour, after a harrowing day of wipeouts and tube rides in 15-foot-plus surf.
Barley, 20, claimed the last semi-final spot in the dying seconds of his heat, finding a rare barrel at Backdoor to earn the score he needed to move from third in the heat to second. He reached the sand in time to hear the result announced and the crowd erupt.
“It’s not about how far I get, the money or anything, I just want to go out there and surf, I enjoy it and this is definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in a contest, that’s for sure,” said Barley. “No doubt, hands down, this is the best result of my life, for sure.
“It was the dying minutes and Kamalei (Alexander) was trying to hold me off,” explained Barley. “I was lucky that the (Backdoor wave) didn’t close out. Had I not got that, (Kamalei) would have made it, he surfed well.”
Barley explained that not being a local might have in fact helped him today. The highly challenging conditions aren’t perfect Pipeline and more akin to the leftover scraps of a big day at Pipe that Brett is used to picking up.
“Normally, because it’s so crowded, I have to go sit super deep and I end up just catching closeouts all day. It’s been hard to get used to being able to catch good waves.”
The Volcom Pipeline Pro is also an ASP Hawaii qualifying event for the year-end, ultimate pro surfing showdown: the Pipeline Masters – the final stop of the famous Triple Crown of Surfing. Based on today’s results, the eight local wildcard berths into the Pipeline Masters in December have been awarded to: Ian Walsh (Maui), Jamie O’Brien, John John Florence, Danny Fuller, Kiron Jabour, Dusty Payne (Maui), Bruce Irons (Kauai), and Clay Marzo (Maui).
Marzo, a futuristic surfer known more for his mind-blowing free-surfing than his competitive conquests, narrowly missed out on advancing through his quarter final heat today. True to form, he marched to the beat of his own drum here at the Volcom Pipeline Pro, often appearing to be in a separate heat to those he was competing against. He sat on his own in the lineup, apart from the other three surfers in his heats. He picked off waves that the others disregarded, then drew lines from takeoff through tube-rides that defied expectations. In some heats, he was almost invisible, hidden within tube ride after tube ride, barely sitting still long enough to be seen. His creative approach will be a welcome inclusion to this year’s Pipe Masters draw.
Ian Walsh topped today’s scores, logging the highest single wave (9.7 out of 10 points) and two-wave total heat score (17.37), both in the quarter finals. His committed, hairball take-offs and long, weaving tube-rides were unmatched.
Teenage pair John John Florence, 17, and Kiron Jabour, 19, also won their share of the audience’s approval. Florence survived what was worthy in itself of being a Pipe Masters final, advancing behind an in-form Jamie O’Brien, and defeating Bruce Irons and Marcus Hickman. Jabour took down Maui’s Dusty Payne and West Australian Jay Davies.
“I saw that I was in their heat and I was tripping,” said Florence, referring to O’Brien and Irons, who have each won this event twice in the past, as well as one Pipeline Masters apiece.
“I do get nervous, but not too bad. I’m still nervous the whole heat.
“For sure, semi’s is definitely the best I’ve done (in an ASP event) so far. I’m going to do a lot of contests for sure, it would be sick if I could qualify this year.”
Australian big-wave riders Anthony Walsh and Mark Mathews proved why they are welcome guests each winter at the Pipe, charging the heaviest s, losing some skin to the reef, but more importantly advancing through the rounds.
Mathews was runner-up to O’Brien here back in 2007, and hopes that another three years of experience under his belt will be enough to try for a win.
“It’s pretty tough to compete with (the locals), they surf out here all winter long, it’s their home break,” said Mathews. “I’d be stoked to be considered among their names, but I don’t think I’m there yet. I think it will take a couple more years yet.
“It’s always up to the ocean, but you’ve got to make decisions, you’ve got to pick the right waves and that makes the difference in the end. I’ve got a career for riding big waves, that’s my bread and butter, so hopefully it stays big tomorrow and that might give me a little bit of an advantage.”
With the swell still expected to be contestable tomorrow, organizers anticipate wrapping the event up with the semi finals and final tomorrow morning. Log on to volcom.com/pipelinepro to find out the status of competition at 7am tomorrow.