Stop No. 1 on the World Surf League (WSL) 2024 Championship Tour (CT), the Lexus Pipe Pro Presented by YETI, completed a big second day of competition, with men’s Rounds of 32 and 16 in the books, held in shifting three-to-five foot peaks, mostly at Backdoor.
It was a day full of contrasts, showcasing exciting back-to-back action and some slower heats, major upsets from some, and total domination from others. While the lineup was a little jumbled at first, it cleaned up throughout the day and offered some magic Pipeline moments from the best male surfers in the world. Upsets were trending in the Round of 32 with early exits from event favorites and WSL Champions amid stunning showcases from emerging and proven CT talents.
2X WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW) accrued the event's highest heat total, a 17.34 (out of a possible 20), in his Round of 32 dual at the Lexus Pipe Pro Presented by YETI. Credit: © WSL / Bielmann
Florence’s Stats Continue to Defy Odds at Pipeline
Two-time World Champion John John Florence (HAW) put on another clinic today at Pipeline, proving his relationship with the lineup is truly one-of-a-kind. Growing up surfing this very wave, the 31-year old has developed a unique comfort level at one of the world’s heaviest spots. His wave selection and the way he navigated both rights and lefts, finding the deepest sections in each, remained unmatched as he posted an incredible 17.34 heat total (out of a possible 20), including a near-perfect 9.17 (out of a possible 10) in his first heat of the day.
Florence next came up against event standout Callum Robson (AUS). Earlier in the day the Australian had earned the highest single wave score of the event so far, a 9.33, for an extremely heavy Backdoor barrel that saw him emerge well after the spit. A gritty battle ensued with Florence taking a major win.
“Those heats are the ones I’m always happy to make it through because there’s just not a lot of waves coming through and it’s hard to have that kind of battle you want to have,” said Florence. “Earlier, Callum got that 9 right after I had my heat and he’s so scary in these conditions. All I can think about was that I’m going to need a better wave. I’m pretty excited for this year. My mind feels good, my body feels really good and I guess mentally I feel better than last year.”
Moody Pipeline Provides Shocking Eliminations of WSL Champions, CT Elite in Round of 32
In a relatively slow first heat of the day, World No. 2 Ethan Ewing (AUS) jumped a massive hurdle in trying to keep his 2023 momentum going into the season opener. The Australian eliminated 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) with a couple of great tubes at Backdoor, while Slater had a few close calls but couldn’t find exits in the bumpy lineup.
“It’s always nerve-wracking but also exciting coming up against Kelly,” Ewing said. “He’s always been one of my favorite surfers and probably the greatest surfer to surf this wave. I just tried to get as much time out here as possible. This wave is so challenging and has so many different faces, I’m just trying to learn as much as I can.”
Ewing went on to eliminate Liam O'Brien (AUS) in the Round of 16 with another solid two-wave combination to reach the Quarters for the first time in his career at Pipe.
The defending event winner Jack Robinson (AUS) was another victim of the lineup’s morning sickness as replacement surfer Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) pulled a major upset win against the Australian. Then, a heavyweight matchup unfolded between 2019 Pipe Pro winner and WSL Champion, Italo Ferreira (BRA), and CT veteran Jordy Smith (RSA). Ferreira’s sensational backhand form witnessed him drop extremely late into a Backdoor pit and contend with the foam ball before reappearing. The vanishing act earned him an excellent 8.87 (out of a possible 10). But, Smith received a gift in the form of a reeling Backdoor gem of his own to overturn the heat with only seconds remaining and eliminate Ferreira, who earned an equal 17th place.
Boukhiam and Smith met in the Round of 16 and Smith wasn’t leaving anything to chance again, this time garnering an excellent 16.50 heat total and surging into the Quarterfinals.
“I lucked into a 4.50 and I just started building my rhythm, and I’m a really rhythmic confident surfer so once I get those things going it starts going my way,” said Smith. “My first 8 was a great feeling. There’s been a lot of heats with guys losing with 8’s and don’t have a backup so that went to the forefront of my mind. The first heat this morning is when you’re feeling how it’s going to react and this one I wanted to push on my board and feel how far I could go.”
Rookie Crosby Colapinto (USA) delivered another massive upset by eliminating three-time World Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) in a set-starved heat, but was eliminated by an in-form Imaikalani deVault (HAW) in the Round of 16.
Remaining Hawaiian Contingent Surge Into Quarterfinals Amid Round of 16 Showdowns
Despite early success from the Hawaiian wildcards, Jackson Bunch (HAW) and Shion Crawford (HAW), both were eliminated in the Round of 32 by respective CT standouts Griffin Colapinto (USA) and Connor O’Leary (JPN). Rookie phenom Eli Hanneman (HAW) also fell in the Round of 32, but a surge of Hawaiian contenders held firm to join Florence in the Quarterfinals.
Representing Maui, deVault and 2023 Rookie of the Year Ian Gentil (HAW) overcame brothers, Griffin and Crosby Colapinto (USA), respectively, in the Round of 16 and will face off in the Quarterfinals. This marks deVault’s first CT Quarterfinal appearance after having to charge past CT veteran Miguel Pupo (BRA) in the Round of 32 before eliminating Crosby Colapinto in their Round of 16 bout.
“That thought was in my mind, I’ve been in that round before and never made it out,” said deVault. “I just wanted to make smart decisions. I knew against Crosby, he got a really score and took out Medina in the heat before, so he was looking really good. I knew it would be about wave selection and got lucky that my really good wave was under priority and he didn’t go so I’m super stoked.”
The North Shore’s own Barron Mamiya (HAW) adds his name to the Quarterfinal draw after a remarkable day of competition. Mamiya first eliminated CT threat Frederico Morais (POR) before taking on perennial standout Yago Dora (BRA) in the Round of 16.
For highlights and more information about today’s competition at the Lexus Pipe Pro Presented by YETI, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.