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Billabong Pipe Masters
Behind the Hawaiian Title Fight1386971340
Words by JJ
Ding Ding Ding, Are you ready for this?
A whole lotta mad s#!t is predicted to go down tomorrow at surfing’s main arena!
The surf forecast is off the charts – Pipe is supposed to be eight-to-12-maybe-even-bigger foot, we’re talking Second and Third Reef.
And not only is there an incredible showdown between Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater unfolding, but a host of back-stories that quite possible make the final day of the 2013 Billabong Pipe Masters one for the ages.
Let’s look a little closer at some of the surfers remaining in the draw …
This classy goofy foot from Florida looms large as the MAN who can stop Mick Fanning from sealing the deal. CJ has a grade one tear in his medial ligament, which adds just the teeniest bit of doubt about whether or not he can stop Fanning in 10-to-12 foot lefts at Pipeline.
But if C.J. excels in any type of conditions, it’s the type predicted for tomorrow.
Pipe and CJ, no strangers. Photo: ASP/ Kirstin
He couldn’t stop Parko from winning last year, but can he stop Mick from winning this year?
C.J. is from Florida, Kelly Slater is from Florida. They are friends, but C.J. will want to win regardless. He’s never won Pipe and a niggling knee is not going to slow him down much heading into the last day of the last and most important event of the year. This is surfing’s version of Superbowl Sunday!
When C.J. paddles out against Mick Fanning in the first heat of the day, the world will be watching. Mick NEEDS to advance in order to remain in control of his destiny.
Otherwise he’ll be forced to watch from shore and hope Kelly doesn’t go on to win the whole shebang.
Kai has a personal vendetta. This Aussie goofy-foot is coming off his maiden World Tour win at the last event in Portugal and is staring at a possible Top 5 finish on the final 2013 World Tour ratings – to do this he needs to make the final at Pipe. His motivation? Not just a career Personal Best but blood-thirst bragging rights - overtaking good friend and travel buddy, Taj Burrow, who has already been eliminated.
Kai will not be backing down for anybody.
If Kai wins his Round 5 heat, he’ll meet Kelly in the Quarters and a betting man might suggest Kelly will wipe the floor with Kai at Pipe.
If Kai doesn’t win, Kelly will meet Sebastian Zietz. What a match-up! Zietz is super comfortable at Pipe (He’s Hawaiian. He charges. He remains cool. And he won the Triple Crown last year. But he’s not Kelly.). Either way, Mick will be concerned …
The former Pipe Master has been looking real good in his earlier heats, maybe better than a lot of people have noticed – given the focus on Kelly and Mick. Let’s say he gets past Miguel Pupo, that puts him and Joel as possible obstacles between Kelly and a Pipe Final. Will Flores go all out for a second Pipe Masters title?
Will he put his life on the line – a must-win-at-all-costs attempt, aka Otton, aka Hobgood?
2010 Pipe Masters Jeremy Flores. Photo: ASP/ Kirstin
This fella has an interesting history at Pipe. A couple years ago he needed a low-scoring wave to advance and secure his requalification for the World Tour. He couldn’t do it, not even with a perfect 10 in his scoreline. The ocean didn’t play ball …
This year, he needs to make the final to requalify – he’s surfing for his career, again – and he has already pulled out a perfect 10 against C.J. and Julian Wilson in Round 4.
Has Yadin’s luck shifted? Is Yadin on a roll? Does Yadin have momentum on his side?
Will some uncanny momentum be enough to completely unsettle Mick if they meet in the Quarters?
If Yadin and Mick DO meet in the Quarters – a Yadin victory may just make him the most unpopular surfer in Australia, for about 48 hours … or longer.
Yadin Nicol and Pipeline have shared some good moments in the past. Photo: ASP/ Cestari
What can we say about this bloke?
Joel has felt the anguish of Mick ripping a world title from his grasp at Pipe (2009), yet he still he chaired his good mate up the beach. And he has experienced the sweet joy of world title victory at Pipe himself, winning ahead of Slater in spectacular fashion last year. He also went on win the Pipe Masters and that’s what he’s back in Hawaii to do this year.
Joel can’t win the title (he’s third behind Slater and Mick), but you can be damn sure he will be trying to stop the shiny trophy leaving Australian waters. He’s a heat win away from meeting Kelly in the semis (they’re on the same side of the draw) and he has as good a chance at beating Kelly as anyone, except maybe John John. You can be sure if he does beat Kelly in the semis, the historical surfing legacy between him and his good mate Mick will strengthen more than any of us might have predicted.
John John Florence
Whoa! This kid is soooo hot right now!
If Mick and Kelly are the world title pigeons, then John John is the cat being thrown amongst ‘em!
If you’re going for a title at Pipe, then you don’t want John John standing in your way.
John John - The man to beat? Photo: ASP/ Kirstin
If Mick bows out prior to the semis, then Kelly will possibly have to surf off against John John in the final.
HEAVY! It may well be one of the best Pipe Finals ever witnessed. Especially in 12-foot plus conditions.
Picture it … Kelly going for his 12th World Title, John John – the heir apparent to the throne, going loopy in his front yard. The scenario’s almost unpalpable.
Did anyone watch Mick’s three-man Round 4 heat the other day versus John John?
Word on the Ke Nui lane bike trail here in Hawaii is that Mick intentionally interfered in the dying stages of the heat. By coming dead last, Mick was reseeded into the OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE DRAW, AWAY FROM JOHN JOHN.
Don’t buy into that story?
Then consider it another way … Mick Fanning is one of the most prepared, clinical, diligent, successful surfers the sport has seen. With a historical third world title on the line, you actually believe he is stupid enough – so absent minded – that he dropped in by mistake in that heat?
Hmm, let’s see how tomorrow unfolds …
Sleep well tonight, everyone … we got a show on our hands!
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 5 MATCH UPS:
Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Mick Fanning (AUS)
Heat 2: Nat Young (USA) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 3: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS QUARTERFINALS MATCH UPS:
QF 1: Yadin Nicol (AUS) vs. winner of Round 5 Heat1
QF 2: John John Florence (HAW) vs. winner of Round 5 Heat 2
QF 3: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. winner of Round 5 Heat 3
QF 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs winner of Round 5 Heat 4