The 2013 Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons resumed today in six foot (2 metre) barrels and there was no shortage of drama in the ASP World Title race between Mick Fanning (AUS), 32, and Kelly Slater (USA), 41. The Billabong Pipe Masters represents the pinnacle of the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour, deciding the ASP World Title, Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, and final slots for 2014 ASP WCT qualification.
Mick Fanning, two-time ASP World Champion and current No. 1, dominated his Round 3 clash with wildcard Kaimana Jaquias (HAW), 20, but unexpectedly erred in his three-man Round 4 heat against John John Florence (HAW), 21, and Nat Young (USA), 22. A last minute paddle battle with heat leader Florence in the closing seconds of the match took Fanning from second to third and now pits him against one of the best Pipeline surfers in the world: C.J. Hobgood (USA), 34, in Round 5. Meanwhile, Slater skips Round 5 and heads straight to the Quarterfinals after his Round 4 win.
Clearly disappointed with his misstep, Fanning couldn’t leave the beach fast enough. He wasn’t prepared to talk about how this affects his approach to the final day of competition, which looks like taking place on either Friday or Saturday in the largest swell of the period.
Kelly Slater was electric in his bid for an historic 12th ASP World Title, earning the highest heat-totals of both Round 3 and 4. Slater tore past Mitch Crews (AUS), 23, with a 17.66 out of 20 heat total for incredible Pipeline and Backdoor barrels and backed up the performance with a 17.50 out of 20 in Round 4.
"I was worried this-morning about the conditions," Slater said. "John John (Florence) and I were out trying to catch a couple of waves and I kind of thought ‘maybe we shouldn’t run, maybe we should wait and hour or two until it gets better.’ It seemed like it turned on during my heat and some kind of energy came through for me. I knew I had to make that heat, you can’t let those things escape your mind, that was the reality of the situation, but it’s not going to change how you go out there and perform. I had to go out there focused."
Florence, took an incredible come-from-behind victory in Round 3 against an on-fire Brazilian Gabriel Medina (BRA), 19. In need of an excellent ride in the dying minutes of the heat, he drove through an unbelievable Backdoor barrel, earning a near-perfect 9.83 for the ride to advance to Round 4.
"I was nervous when I found out Gabriel (Medina) was in my heat," Florence said. "I watched his heat yesterday and he was getting 8s on every wave and doing huge airs, so I was kind of freaked out. Days like this, you can’t be picky and I think I caught about 10 waves before I made one. I hit the bottom and was rattled until the end. That last backdoor wave was really perfect and once I came through the section it was just perfect and easy from there."
Florence used his momentum in Round 4 for another win and now takes the lead on the Vans Triple Crown Rankings - something that seemed an impossibility when he lost first heat back at the start of the series at Haleiwa.
"Last year I had a lot of pressure on me and I feel a lot more relieved this year," Florence said. "That heat came up against Gabe and I started feeling that pressure again, but now I’m just happy to have a little jump-start going. I’m just going to go out there and try and surf and get waves."
Yadin Nicol (AUS), 28, claimed two heat victories today, topping fellow Western Australian Taj Burrow (AUS), 35, in a close heat in Round 3 and would earn the second perfect 10 of Billabong Pipe Masters in Round 4. Nicol took off deep on a Pipe set wave and survived a critical drop followed by a perfect tube-ride to earn the flawless score and move on to the Quarterfinals.
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 32, reigning ASP World Champion and defending Billabong Pipe Masters champion, moved one step closer to a repeat victory today with a slow Round 3 heat win. Parkinson’s victory was bitter-sweet, however, as his victory dashed close friend Dusty Payne’s chances of requalification for the 2014 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT).
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 12.66 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 12.66
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 11.33 def. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 7.13
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.97 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 8.33
Heat 4: Nat Young (USA) 14.97 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.40
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 16.23 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.00
Heat 6: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.63 def. Kaimana Jaquias (HAW) 6.27
Heat 7: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.67 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.76
Heat 8: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 13.77 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 9.17
Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.66 def. Mitch Crews (AUS) 3.30
Heat 10: Kai Otton (AUS) 14.33 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 10.96
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 17.10 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.67
Heat 12: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.56 def. Dusty Payne (AUS) 7.33
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 14.83, Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.96, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 11.84
Heat 2:John John Florence (HAW) 16.37, Nat Young (USA) 14.00, Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.51
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.56, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.50, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 11.17
Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.77, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.57, Kai Otton (AUS) 7.60
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)
Current Vans Triple Crown Top 5:
1 - John John Florence (HAW) 10,600 points
2 - Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10,400 points
3 - Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10,100 points
4 - Yadin Nicol (AUS) 9,300 points
5 - Mick Fanning (AUS) 8,400 points