A showdown on the North Shore will crown the next champion of the surfing world. The final event of the 2017 surf season features the top male surfers from around the globe vying for a win at Pipeline. The Billabong Pipe Masters could see action as soon as today. HPR’s Ku‘uwehi Hiraishi reports.
If you visit Pipeline on O’ahu’s North Shore starting today, chances are you’ll run into the crème de la crème of the surf world. Star-struck spectators are already lining the beach.
World Surf League staffers are assembling their scaffolding. And helicopters are hovering overhead. All waiting for the call that the Billabong Pipe Masters is a go.
It’s not every year a world champion is crowned at this event, but the surf season always ends at Pipeline, which delivers some of the best barrels in the world. And the best part?
“Amazing cause there’s no one out and it’s just this clear open canvas,” says defending champion John John Florence.
The 25-year-old Hawai’i surfer and Pipeline native is currently ranked number one in the world.
If you’re gonna keep an eye on anyone during the Pipe Masters, let it be Florence and Gabriel Medina. Brazil’s Medina is ranked second in the world and is a former world title holder himself.
“Hopefully, I can get this title here at Pipe. Hopefully we can get some good waves,” says Medina.
For Florence, Pipeline is his home break. Performing for his family, friends and fans could either bring great comfort or added pressure.
“I’m stoked on that. It’s a comfort thing and I think it makes me more excited,” says Florence.
A Pipe Masters win would be a first of many firsts for Florence – first Pipe Masters win, first title won at his home break, and the first Hawai’i surfer to win back-to-back world titles since 2004. And Florence knows exactly what he’s looking for.
“Perfect Pipe wave I’m hoping to catch is hopefully 10-feet, west, off-shore, and just…get the barrel and get spit out,” says Florence.
It won’t be an easy ride if Medina has anything to do with it. Surf fans haven’t seen this close a competition in over a decade, when surfing legend Kelly Slater battled the late Andy Irons of Kauaʻi.
“Me and John always had good battles. Some I won, some he won. So it’s always like that,” says Medina, “It’s good to have someone like this, you know? He helps me to get better.”
As they say in the surfing world, the waves choose the champion.