Hawai‘i surfers advance at Pipeline

Kilauea’s Gavin Gillette placed second in his heat in Round 4 in the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro, but the remaining competition was halted at Heat 7 due to decline in conditions.

Round 4, Heats 7-16 resume today.

The $75,000 Monster Energy Pro experienced the largest contest surf of the year so far at the Banzai Pipeline on O‘ahu yesterday, with waves in the 12- to 15-foot range.

Australian Mark Mathews won the respect of his peers with a perfect 10-point tube-ride in Round 3 that has been called one of the all-time great rides at Pipeline. He went on to win his fourth-round heat late yesterday, despite a horrible wipeout in surf that grew monstrous with an onshore wind. He is now through to the round prior to the quarter finals. Mathews also shared the day’s second-highest heat score with Hawai‘i’s Chad Chidester at 15.75 points out of a maximum 20 points. The top heat score of the day, 17.5 points, went to Los Angeles’ Dane Reynolds.

A virtual unknown to Pipeline’s high-profile riders before today, 24-year-old Mathews has stamped a mark that won’t soon disappear. He’s been coming to the North Shore of O‘ahu since he was 16, but missed the past two seasons due to injury.

“Coming out of the barrel was the best feeling I’ve ever felt,” said Mathews, in a release, who comes from the hard-working, blue-collar coastal town of Maroubra, in Sydney. “I was just holding on and hoping for the best. That barrel was like a giant room of water spinning around me. As it opened up it sucked all the air in and was pulling me backwards, deeper into the barrel, before it blew me out in this massive shot of water. It was just an amazing feeling.”

Mathews won the Makita Wave of the Day Award for his 10-point ride.

The swell continued to pour in, growing even larger as the day went on. Huge sets of waves made many of the 20-minute heats a literal wash-out, and scores rollercoastered accordingly, offering record scores and epic tube rides in some heats, and almost nothing decent in others.

There were four broken boards, two surfers who had their competition shirts ripped from them during wipeouts, and a couple of surfers who battled to even make it out into the lineup after being smashed on the inside reef repeatedly by monster sets. It was punishing enough to get the Pittsburgh Steelers football players wincing, with Troy Polamalu and his teammates making the trek to the North Shore after Pro Bowl practice.

Casualties of yesterday’s competition included a slew of Pipeline specialists, including Hawai‘i’s Derek Ho and highly seeded surfers Sean Moody and Marcus Hickman.

Standouts yesterday included Japan’s Shinpei Horiguchi and Hawai‘i’s Flyn Novak and Chaz Chidester. The 12 surfers to advance through Round 4 are: Carlos Cabrero, Maui Kai Barger, Dane Reynolds (California), Mikala Jones (Hawai‘i), Horiguchi, Daniel Ross (Australia), Mathews, Raymond Reichle, Novak, Gavin Gillette (Hawai‘i), Tory Barron (Hawai‘i) and Kyle Garson (California). Defending event champion Rob Machado (Cardiff, Calif.) and Shane Dorian (Hawai‘i) will hit the water tomorrow morning.

Organizers expect to resume today with the remainder of Round 4 and run as far as conditions permit. Beyond Wednesday, they expect a Friday final.

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