Big opening day for Kauai chargers at Volcom Pipe Pro

The first day of the waiting period left little doubt for a quick start, both from the incoming swell and from the local surfers, including a group of Kauai’s best who are looking to make a deep run at this Volcom Pipe Pro. The water was pumping and allowing for some beautiful but difficult rides as the opening round and four heats of round two were all completed, plus a special Wildcard heat won by Bruce Irons.

Four Kauai surfers began the day in the Round of 112. Reef McIntosh, Kamalei Alexander and Koa Smith all advanced through their four-man heats and into the Round of 96, though Chris Foster was not as lucky and fell in his opening heat. Evan Valiere and Gavin Gillette then took care of business in the early heats of round two to move themselves into the Round of 64 with all the top seeds.

The overcast morning was no disappointment as the contest started right up with mostly Hawaii surfers in the water. A large portion of the field is decided by the local rankings, which gives some who would otherwise not compete in the top Qualifying Series events a chance to show their stuff at the world’s most iconic break. McIntosh was one of the early show stoppers, as he put up the first round’s top heat score with a 14.40 that included an 8.90 tube ride. He is coming off an appearance in the Pipe Masters after coming through the men’s Pipe Invitational, so McIntosh will certainly be one of the favorites before the top seeds get going.

Smith followed suit in a much lower-scoring heat, but his 5.50 on his first wave included a quick Pipe cover-up. He backed it up with a 3.73 for a first-place 9.23 total. Young Luke Shepardson advanced in second but Team Hawaii junior Noa Mizuno was knocked out.

Heat five of round one featured a broad spectrum of surf experience and style with the older guard paddling out with some of the state’s bright young stars. Alexander managed to come through the fun grouping in second place along with heat winner Ian Gentil. Grom Imai Devault and veteran Love Hodel fell in third and fourth place, respectively.

Foster had a tough time in his heat, as did all four competitors. Charger Olamana Eleogram fared the best with a 9.50 total for first place, followed by Landon McNamara in second.

Between rounds one and two, the Wildcard heat gave eight surfers an opportunity to enter the field. Irons was just one of the big names along with Derek Ho and late entry Makuakai Rothman. The winner would be decided by only one wave score and gain entry into the Round of 64. Irons found a stellar Backdoor barrel and emerged for a 9.00 from the judges. That stood up for the win and he will move on to round three in a heat also featuring John John Florence.

Valiere found the best wave of his second-round heat and put together a two-wave total of 11.50 for the victory. He had to eliminate Pancho Sullivan in the process, who was outpointed by American Cory Arrambide for second.

Gillette was in a battle for advancement but benefited from an interference call on Kalani Chapman. The penalty meant just one of Chapman’s scores would count and his 5.00 wasn’t enough to beat out Gillette’s 6.37 total for second place.

Swell is expected to dissipate this morning so officials will determine whether today will be a go or a lay day. Twelve more round two heats are on tap, including Alexander, McIntosh and Smith, as well as Kauai’s Dylan Goodale, Kaimana Jaquias and Alex Smith surfing their first heats. Sebastian Zietz is then lined up for the first heat of round three as all the top-ranked Championship Tour surfers get in on the action.

If resumed today, the Volcom Pipe Pro can be seen live on Oceanic Surf Channels 250 and 1250.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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