For everything that went down at the opening day of the Billabong Pipe Masters -- tricky Backdoor barrels, two rounds of action, and 2011 tour slot implications, the most compelling part of the day was that of the human spirit.
In the early morning hours, on the outer island of Kauai, little Andrew Axel Irons was born to Lyndie Irons, widow of three time ASP World Champ, Andy Irons. (Irons died tragically in a Dallas hotel room in November.) This is their first child. The announcement was made over the PA on the beach to a bittersweet round of applause.
In the delivery room with her was Andy's brother, Bruce Irons. Following the birth, Bruce hopped a jet to Oahu to surf his wildcard slot in the Billabong Pipe Masters, the event which now bares his brother's name.
"I was with her this morning," he said gravely, "It means the world to me." Completely surrounded by media, he let on that he intends to be there as a father to this child.
Bruce Irons lost his first round heat to Tom Whitaker 13.83-3.33. But despite his results, his courage today will go down in surfing history.
This first day of the waiting period, as predicted, showed a healthy wave. Although other North Shore spots benefitted more from the swell, the contest zone was solid six-foot, with the north swell featuring almost exclusively waves at Backdoor. Because of the amount of talent in Hawaii that doesn't compete full time on tour, the Pipe Masters has a field of 48 surfers, the first round pitting low seeds against wildcards in the dual heat format.
There were plenty of shacks to be threaded and the boys hung into churning barrels, mere yards from spectators. Among the day's highlights were Kai Otten's 9.27, which still failed to elevate him over John John Florence. The Hawaiian local know-how proved imperative all day, with Florence beating Otton and Dean Morrison, Dave Wassel handling Travis Logie and Bobby Martinez, and Dusty Payne besting Tiago Pires. There was also a classic match up for those nostalgic of the Momentum generation where Taylor Knox took out Rob Machado.
Showing up with that glow of professionalism about him, Joel Parkinson handled Heitor Alves, 10.83-58.4. He had gaffs under the lip and relatively long barrels, despite conditions deteriorating for the afternoon.
"It was so much better this morning," said Parko, "It was cleaner and it was actually smaller. A smaller north swell like this gets better for Backdoor. Once it gets bigger, it gets rippy and wild. It's kind of a fat wave, not really doing a top-to-bottom barreling thing. Hopefully, tomorrow morning it might drop, there might be a few waves."
Parko is also primed for his third Vans Triple Crown title. If he can beat Owen Wright, it's his.
According to the numbers, Julian Wilson gets the nod for the 2011 World Tour. Today also saw Luke Monroe knocked off the tour. Gabe Kling and Dusty Payne's fates have yet to be determined.
Vans Triple Crown director, Randy Rarick will assess conditions in the morning. Although the event's waiting period runs through December 20 with some swell forecasted for next week, there are no major swells on the horizon. The current wave event is forecasted to hold for Thursday, although weather and wind could be a factor.
Bruce Irons may be out of this one, but he will surely be around on Saturday for a tribute to his brother at Pipeline.
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Adam Melling (AUS) 14.50 def. Kamalei Alexander (HAW) 11.66
Heat 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 6.50 def. Clay Marzo (HAW) 4.23
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW) 14.50 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 12.20
Heat 4: Dusty Payne (HAW) 15.10 def. Kiron Jabour (HAW) 9.30
Heat 5: Ian Walsh (HAW) 13.24 def. Luke Stedman (AUS) 7.50
Heat 6: Danny Fuller (HAW) 8.57 def. Roy Powers (HAW) 7.36
Heat 7: Dave Wassell (HAW) 12.17 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 3.63
Heat 8: Luke Munro (AUS) 13.50 def. Shane Dorian (HAW) 13.33
Heat 9: Gabe Kling (USA) 11.10 def. Kalani Chapman (HAW) 5.40
Heat 10: Rob Machado (USA) 11.37 def. Granger Larsen (HAW) 9.66
Heat 11: Heitor Alves (BRA) 8.46 def. Joel Centeio (HAW) 8.14
Heat 12: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 13.83 def. Bruce Irons (HAW) 3.33
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: John John Florence (HAW) 10.00 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 3.03
Heat 2: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.70 def. Ian Walsh (HAW) 9.83
Heat 3: Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.00 def. Danny Fuller (HAW) 3.76
Heat 4: Dave Wassell (HAW) 9.33 def. Bobby Martinez (USA) 5.40
Heat 5: Taylor Knox (USA) 12.67 def. Rob Machado (USA) 10.57
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.83 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 5.84
Heat 7: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 13.40 def. Gabe Kling (USA) 8.53
Heat 8: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 10.27 def. Luke Munro (AUS) 4.87
Heat 9: Dusty Payne (HAW) 11.94 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 8.83
Heat 10: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.16 def. Tom Whitaker (AUS) 2.70
Heat 11: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 9.47 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 2.90
Heat 12: Adam Melling (AUS) 11.67 def. Daniel Ross (AUS) 8.94
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 3 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Heat 3: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 5: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. John John Florence (HAW)
Heat 7: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 8: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 9: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. David Wassell (HAW)
Heat 10: Dane Reynolds (USA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 11: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Taylor Knox (USA)
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)