Pipeline 2023: Day 1
Pipeline 2023: Day 1
It's been a rugged winter for the WSL. Cut out of the Backdoor Shootout and the Eddie, both events run to wild acclaim. Backdoored, so to speak, by Vans on the ongoing use of the Pipe Masters name, which carries with it all the historical value which they love to shamelessly plunder.
Comparison is just an inevitable part of being human and compared to the aforementioned events the opening day of the WSL just, well, sucked.
Crappy waves didn't help but that's the luck of the draw. What seemed most grating was the return to nuclear levels of commercial hard sell and reality denial. The breaths of honesty and looseness, and something not 100% focussed on product placement and spin had been a refreshing change - like the cool air on a mountain top. Ten minutes into the webcast and the non-stop spruiking and spinning felt as suffocating as standing next to an exhaust pipe in a busy city.
The aforementioned contests may come with a downgrade in webcast quality, yet having the commercial yoke around the neck loosened a few notches had been an intoxicating experience for surf fans.
The new deal with Apple watches was rammed relentlessly down our throats today - even at the expense of covering the action. It made Leo Fioravanti's broadside in his presser feel like the highlight of the day. "Our fricken watches weren't working - and that's pretty heavy," stated the het up Italian, finishing with a devastating assessment: “We're fighting for our careers."
A sponsor's product that doesn't work and potentially puts its athletes careers on the line might rate a mention by commentators.
Nothing. Zip. Silence. Not a word.
Classic WSL. What they can spruik, they will. What is inconvenient, they ignore. Even if it is happening right in front of them on a live webcast.
I won't say Orwellian, because that is too cliché but it was freaking close to it. [Editor's Note: The YouTube stream containing Leo's complaint has either been removed from the platform or set to private. Either way, it's disappeared from public viewing.]
There weren't many highlights. The best wave of the day was ridden in Heat 2 in a draw “packed full of studs” according to Ross Williams. Joao Chianca showed his mid-year cut last year was an abberation [Meta moment: How did he get cut? When I think of his surfing all I see is huge heat wins over JJF] by packing a serious Backdoor bomb. A wave that required a major pump behind the foam ball and silky skills to exit. If you only need to know one thing from today, that's about it.
Yago was very, very good in his Elimination Heat after a morning shocker. Frontside tubes and a large, lofted, full rotation air that was half paid by judges. We were sold innovation for the Vans Pipe Masters and overwhelmingly got classic Pipe tube wrangling. Despite Yago's wave being an 8-point ride at any other location on the globe it still felt right for judges to not drop their shorts for it.
Dave Prodan gave us the WSL company line, bravely asserting that surfing performances were the WSL's North Star. Let's hope he doesn't get paid according to his own metric. 16 heats were surfed today with a total of 46 separate performances. 9 of the 46 reached double figures with Joao Chianca topping the day with a combined two-wave total of 12.46.
Current World Champion Filipe Toledo won his heat with a total of 6.00.
Gabby, John John, and Leo Fioravanti surfed the most entertaining heat of the day with Medina taking it with a 10.84, to John's 10.00, and Leo's 1.60.
It wasn't quite the alchemical performance we had hoped for, the one that Kelly Slater would regularly come up with in his prime, but Medina's opening ride for the 2023 season still contained a nice chunk of magic. Stalling into a small Backdoor runner, the type of wave that had flummoxed almost all during the day with a No Exit sign, he managed to sit deep and thread a long tube for a mid-7. John fought back with a couple of 6's in a nakedly competitive display before Gabe dispatched him with a small Pipeline immersion with manufactured exit, correctly scored for a low 3.
Gabe finished the final moments of the heat in full bull shark mode, relentlessly harassing Florence as if he was a dying fish on a line. His new neck tattoo struck an ominous note: God is Love. He may well be, but Gabe in competitive mode is not.
The Goat came second to Caio Ibelli but still got a presser, as he should. We actually need the Goat pressers before his heat: they now come pre-loaded with excuses and smokescreens which would be more effective prior to battle.
His surfing looked a little wobbly in a heat with conditions he called “pretty tough”. Luckily for him Carlos Munoz came up with a grand heat total of 0.50 so Slater avoided the worst case scenario of first round elimination. Every heat win at Pipe is vitally important for Slater now. Sunset cannot be banked on, Portugal is unreliable, and Bells and Margarets are almost certainly weaknesses for him. Disappearing at the mid-year cut before the Surf Ranch would be unthinkable. Forcing the Woz into dishing out an embarrassing wildcard.
Perhaps this has been on his mind as he admitted, “I've been in a funk - I'm trying to break out of that”. The spectre of retirement was raised as NFL star Tom Brady, also of advanced years for an athlete, announced he was done.
Slater sounded typically ambivalent.
“It's beyond the money,” he said. “The friends, the lifestyle, the family, make it hard, especially when the skill is still there”.
“I can feel the candle burning out in me,” he said, "but I'm gonna surf until it's totally done”.
Which I interpreted as: See how I go at Pipe.
It was a mixed bag for the rookies. Liam O'Brien is not a rookie, I learned today, despite not surfing a single CT heat last year. He got through.
Rio Waida looked pretty sharp for a heat win.
Ian Gentil fought his way from the Elimination Round, as did Maxime Huscenot.
Both Hawaiian wildcards went on Day One, as did Carlos Munoz.
The sport is brutal to ageing rookies, who fight their way for a decade on the QS, usually arriving at the CT level sans sponsors and incredibly susceptible to injury.
White boards lacking sponsor stickers united both Ian Gentil and Jadson Andre.
Jaddy could barely walk as a heavy brace on a knee injury limited movement. Unlike rookies, Andre has no room to move as far as injury rehab goes.
Like other contractors in insecure jobs, no work = no pay.
His 33rd place - the same as in last year's event - earns him $9,750 USD. Enough, one would think, to get him to Sunset Beach and at least another $9,750 assuming the knee injury remains a liability.
The dodgy forecast should now work in the Woz's favour. With expectations appropriately downgraded, any good surf will come as a benediction. And with Kelly, John, and Medina still in the draw it won't take much to produce golden moments. That's in spite of, not because of, the ham-fisted efforts of the WSL.
Girls on tomorrow in small Backdoor.
// STEVE SHEARER
Super sharp Gabe, and silky smooth Yago. They did it for me.
Unbelievable that Carlos Munoz only caught one wave to earn himself a shameful 0.50.
Longtime! The firm grip WSL has on the content is eroding pro surfings core. You could point torwards Red Bull and its early contracts with photographers as such tactics starting point starting point and total control of digitized media. None the less Leo's comment deletion is concerning for the athletes and viewers. This type of censorship won't end good for the sport. Steve this will be the last time I refer to you as LG.
Great summary Steve; score yourself 9 for research, insight, photos, perseverance & style.
(my tally; 2xbelly laughs; 5 x chuckles; a mix of suspense & hope)
Saved me watching the heat repeats is a bonus point!
Speaking of the women, Steph looks on fire.
2min action & 1m adverts
Thanks Steve. I think I prefer your write ups to the actual... thing
X3.. pretty ordinary when a handful of the worlds best surfers can’t even manage a 2 .. disappointing so far
Am I losing my mind or is the heat analyzer thingo not there any more?
… assume you’re seeking a ‘thermometer’
Obvs lost ya pickle.
I assume only the lower ranked surfers were forced to wear the Apple watch and Gabs and JJF still wore their respective Rip Curl and Nixon's.
A few past winners of surf gamblers anon.
Great write up, better than watching and listening to that garbage. Keep ‘em coming. Cheers Steve.
So good reading your recap and just watching the highlights. Rio Waida looked good, as did pretty much all the Brazilians, at least on the highlights I watched. The snippets of commentary I got were pretty gag worthy.
Looking forward to more of your recaps.
Seems like we were both at the spruiking today.
And that's an interesting note about the YouTube livestream. Thought I was going mad this morning when I couldn't find it and kept ending up on the 2022 version!
Ha ha I accidentally watched the 2022 version for a while with out realising it - “this is pumping” ignorance was bliss!
Then I found out I could only watch day one on Kayo (no ads) or 7 plus (heaps of ads)
It’s kind of cool that your comp reports are more entertaining (and interesting) than the actual events. Cheers.
Not really the WSLs fault about the 4cast/waves but man the presentation is like and wonderbread and mayo sandwich. Sooooo dulll. When the waves are like this it's worthy of having on the background while you do other stuff and that's about it.
Great recap tho.
Brilliant write up of a dire day
Good recap. Trust the WSL to turn everyone off a product with their over the top promotion.
I have been using the Apple Watch Ultra surfing for 4 months since they came out.
I tried that yellow band they are using, I wouldn't trust it, will be interesting to see if any hit the bottom.
The alpine band is better has a titanium hook and will never come undone.
Doubt we will see every second kid with one at $1300 lol.
Good article, nice to see you’ve made a conscious effort to not over egg the omelette with too many metaphors/simile, a heap jammed into the first few paragraphs, then I was glad to see them dry up like the front lawn after a spring shower.
If only I had conscious control.
I'm afraid what comes out, is what comes out.
I have thrown a few into the bin though, before hitting send.
haha, dont go changing/throw too many out...its like jazz I dig it. On my second read through now and will watch pipe simultaneously in background as it hits like a bit of a truth bomb re that apple watch and Leo and other stuff.
Hey steve... what's the backstory regarding; "Liam O'Brien is not a rookie, I learned today, despite not surfing a single CT heat last year. He got through." How did that come to be?
He’s had a fair crack, the WSL let him paddle out for a warm up days prior to the 2022 pipe event before his ankle broke. Total veteran status now
I'm thinking of getting Joe Turpel's voice as my alarm tone . That should stop me snoozing
Use Shannon reporting for those really important early starts.