• World Title Contenders Smith and John John Florence Advance to Round 3
  • Gabriel Medina and Julian Wilson Relegated to Elimination Round 2
  • Hawaii Based South African Benji Brand Earns Wildcard Spot

BANZAI PIPELINE, Oahu, Hawaii/USA (Monday, December 11, 2017) – World No. 3 ranked Jordy Smith posted the highest heat total yesterday on the opening day of action in the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, the final stop on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) and the third gem of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (VTCS) 

Competing in incredible two to three metre Pipeline barrels, Smith found two unbelievably hollow tubes on the right-breaking Backdoor section of the reef to earn excellent scores of 8.67 and 7.90 that left his Australian opponents Bede Durbidge and Ethan Ewing in a combo situation where they were unable to overtake him with one ride.

The performance was an ideal confidence booster for Smith who needs to reach the final of the season-ending event and for rankings leader John John Florence (HAW) and current No. 2 Gabriel Medina (BRA) to bow out early in order for the South African to clinch his maiden world title.

"I think the noise is pretty quiet,” said Smith. “I don't really get too deep into the pressure and quite frankly it really boils down to those two guys (Florence and Medina) losing out early, but you never know. If they wobble then I'll put my head down and give it a go."

Florence, who was loudly cheered by the partisan home crowd as he entered the water, started his world title campaign with a solid 13.50 (out of a possible 20) scoreline to take top position over Pipe Invitational winner Dusty Payne (HAW) and Brazil's Wiggolly Dantas (BRA). Wearing the Jeep Leader yellow jersey, Florence looked confident and in rhythm at his home break and kept busy throughout the 30-minute match-up to secure his place in Round 3 and move one step closer to defending his World Title.

“I feel like a little kid again doing this event, just getting to surf Pipe with no one out,” said Florence. “The support here makes me even more psyched. Just coming down the beach earlier and everyone screaming -- it just makes me more excited. Coming into Pipe this year is a lot different than last year because last year I felt more relaxed having the title already. So this year is a little different preparation."

South African born Benji Brand has had a phenomenal season in his adopted home base of Hawaii, clinching the WSL Hawaii / Tahiti Nui Regional title and then earning a wildcard into the Pipe Masters when he finished runner-up in the Pipe Invitational.

The 21-year-old, who grew up surfing in Kommetjie and represented SA in several junior international events, took an early lead over Medina and fellow Brazilian Miguel Pupo. Pupo moved up into second place with a near-perfect 9.93, the highest single-wave score of the event so far, for a late takeoff into a cavernous Pipeline barrel and narrow exit.

Medina also put on the pressure with an excellent 8.50 but Brand continued to hold the lead. In the end it was Pupo, who is ranked No. 23 and battling for requalification, who stole the win to advance to Round 3 with a 4.90 during an exchange in the final minute, sending Medina and Brand to elimination Round 2.

11X WSL Champion and 7X Billabong Pipe Master Kelly Slater (USA) made a triumphant return to competition today, wearing a contest jersey for the first time since July when he injured his foot in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.

“I give the foot about 65 percent,” commented Slater. “I've missed competition but after so many years of nonstop day in, day out, week in and week out, it's been kind of nice to have a few months off. It's nice to get back, but it's nice to get away from something that you love and get back and appreciate it."

The event was put on standby after Heat 9 when the winds shifted onshore and a call was made at 2:00 p.m. HST to call the competition off for the day. Event organizers will reconvene at 7:30 a.m. HST (7.30 p.m. South African time) on Tuesday to reassess the conditions and make the next call.

Surfline, official forecaster for the Billabong Pipe Masters, are calling for:

A new NW swell will build Tuesday afternoon and peak on Wednesday with XXL size surf washing Pipe out (along with onshore N wind). Thursday and Friday will see a decreasing trend in swell with strong NE trades. A mid-size NW swell looks possible for the 17th-18th (Sun-Mon) with at least a chance for light wind.

For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com and the WSL App.

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.17, Jadson Andre (BRA) 6.33, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 4.67
Heat 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.17, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 6.10, Owen Wright (AUS) 3.37
Heat 3: Conner Coffin (USA) 10.56, Julian Wilson (AUS) 6.57, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 1.50
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.57, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.43, Ethan Ewing (AUS) 3.00
Heat 5: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.83, Benji Brand (HAW) 12.64, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.43
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) 13.50, Dusty Payne (HAW) 6.83, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 5.63
Heat 7: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 12.83, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.27, Jack Freestone (AUS) 7.04
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) 12.47, Joan Duru (FRA) 11.90, Kolohe Andino (USA) 7.60
Heat 9: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 10.50, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 2.00, Michel Bourez (PYF) 2.00

Billabong Pipe Masters Remaining Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 10: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS), Frederico Morais (PRT), Italo Ferreira (BRA)

jordy2017 barrel

Pictured: Jordy Smith deep inside the barrel at Backdoor during his Round 1 heat victory at the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons on Monday • Photo: WSL / Cestari

 

About the World Surf League

The World Surf League (WSL), formerly the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), is dedicated to celebrating the world’s best surfing on the world’s best waves through a variety of best-in-class audience platforms. The League, headquartered in Santa Monica, is a truly global sport with regional offices in Australasia, Africa, North America, South America, Hawaii, Japan and Europe.

The WSL has been championing the world's best surfing since 1976, running in excess of 180 global events across the Men's and Women's Championship Tours, the Big Wave Tour, Qualifying Series, Junior and Longboard Championships, as well as the WSL Big Wave Awards. The League possesses a deep appreciation for the sport's rich heritage while promoting progression, innovation and performance at the highest levels, and in doing so crowns the undisputed world champions in Men’s, Women’s across all divisions within the tour.

Showcasing the world's best surfing on its digital platform at WorldSurfLeague.com as well as the free WSL app, the WSL has a passionate global fan base with millions tuning in to see world-class athletes like Tyler Wright, John John Florence, Paige Alms, Grant Baker, Phil Rajzman, Tory Gilkerson, Mick Fanning, Stephanie Gilmore, Kelly Slater, Carissa Moore, Gabriel Medina, Courtney Conlogue and more battle on the most unpredictable and dynamic field of play of any sport in the world.

For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.

 

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WSL Africa

Contact: Colin Fitch – Operations Manager
Tel: 021 534 5738
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