Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Florence takes big lead

Unique scoring system makes Da Hui Backdoor Shootout more like free surfing

By Daniel Ikaika Ito / Special to the Star-Advertiser


After two rounds, the North Shore's John John Florence is leading Da Hui Backdoor Shootout, which was held at the Banzai Pipeline yesterday.

Florence was the standout surfer of the first day, catching the best barrels and posting a three-wave total of 29.75 out of a possible 36 points. While there was plenty of swell -- wave faces were in the 12- to 16-foot range -- long, gaping tubes were few and far between at Pipe and Backdoor.

"He just found the ones," said Makuakai Rothman about Florence's high-scoring waves.

Florence caught 10.5 and 10.25 tube rides in the first round, and a 9.0 in the second round.

"I was surprised it was so easy for him to find (the good waves). We went out -- me, Bruce (Irons) and Kalani (Chapman) -- and I don't think any of us got more than six points," Rothman said.

The Backdoor Shootout uses a unique scoring system in which a surfer can score a possible 12 points for a single ride.

Barrel rides earn the big scores. The format is similar to the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. No elimination. Contestants surf four rounds. Best three rides are totaled to determine a winner.

Unlike "The Eddie," the Backdoor Shootout is also a team event. Companies or groups of surfers pay a team entry instead of individual fees to compete. There are seven teams vying for the title: Da Hui, Hurley, North Shore Boys, RVCA, Quiksilver, Vans and Volcom.

Florence, a member of the Vans Team, was raised in a beach house adjacent to Ehukai Beach Park, with Pipe literally in his backyard.

"(Pipeline) is everything," said Florence when asked about what the wave means to him. "I lived here pretty much my whole life and surf here every day."

His familiarity and level of comfort at Pipeline make him a formidable opponent for all surfers in the event. Florence, however, thinks it lacks the intense vibe of other contests.

"It's a contest, but it doesn't feel like a contest," he said. "It's like free surfing -- you can't lose a heat. In the Pipe Masters, you can lose heats. You lose first round and you're out. This contest you get to surf four heats no matter what."

There is one more day of competition left in the shootout, and Florence is looking prime to win the $40,000 first-place prize.

With nine days remaining in the holding period, officials have their eyes set on an incoming west/northwest swell forecast to arrive late this week.

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