Three of five surfers in the World Surf League tour title race remained alive by advancing to the quarterfinals of the season-ending Billabong Pipe Masters today at Ehukai Beach.
World No. 1 Mick Fanning of Australia and two Brazilians, Adriano de Souza and defending world champ Gabriel Medina, stayed in the world-title chase with victories in both the third and fourth rounds. Australia’s Julian Wilson and Brazil’s Filipe Toledo were not as fortunate, losing in the third round and seeing their world-title shots end.
In pumping 8- to 10-foot Pipeline barrels in the morning, Fanning defeated Hawaii’s Jamie O’Brien 12.14 to 2.70, and Medina surfed past South Africa’s Jordy Smith 15.84 to 4.50. De Souza stayed alive by beating Ireland’s Glenn Hall 10.00 to 4.70.
Wilson, the defending Pipe Masters and Vans Triple Crown champion, was eliminated in a 15.73 to 15.16 loss to fellow Australian Adam Melling. Hawaii’s Mason Ho knocked out Toledo from the world-title hunt, 6.93 to 6.67.
O’Brien, a feared Hawaii surfer considered one of the best at Pipeline, represented a major threat to Fanning going into their third-round heat, but didn’t come close to pulling off the upset.
Later, in the nonelimination fourth round, Fanning, 11-time world champion Slater and Hawaii’s John John Florence went at it, creating murmurs of “super heat” up and down the beach. All three got seriously shacked with high-scoring rides, but it was Fanning who prevailed and made it to the quarters with a 17.30 heat score to Slater’s 16.47 and Florence’s 15.16.
De Souza then took care of his fourth-round heat with a win over two Aussies, Melling and Josh Kerr.
Slater continued his torrid pace with a fifth-round knockout of Hawaii’s Keanu Asing for a spot in tomorrow’s quarterfinals against Fanning, the surfer that he is pulling for to win the world title. Slater is going for his eighth Pipe Masters championship.
Florence’s chance at a first Pipe Masters title ended in the fifth round in a loss to Florida’s C.J. Hobgood.
Hawaii’s last hope in the Pipe Masters is Ho, who had a perfect 10.00 ride to win his fourth-round heat and push on to the quarterfinals.
A victory by either Fanning or de Souza in the Pipe Masters final would clinch the world crown, but both could win it in other scenarios. The only way Medina can claim the world title is by winning the Pipe Masters combined with Fanning losing in the quarters.
The world champion, the Pipe Masters winner and the Vans Triple Crown of Surifng titlist will all be determined tomorrow, the final day of the Pipe Masters. The contest resumes with the continuation of the fifth round at 8 a.m., followed by the quarterfinals, semis and final.
Medina, Fanning and Kerr are the only surfers left in the race for the Triple Crown, which goes to the best surfer in the three WSL season-ending North Shore events combined — the Hawaiian Pro at Alii Beach Park (won by Wade Carmichael), the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach (won by Fanning), and the Pipe Masters.