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Gerry Lopez sizes up the world-title race at Pipeline


    The nose of the board shaped by Gerry Lopez that will go to the winner of the Billabong Pipe Masters.


    Gerry Lopez gave the shaka sign while standing next to the Billabong Pipe Masters trophy in Haleiwa today. Lopez won the event in 1972 and 1973.

Historically speaking, Gerry Lopez is at the crest of the surfing world.

Also known as Mr. Pipeline, Lopez was on hand today while World Surf League personnel were setting up for a news conference in Haleiwa in advance of the Billabong Pipe Masters.

Just after slipping out the door, Lopez — who grew up in Hawaii and won the Pipe Masters in 1972 and 1973 — gave his assessment of the upcoming contest that will determine the 2018 world championship at the most famous break on the planet.

“This is a great race, a three-horse race down to the end,” Lopez said. “It’s pretty amazing that it’s going to happen at the Pipeline. From the swell forecast, it looks like it might be good Pipeline, which is going to make it so much better for everyone, including the guys going for the gold here. It couldn’t end in a better way and I wouldn’t bet on any of them. They’re all so good and any one of them could win at any time.”

The three contenders are No. 1 Gabriel Medina and No. 3 Filipe Toledo of Brazil and No. 2 Julian Wilson of Australia.

“(Back then), we had one-tenth of the surfing ability of what they have now,” Lopez added. “Their level is so high and so advanced, the whole sport. It’s really amazing to see them in a wave of this caliber and what they’re going to do. I know it’s going to be a great contest.”

Medina, the only one of the three who is a goofy-foot (right foot forward) like Lopez, tangled with Wilson in the 2014 Pipe Masters final. Wilson won that contest while Medina was clinching the world title as the year-long ratings points leader. In 2015, Medina lost in the Pipe final to fellow Brazilian Adriano de Souza, who was also locking up the world championship. Toledo’s best finish at Pipe was fifth place in 2014.

This year, Medina can clinch the world title by winning or taking second at Pipeline. Wilson or Toledo can swoop in to take the world championship in two ways — by winning at Pipe if Medina finishes third or worse or by making the Pipeline final if Medina places fifth or worse.

“Have you seen the trophy?” Lopez asked a reporter. “That’s quite a prize to win. That in itself will be an incentive.”

Lopez, 70, was referring to one of the prizes, a surfboard he shaped that goes to the winner.

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