Sullivan barrels through Pipeline
Pancho Sullivan turned in a monstrous performance to win the Monster Energy Pro yesterday.
Carol Cunningham photo
Gavin Beschen, of Hale'iwa, gets drenched as he plunges into the Banzai Pipeline during Round 4 of the Monster Energy Pro.
Carol Cunningham photo
"This one really means a lot to me because this is without a doubt the most respected and well-publicized wave in the world," Sullivan, 31, said. "I grew up dreaming about contests like this and I remember watching my heroes surf in it when I was younger."
Sullivan, who grew up at Sunset Beach, surfed in near-perfect form to top an all-Hawai'i final.
He secured a lead midway through the 35-minute final with a barrel ride to his right through "Backdoor" Pipeline that received a score of 9.0.
Later in the heat, he clinched the victory with a 9.9 for an even longer barrel ride through Backdoor.
"It was funny because I paddled into that wave planning to go left," he said. "But at the last second, I kind of just decided to go right instead and I thought it was too late. It was real intense because I got in the barrel late and didn't know where I was for a while. I kind of surprised myself when I made it out."
His two-wave total of 18.9 easily topped the scores of the other three finalists. Sullivan received $10,000 for the win.
"I was just trying to be patient, waiting for the best waves," said Sullivan, who placed third in this contest last year. "I made the finals out here two other times, so I was really driven to win it this time."
Brian Pacheco of Makaha placed second with a score of 11.5.
Ola Eleogram of Maui placed third and experienced the dangers of Pipeline's power. The 18-year-old professional rookie needed five staples in his head after a wipeout on the reef during the final.
"I hit the bottom at about the eight-minute mark," he said. "I kind of fell out of the wave, trying to take off a little too late. I came up really dizzy, but I still got my best wave after that. It was all worth it. I'd do it every heat to make the final."
Evan Valiere of Kaua'i had the best scores in the semifinals, but placed fourth in the final.
"Everybody showed tremendous courage," Sullivan said. "It was really inspiring to watch some of the young guys surf as well as they did in these conditions."
Former world champion Tom Curren of California saw his run for the ages stopped in the semifinals. Curren, who won world titles in 1985 and '86, is 40 and the oldest surfer in the contest.
Kainoa McGee of Kaimuki was also eliminated in the semifinals. He is the only competitor to reach the semifinals at Pipeline in both professional surfing and bodyboarding events. McGee, 33, reached the finals of several bodyboarding contests during the 1990s.
Last year's event champion Tom Dosland of Maui was eliminated in the fifth round, along with defending Pipeline Masters champ Jamie O'Brien.
The Monster Energy Pro was part of surfing's World Qualifying Series. The surfers from the elite World Championship Tour, including three-time world champ Andy Irons of Kaua'i, are in Australia this week for another event.
1, Pancho Sullivan (Hawai'i), $10,000. 2, Brian Pacheco (Hawai'i), $5,000. 3, Ola Eleogram (Hawai'i), $3,000. 4, Evan Valiere (Hawai'i), $2,400. 5 (tie), Dustin Barca (Hawai'i) and Tom Curren (California), $2,000. 7 (tie), Kainoa McGee (Hawai'i) and Masatoshi Ohno (Japan), $1,700. 9 (tie), Naoshi Ogawa (Japan), Rob Machado (California), Anthony Walsh (Australia) and Kamalei Alexander (Hawai'i), $1,500. 13 (tie), Andrew King (Australia), Sean Moody (Hawai'i), Dane Reynolds (California) and Tiago Pires (Portugal), $1,300.