Pipeline's a special place for Hawai'i's Perry
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By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
After suffering through a wounded winter last year, Tamayo Perry would like to turn this year into a wondrous winter.
Perry is one of 15 Hawai'i surfers still in contention in the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters.
"There's still a big task ahead," said Perry, who was raised in Hau'ula and now resides at Sunset Beach. "The Pipe Masters means everything to us local guys. This is such a special wave, and there's so much history behind it. I want to keep going as far as I can, but at the same time, I'm thankful that I am still going."
The contest was postponed yesterday due to declining waves at the Banzai Pipeline, but Perry still got in some practice time.
Even without a jersey, he was easy to spot. He was the one wearing a helmet and a brace on his right knee. Both were necessary because of injuries he suffered last winter while surfing at Pipeline.
The head injury was most horrific, and Perry can recall the details vividly.
"Nov. 17, 2005 — one of the best swells we've seen in eight years," he said. "It was the biggest and best Pipe can get."
On that day, Perry was struck on the top of his head by a surfboard, which he said was let go by a surfer who was "in a panic" to try and get out of the way of an incoming 12-foot wave.
"I never blacked out; I felt it, and I was seeing stars," he said. "I just thank God for my safety."
The cut went across the top of his head, almost from ear to ear. It required 50 stitches and 25 staples.
"I lost so much blood, I was thinking I was going to meet my maker," he said.
Instead, he returned to surf at Pipeline less than two weeks later. "That's how much this place means to me," he said.
But two months later, he suffered a knee injury while competing in the Monster Energy Pro at the Banzai Pipeline.
"I just hope I got all my bad (karma) out of the way," Perry said. "I want to get some glorious barrels now."
He could certainly use some prize money to pay the bills. He did not have medical insurance for his injuries, so as he put it: "I paid some pretty pennies last winter. It pretty much took away a good chunk of my nest egg."
Perry, 30, has been considered a Pipeline specialist for the past decade. He does not compete on the world tour, but surfs at Pipeline — and other North Shore spots — whenever there's a good swell.
That reputation earned him one of the 16 "wildcard" spots made available to Hawai'i surfers for this year's Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters. The rest of the field features the top surfers from the World Championship Tour.
The Hawai'i wildcards have lived up to their billing. After the first two rounds of the Pipeline Masters, 11 of the 16 are still in contention.
"We've become a threat out there to the (WCT) guys, and it's a cool thing to see," Perry said. "But from here on out, we're going to be competing at an intense level. If you look at the draw now, every heat is like a final."
In Perry's third-round heat, for example, he will be up against defending Pipeline Masters champion Andy Irons of Kaua'i, former Pipeline Masters champion Jake Paterson of Australia, and Kaua'i standout Roy Powers.
Regardless of how it turns out, Perry said he is thankful that he is able to surf again on the world's most famous wave.
"I've been through some near-death experiences out there," he said. "So to get that phobia out of your head and tackle this wave is a pretty intense thing."
IRONS CLOSING IN ON FOURTH TRIPLE CROWN
Kaua'i's Andy Irons is one heat away from clinching his fourth Vans Triple Crown of Surfing championship.
If he advances through his third-round heat, he will clinch the title.
Australian Taj Burrow is the only other surfer with a shot at overtaking Irons, and Burrow must win the Pipeline Masters to do it. If Burrow is eliminated any time before the final, Irons clinches the Triple Crown title.
The Pipeline Masters is the third of three events in the North Shore series. Irons won the first event at Hale'iwa Ali'i Beach, and then placed third at the second event at Sunset Beach.
The Triple Crown championship is awarded to the best overall surfer in the three events. Irons won it in 2002, '03 and '05. He is also the defending Pipeline Masters champion.
SWELL EXPECTED TO HIT NORTH SHORE TODAY
The Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters could finish today if conditions are favorable at the Banzai Pipeline.
Contest officials wanted to run the third round yesterday afternoon, but the waves never got higher than 5 feet.
"The swell was expected to hit (yesterday), so we waited and waited," Triple Crown executive director Randy Rarick said. "Hopefully it will be here (today) and we can get it going."
Heat 1: Damien Hobgood (Florida), Peterson Rosa (Brazil), Rob Machado (California), Tory Barron (Hawai'i). Heat 2: Taj Burrow (Australia), Michael Lowe (Australia), Ian Walsh (Hawai'i), Kalani Chapman (Hawai'i). Heat 3: Bruce Irons (Hawai'i), C.J. Hobgood (Florida), Dustin Barca (Hawai'i), Hank Gaskell (Hawai'i). Heat 4: Kelly Slater (Florida), Pancho Sullivan (Hawai'i), Luke Stedman (Australia), Reef McIntosh (Hawai'i). Heat 5: Mick Fanning (Australia), Chris Ward (California), Nathan Hedge (Australia), Jamie Sterling (Hawai'i). Heat 6: Tom Whitaker (Australia), Cory Lopez (Florida), Bruno Santos (Brazil), Makuakai Rothman (Hawai'i). Heat 7: Andy Irons (Hawai'i), Jake Paterson (Australia), Roy Powers (Hawai'i), Tamayo Perry (Hawai'i). Heat 8: Bobby Martinez (California), Travis Logie (South Africa), Jamie O'Brien (Hawai'i), Evan Valiere (Hawai'i).
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.