Barley making believers at Pipe
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Basketball is a pretty big sport in North Carolina. So is NASCAR.
Thanks to Brett Barley, the term "North Carolina surfer" will have to be taken seriously on O'ahu's North Shore.
In what is looking more like a movie script than a surfing contest, Barley continued his amazing run through the Volcom Pipeline Pro yesterday.
He advanced through three heats to earn a spot in the semifinals.
The third round, fourth round and quarterfinals were completed yesterday in treacherous wave-face heights of 15 to 25 feet at the Banzai Pipeline.
"Me and my wife have just been praying before I go out, just saying have fun," said Barley, who is 20 and from Buxton, N.C. "It's not about how far I get, or the money or anything. I just want to go out there and surf because I enjoy it."
This is Barley's first contest at the famous Pipeline.
He said he tried to practice on the waves prior to the contest, but admitted struggling due to the massive crowds of surfers at Pipeline on non-contest days.
In effect, this contest is serving as Barley's on-the-job training.
He surfed into the spotlight during the second day of the contest on Friday, when he scored a perfect 10 for a long barrel ride.
"I had a bunch of Facebook comments and e-mails," he said. "It was pretty cool. But I never really thought about it. It just started sinking in (Saturday) ... I actually had a 10 at Pipeline."
Barley proved it was no fluke yesterday by advancing through three rounds. In his quarterfinal heat, he edged Kaua'i's Kamalei Alexander — a well-respected Pipeline surfer — with a wave just before the buzzer.
"It was the dying minutes and Kamalei was trying to hold me off," Barley said. "I was lucky that (wave) didn't close out."
Now Barley is one of just eight surfers remaining in the contest. Yet, he is remaining humble, and is not quite ready to call himself a Pipeline specialist.
"Everybody out there can get 10s," Barley said. "It's just a matter of being in the right spot at the right time."
Maui's Ian Walsh was the standout of the quarterfinal round, scoring a two-wave total of 17.37 (out of 20). He had the best ride of the day, receiving a near-perfect 9.7 for a long barrel ride at Backdoor Pipeline.
"This is ideal," Walsh said. "It's bigger and there's better winds. It's just so exciting for everyone. It's like watching gladiators up close taking on these big waves. Even if I wasn't in it, I could sit here and watch all day."
Jamie O'Brien and John John Florence live near Pipeline, and they both advanced to the semifinals.
O'Brien is considered one of the premier barrel-riders at Pipeline, but said he wasn't satisfied with his performance so far.
"I got lucky," he said after winning his quarterfinal heat. "I'm tired of getting lucky. I want to do good. I want to win my heats with good scores."
Florence is 17 and a high school senior. He will have to put his home-school books on hold today so he can finish the contest.
He upset veteran Pipeline surfers Bruce Irons and Marcus Hickman in yesterday's quarterfinals. Florence scored a near-perfect 9.63 for a big barrel in that heat.
"It was crazy," Florence said. "I saw that I was in their heat and I was tripping."
The eight surfers remaining in the contest are Barley, Florence, O'Brien, Walsh, Danny Fuller of Kaua'i, Kiron Jabour of Sunset Beach, and Australians Mark Mathews and Anthony Walsh.
For the Hawai'i surfers, the Volcom Pipeline Pro serves as a qualifier for the Billabong Pipeline Masters in December.
Hawai'i is guaranteed eight "wildcard" spots in the Pipeline Masters. The eight who have earned those wildcards are Florence, O'Brien, Ian Walsh, Fuller, Jabour, Dusty Payne, Bruce Irons and Clay Marzo.
"Just to be in that event is humbling," Walsh said. "It's the pinnacle of surfing for most of us who don't go and surf the (ASP World Tour)."
At the same time, Walsh said this contest may be more difficult because of the influx of talented Hawai'i surfers.
"Pipeline Masters is the one that is definitely the utmost prestigious event in surfing," he said. "But all the guys who grew up surfing here and surf this place the best are here in this contest, and that's why this one is unbelievable."
The semifinals and final are expected to run this morning. For updates and a live Webcast visit www.volcompipelinepro.com.
A live television broadcast is also available on Oceanic digital channel 250.