Irons, Barley hang 10s at Pipeline
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Even when not at its barreling best, the Banzai Pipeline can offer perfection.
The proof came during the second day of the Volcom Pipeline Pro yesterday.
Wave-face heights were in the 10- to 15-foot range, but a mix of swell directions and unfavorable winds made for challenging conditions.
"There's always 10s out here," Kaua'i's Bruce Irons said. "This wave, Backdoor, it can be a horrible day and you can find a 10."
Irons found one of the rare perfect waves during his third-round heat. He disappeared in a long barrel at Backdoor Pipeline and made it out successfully to receive the maximum score of 10.
"I think this is a great day of competition," Irons said. "There's wedges; there's good waves out there. You just have to find them."
Irons caught just two waves in his 25-minute heat, but his two-wave score of 16.77 was more than enough to advance to the fourth round.
Irons, 30, "stepped away" from the world tour in 2009, but said he is not even close to retiring as a contest surfer.
"I like competing," he said. "I didn't retire from competing. I just stepped away from the tour. That's what everybody's got mixed up. No retirement here."
His older brother, three-time former world champion Andy Irons, opted not to enter this contest. He is in Australia preparing for the 2010 ASP World Tour.
In any case, Bruce Irons is a renowned barrel-rider at the treacherous Pipeline, so his performance yesterday was not exactly a surprise.
The surprise of the day came in the form of Brett Barley, a surfer from North Carolina who is competing at Pipeline for the first time.
He also received a perfect 10 for a long barrel ride on his opening wave in his third-round heat.
"I was in shock," he said. "When I took off, I didn't really know what was going to happen, and when I pulled in I couldn't really see because a chandelier of whitewater came down ... Right at the end I knew that if I didn't straighten out I wouldn't make it. Nine times out of 10 you get clipped by the lip, so I was just happy that I came out."
Showing that it was not a fluke, Barley received a score of 9.67 on his next wave — another deep barrel. His two-wave total of 19.67 is the best score of any surfer in the two days of the contest so far.
"That's a win. I don't even care what happens anymore," Barley said. "I know I can surf these waves, but I never would have imagined getting a 10, much less another 9, so I'm thrilled."
Another standout from yesterday's heats was high school senior John John Florence. He had a two-wave score of 15.74 to win his third-round heat.
"The waves are really weird today, so you can't be picky," he said. "You just have to go and hope for the best. Some go all the way across and some don't. You kind of just have to get lucky."
Florence, who is 17 and a home-school student, lives near the Banzai Pipeline. He watched in envy on Thursday, when the early rounds of the contest were staged in epic conditions.
Florence was seeded into the third round, so yesterday was his first action in the contest.
"I was kind of bummed I didn't get to surf (Thursday)," he said. "But there's going to be more good days, hopefully."
Eleven heats of the third round were completed yesterday before the competition was postponed due to deteriorating conditions.
The event is expected to take today off, but could resume in big waves tomorrow or Monday.
"I think Sunday will be nice and big," said North Shore surfer Mark Healey, who advanced to the fourth round with a last-second wave. "Maybe a little too big, but at least it's going to be some nice wind for it."
Other Hawai'i surfers advancing yesterday were Ian Walsh, Solomon Ortiz, Marcus Hickman, Jamie O'Brien, Sunny Garcia, Kevin Sullivan, Clay Marzo, David Wassell, Fred Patacchia Jr., Danny Fuller and Myles Padaca.
Among the Hawai'i surfers eliminated as upset victims were Pancho Sullivan, Roy Powers and Hank Gaskell.
Landon McNamara, who is 13 and the youngest surfer in the contest, was also eliminated yesterday.
For updates visit www.volcompipelinepro.com.