It's one thing to own the first few rounds of a contest at your home break, but it's something else entirely to beat Kelly Slater at Pipeline. Today, the rising star that is John John Florence nailed a perfect ten and blasted Slater in the "no-loser" round four, 17.76 to 8.5, at the Billabong Pipeline Masters In Memory of Andy Irons.
In a November interview, Florence told ESPN Surfing that of all the competitors on tour, Slater was the only one to give him any advice in his rookie year (as sparse as it might have been.) Don't think that Slater gave Florence any advice today. And don't expect him to offer any hints tomorrow when they square off in the quarterfinals.
"I see John John as the guy to beat in this contest. He's got three 10's already. He lives right here and surfs here every day. If I were to lose to him, there would be no shame in that," said Slater of Florence, who is 20 years his junior.
Massive surf continued to unload on the reef at Pipeline today for the completions of round three, four, and five. And it was the Hawaiians who continued to advance through the bloody faces, halved boards, and lots of duct-taped wounds.
The day started with Jamie O'Brien beating Adriano de Souza in a low-scoring heat. And although losing to CJ Hobgood, Julian Wilson freefell from the sky on a steep Pipe bomb and caught himself at the bottom, before turning into the barrel.
Quite possibly the heat of the day was World No. three Owen Wright against Kauai wildcard, Evan Valiere. Following a slow heat, the two goofyfooters went blow for blow, in impossibly deep Pipe barrels. Valiere barely won the slugfest 16.14 -15.67.
It was a tough pill to swallow for Wright. His throwaway waves would have won most heats today. He put on a fake smile and was courteous to the throngs of fans awaiting his autograph. But inside, he was burning up. He declined any interviews.
Valiere, 28, doesn't travel for qualifying events. He makes a living running his surf school in Kauai and is the underground Hawaiian archetype. After a slight hiccup in round four, he beat Taj Burrow to secure his place in the quarterfinals.
"These are ideal conditions for me -- big, windy lefts. The most nerve-racking thing for me is losing the chance to get to surf with just two guys out there," he joked, "I've got nothing to lose against these guys. There are only a couple that I feel threatened by, but I pretty much feel confident that I can take anyone out."
Although he made a few rounds in 2008, he admitted that he loved the instant celebrity.
"This is the biggest thing I've ever done," he admitted.
In round four, O'Brien, Florence, Michel Bourez, and Kieren Perrow went straight to the quarterfinals. Every beating that Perrow takes seems to make him take off deeper on the next wave, as he secured his spot on tour for 2012.
In round five, Joel Parkinson reminded us why he is a three-time Vans Triple Crown champ, by beating CJ Hobgood, who made a pretty good case for getting back on the World Tour himself here at Pipe.
Slater chose a 6'8' pintail with copious rocker to down Pipe specialist, Kalani Chapman, with a barrel to impossible floater and then a fantastic, long 9.87 tube. As always, his board choice was the talk on the beach.
"I've done some experimenting in the last few years and my quiver is in shambles. I hope it's just the right size to ride my 5'9" quad tomorrow," said Slater.
It won't be the board he rode on day one, as that one took a serious beating, but a new stick that he's never ridden before.
Florence still holds the lead of the Vans Triple Crown race. Adam Melling fell out of contention today when he lost to Michel Bourez. Bourez could potentially win the Triple Crown, but he hs to win Pipe.
Saturday's swell is expected to be a notch smaller, but still healthy. The epic 2012 Pipe Masters will likely conclude early in the afternoon.Billabong Pipe Masters Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 7.34 def. Aamion Goodwin (HAW) 5.03
Heat 2: Kalani Chapman (HAW) 10.27 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 6.83
Heat 3: Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 6.46 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 4.10
Heat 4: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 8.40 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 6.83
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 19.10 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.40
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 9.50 def. Marcus Hickman (HAW) 3.56
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.77 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 2.27
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) 6.40 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 5.90
Heat 9: Evan Valiere (HAW) 16.14 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 15.67
Heat 10: Shane Dorian (HAW) 11.24 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 5.66
Heat 11: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 18.73 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.60
Heat 12: Taj Burrow (AUS) 8.93 def. Ian Walsh (HAW) 5.36
Billabong Pipe Masters Non-Elimination Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 13.92, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.06, Kalani Chapman (HAW) 12.00
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 17.67, Kelly Slater (USA) 8.50, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 5.43
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.10, Evan Valiere (HAW) 10.84, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 8.17
Heat 4: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 13.66, Shane Dorian (HAW) 11.87, Taj Burrow (AUS) 7.83
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.83 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 7.74
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.80 def. Kalani Chapman (HAW) 14.33
Heat 3: Evan Valiere (HAW) 16.03 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 10.87
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 9.23 def. Shane Dorian (HAW) 2.30
Upcoming Billabong Pipe Masters Quarterfinals Heats:
Heat 1: Jamie O'Brien (HAW) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Evan Valiere (HAW)
Heat 4: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)