Words by Luke Kennedy

“It’s a big west swell and when the waves come I feel like a cat being chased by a dog.” That’s how Mason Ho described the conditions at Pipe on a day when several of the world’s most highly rated surfers hung around to chase big Pipe alongside an assembly of Banzai specialists and Hawaiian chargers. The West swell is best suited to classic, left-hand Pipe, and because a ‘real one’ on the lefts at Pipe is one of surfing’s most coveted prizes, it’s little wonder an all-star cast showed up.

Dean Morrison has had a long love affair with Backdoor and it shows. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson
“It’s almost super perfect out there,” suggested a smiling Pat Gudauskas after his morning session. According to Pat the problem was that it was a shade too big to sit on the first reef where the wave is more of a top-to-bottom slab. Many modern Pipe specialists consider ledging, first reef barrels as the ultimate challenge as opposed to the faded bottom barrels the likes of Lopez made famous. However, chasing the first reefers on Friday meant running the gauntlet with the second reef rollers that were offering alpine drops but rarely any barrels.

After suffering a lacerated foot it's good to see Anthony Walsh back in the water at Pipe. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson
Pipe veteran, Tamayo Perry, delivered another perspective on what it’s like to sit inside and chase the first reefers when second reef is in play. “You pretty much have to get that first wave of the set or it’s doom!” he stated with a dark chuckle. Tamayo was however confident that some of the season’s best waves would be ridden on Wild West Friday. “Someone’s going to get the wave of the winter today,” he stated, before going to get his board and put himself in the mix for the prize he’d mentioned.  

Mason Ho makes his espace in a game of cat-and-mouse on Friday. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson
Not surprisingly John John Florence seemed to have the first reef, cat and mouse game dialled. It can take hours to get one decent wave at Pipe and on a day like this plenty of punters will find themselves plucking sand from every orifice without a single worthy ride to their name. Meanwhile John John scored two of the morning’s best waves in the space of ten minutes. Both waves featured super-late drops into foam-ball-express barrels that spat with volcanic force. Standing out isn’t easy in a lineup with a 100 odd guys who are damn good at what they do, but when John John is on at Pipe he’s hard to touch.

We love Mason's tube style. And one of the funnest surfers to watch just about anywhere. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson
Another blonde barrel merchant of repute, Jamie O’brien, was adopting a more novel approach to the session. Jamie rode a single fin, long board that was a re-make of a Greg Knoll design. After a few second reef, roll- ins Jamie even managed to hurl the cumbersome craft over the ledge on a couple of first reef cliff-drops. In the perennial contest to be the unofficial king of Pipe, it seems Jamie is hedging his claim on the ability to ride any kind of craft out there.    

Pipeline. Score the wave of your dreams or a trip to the hospital. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson    
Adriano De Souza certainly wasn’t indulging in any board fetishes. The Brazilian CT surfer was there with his high performance semi-gun and just one thing in mind.
“I want to catch the wave of my life out there,” he insisted with a determined glance towards the lineup. “The locals don’t give you many chances to get that wave and you don’t want to fall when it comes.” On an earlier wave Adriano had pulled in deep on a meaty left, only to be squashed by a foamy cement-mixer section. On the beach Adriano squinted in pain and complained he’d been hit hard in the rib by his board. However, he insisted he would return to the lineup later in the day. Although most of the CT surfers were heading home, the diminutive Brazilian, who is not known as a Hawaiian specialist, had made plans to stay longer and chase the kind of wave that would change his world.


The welcoming party wait for their moment to go. John John Florence front and centre. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson
From the Aussie contingent Dean Morrison faired best, charging massive backdoor on a day when most surfers wanted no part of the wrong way rights.  Young West Australian Jack Robinson was weighing it up from beneath the trees, having only just flown into town. His father Trevor had a simple explanation for the late season dash to the North Shore. “It’s a good excuse to get away from the sharks back home… Jack’s already had five encounters with them.” Jack was picking up a brand new Erik Arakawa 6’3” that night and had his heart set on a Pipe session the following day while the swell was still up.

Julian Wilson now knows what it's like to fall six stories, Hawaiian style. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson
On dark the recently volatile Bruce Irons restored faith in his ability when he scored a bomb that almost required a pair of night vision goggles to find the exit point.
Meanwhile, notorious night-walker, Kelly Slater, attempted to paddle out in the failing light, got washed hundreds of metres in the sweeping west swell and had to do the walk of shame back up the beach and try again, at a time when the only thing visible was the exploding white water.  
And that my friends was the way the Wild West swell was lost and won on the third Friday this season that Pipe has turned on.

J.O.B puts his board fetish on hold and adds more megabytes to his GoPro show reel. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson

Pat Guduaskas is one of those freakishly talented Californian surfers that excels in heavy water. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson

More artefacts wash up on a day that was more challenging for some. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson

John John Florence demonstrating once again why this is his backyard. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson


Damien Hobgood perfectly poised on the ride of his dreams. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson

The dream machine as the west swell pours into Pipeline. Photo by Peter Joli Wilson

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