“F**k he’s good.”

Pipeline showdown: The soft launch

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There’s a scene out the front of the house. The whole North Shore is a scene this
morning, but the woman trying to put up the giant pink tent on the side of the
road is really tearing it up. She’s locked in an argument with the Hawaiian
security guys, the Westside boys, as she’s putting her pop-up tent up in their
parking spot. She’s screaming at them, telling them she was born here, swatting
them with a flip-flop, telling them she’s calling 911. The boys meanwhile are
laughing and begin taunting her for entertainment value. The cops eventually
turn up and she moves her tent down the road. She then takes her top off in front
of the morning crowd, rubs suntan lotion over herself, and the show continues
from 30 yards away. I’m not even sure what she’s selling. There’s a massage
table, some hula-hoops and incense sticks burning. Families pull their kids closer
as they walk past her tent down to the beach.

The waves this morning were firing, brah. It was a rare window in a month of
bad wind and bad ocean. There’s more rancorous ocean coming. On Wednesday
it’s supposed to be 40 feet and howling onshore. Our landlord has told us to leave
the back and front doors open when the swell hits, the theory being that you
simply let the wave pass through the house and save yourself buying a new set of
doors. If the ocean wants the house it’s gonna take it. But, for this morning
anyway, Pipe was as good as it’s looked all winter, and with the smell of ragged
bush weed wafting down Ke Nui Road the Masters finally got going.

This might be the last ever world title decider at the Billabong Pipemasters. If indeed the WSL
moves Pipe to the start of the season as has been reported, then this could well
be the last time they throw down for the title out here. While the idea of deciding
the world title on a Mentawai boat trip sounds dreamy, I’m not sure I want my
world title deciders “dreamy”. I’d rather see ‘em won the hard way, on the
limestone dance floor. That’s what we’ve been witnessing here over the past
week.

Johnny Florence has been surfing big.

Late yesterday afternoon with a bombing north swell just starting to settle a lone
figure was spotted way out to sea at Rockpile. Johnny. He fell from the sky on a
12-foot left, dropped into it just as it ran over the boil, and for half a second it
appeared that John’s world title – and John himself – might be over. But he not
only stuck the airdrop, he drove straight off the bottom and jammed his board
under the lip. At that point I was ready to hand him the title then and there.
Parko, watching on, stated the bleeding obvious. “Fuck he’s good.”

John was pretty good this morning too. After surfing some big, ugly stuff over the
past week this morning’s waves were a like eating a bowl of ice cream in front of
the TV. He got too deep on the first one, but from there he came out of everything
scratching his ass nonchalantly. He didn’t break third gear but didn’t need to.

I had Gabby pegged to land some major psychological rib shots on Johnny today.
Gabby needs to if he’s going to have any chance at this title. I think I wrote
somewhere else that every move he makes on the North Shore this winter, he
needs to run through the filter of, “What would Andy do?” He needs to jolt John
out of his carefree tropical orbit. He needs to keep faith that while no one will
ever beat John in a freesurf at Pipe, he’s beatable in heats.

Gabe’s cause wasn’t helped this morning when countryman Miggy Pupes fell into
dark one and managed to squeak out before being eviscerated. It should have
been a 10 but it didn’t matter. Gabe scrambled, but when the judges brought him
in a tenth of a point shy of the lead, it was clear it wasn’t happening. Gabe might
also need this big swell to do some housecleaning on the reef at Pipe. It’s clogged
with sand and if it stays that way Backdoor will be John’s ace.

The interesting cameo today was – predictably – Kelly. Hobbling and wheezing,
he actually looked his age as he walked down for his heat, his broken foot and
chest cold taking the wind from his triumphant return to The Pipeline. Half an

hour and a convincing win later he looked a little better, and ready to make
mischief in the draw. He won’t be able to help himself.

Today won’t matter much. Today was simply posturing, a soft launch to the real
show. We’ll go away now for a few days while the North Shore gets walloped by
swell and we’ll come back and everything will reset. Gabby gets the wildcard –
Iggy Pop I think – and from there shit will get real, quick.

Sean Doherty