The Billabong Pipe Masters held in memory of Andy Irons.
The Billabong Pipe Masters held in memory of Andy Irons.

Surfers master Hawaii monster

ONE of the most feared waves in the world, the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, more than lived up to its awesome reputation on day one of the Billabong Pipe Masters held in memory of Andy Irons.

Ginormous waves of 10-15ft exploded on the dangerous lava reef like detonating dynamite, breaking leg-ropes, boards, shoulders and hearts.

It was definitely one of the biggest days at Pipe in its 41-year history and, not surprisingly, the Hawaiian surfers dominated in the opening rounds.

Eighteen-year-old Pipeline local John John Florence scored a perfect 10 and is in the running to win the Hawaiian Triple Crown series having won at Sunset Beach the week before.

Jamie O'Brien, a former Pipeline champion, opened his account with a double keg, scoring one of the highest single scores of 9.2 out of 10.

O'Brien who was born in Hawaii, has Australian parents - his grandfather still lives on the Gold Coast at Sovereign Island - and was in his element and possibly the only contestant to be having fun at a break he grew up on.

Known as Jamie O, the local favourite had drawn California's Dane Reynolds considered to be the greatest free surfer in the world.

Prior to the anticipated match-up, Dane pleaded to Jamie, considered to be one of the best at Pipe.

"Have mercy on my soul", Dane said.

But there was no mercy for Reynolds and reputations count for nothing when Pipe is this huge - it's all about survival.

Final count? O'Brien 14.78 to Reynolds' 3.24.

World junior champion Jack Freestone, of Coolangatta, was grateful from scoring a wildcard entry from his sponsor, Billabong, and despite losing to California's Tanner Gudauskas, Jack was happy to survive the day.

This was Freestone's first Pipeline event and he had Hawaii's Sunny Garcia, a former champion, offering some coaching help.

During Jack's heat, 15ft waves began breaking out on the second and third reef and you had to feel for Jack out the back in his first-ever Pipe event.

His Californian opponent broke two boards while Jack's baptism of fire was put to the test when he free-fell out of the lip, losing his fins and getting fully smashed.

"It was so scary out there," said the 19-year-old. "I'm surprised I didn't break my legs"

In a low-scoring heat, Gudauskas won on 4.76 to Freestone's 2.63 but Jack lives to fight another day knowing what its takes to come out alive from the gladiator's den.

This will be a day that will go down in Pipeline folklore and there's more to come.

Organisers are expecting conditions to settle down overnight and clean up to a more manageable 8-10ft for today's round three featuring 11-time world champion Kelly Slater and world No.2 Joel Parkinson.

Using the overlapping format (two heats running concurrently) that Kelly devised, the Billabong Pipe Masters is the last world championship event for the year and is expected to run off over the weekend.

You can watch all the live web action on from 5am.