PIPELINE, Hawaii (Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006) – A new two to three metre (five to eight foot) swell is steadily bashing the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii today and organisers of the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters had no hesitation in calling for the first heat of round three to hit the water at 8am local time.
Swell and wind conditions pending, it is hoped to run right through to the end of the event with the final kicking off at around 3pm this afternoon.
There are eight round three heats, four quarterfinals, two semi finals and the final – making up 15 heats in total.
The Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters is the 11th and final event on the Foster's ASP World Tour and a win here at the Banzai Pipeline is one of the sport's highest honours.
Adding to the drama will be the duel for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title.
After two events Andy Irons (AUS) is poised to take his fourth series after winning the coveted crown in 2002, 2003 and 2005. All Irons must do is progress one more round.
His main rival for the series was Joel Parkinson (AUS) who was eliminated from the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters in round two – but there is an outside chance that Taj Burrow (AUS) could steal Irons' thunder if Iron's were eliminated in round three and Burrow went on to win the event.
A fourth series title for Irons would give him one up on career rival and eight-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA), who has also posted three Triple Crown victories.
Also adding spice to today's already action packed mix will be the intense battle amongst the Foster's ASP World Tour tail enders as they fight for their pro surfing lives.
A host of long-time tourers could potentially find themselves relegated to ASP's second tier World Qualifying Series in 2007 if they fail to move toward the pointy end of competition today.
The list of tail enders includes Jake Paterson (AUS), Nathan Hedge (AUS), Chris Ward (AUS), Luke Stedman (AUS), Peterson Rosa (USA), Pancho Sullivan (USA) and Mick Lowe (USA), and all will have a point to prove when they stroke into the Banzai Pipeline today.
Round Three Heat Draw
Heat 1: Damien Hobgood (USA); Peterson Rosa (BRA); Rob Machado (USA); Tory Baron (HAW)
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS); Mick Lowe (AUS); Ian Walsh (HAW); Kalani Chapman (HAW)
Heat 3: Bruce Irons (HAW); CJ Hobgood (USA); Dustin Barca (HAW); Hank Gaskell (HAW)
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA); Pancho Sullivan (HAW); Luke Stedman (AUS); Reef McIntosh (HAW)
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS); Chris Ward (USA); Nathan Hedge (AUS); Jamie Sterling (HAW)
Heat 6: Tom Whitaker (AUS); Cory Lopez (USA); Bruno Santos (BRA); Makuakai Rothman (HAW)
Heat 7: Andy Irons (HAW); Jake Paterson (AUS); Roy Powers (HAW); Tamayo Perry (HAW)
Heat 8: Bobby Martinez (USA); Travis Logie (ZAF); Jamie O'Brien (HAW); Evan Valiere (HAW)