PIPELINE, Hawaii (Monday, Dec.11, 2006) – Surfing's most prestigious event, The Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters was greeted once again this morning by incredible two to 2.5 metre (six to eight feet) Pipeline waves and organisers wasted no time in sending out competitors for round two.
And while yesterday was dominated by the hordes of local wildcards who were revelling in the heavy yet pristine tubes, today saw numerous top seeds find their sea legs to get their campaigns back on track.
Topping the score of the day in what was an extremely dramatic heat, was Taj Burrow (AUS) who totalled a 17.07 out of 20 after riding some amazing Backdoor Pipe tubes.
Looking relaxed and surfing with complete control, Burrow was standing hard on the tail of his board slowing up in order to spend as much time under the cascading walls as possible in order to impress the judges.
And while he looked to be home and hosed early in the heat, behind him there was a feisty battle to grab second. (First and second move through to round three.)
"I had a great heat," said Burrow. "I got a couple of good little rights and then got a good Pipe wave as well so I was pretty comfortable the whole time. I was stoked that I had my scores in the bag and I could avoid the hassling because those guys were really fighting for second place."
The second place showdown was eventually won in dramatic style by Nathan Hedge (AUS), who rose to the occasion by making a barrel that many assumed would clip him from his board.
Burrow stated that it was "cool to watch" Hedge as he loaded up an enormous amount of momentum which shot him out from behind the hefty curtain of water to massive crowd applause and a 9.90 from the judges.
That score saw him jump from fourth to second place.
The goofyfooter from Sydney is fighting for his Foster's ASP World Tour life and needs close to a win in the event in order to give him any chance of requalifying for 2007. Knowing this he wasn't going to hold back.
"I knew the wave was my last chance so I just gave it my all and pumped the board hard," said Hedge. "There was a little opening for me so I popped out… I was so psyched! But tomorrow's another day so we'll see how we go…"
Nailing the day's only perfect 10 on the way to a spectacular win was 2005 Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Master's finalist and Foster's ASP World Tour current number two, Mick Fanning (AUS).
Taking possibly the heaviest drop of the event on a huge Backdoor Pipe righthander, Fanning risked life and limb all the way.
Moving as though he was in slow motion Fanning dug in his rail and took a line through a massive section and five seconds later shot out, again to massive crowd appreciation.
The 10.0 score instantly took him from third to first and will now also set him up for a round three berth.
"That wave turned the heat around for me," said Fanning. "I saw it and I knew it was going to be a nuts one. I was just lucky that I was in a position to go. I think that's probably the best wave I've ever had out at Backdoor."
Fanning in past has often struggled in the early stages of this event but once he starts moving through the rounds he is always hard to stop.
"I never win my first heat here at Pipe so it felt good," said Fanning. "It's always difficult here at Pipe with four guys in the heat but you get the bad heat out of the way early and hopefully get going all the way to the final."
Kelly Slater (USA) was another to find his way back to the winner's circle when in the first heat of the day he took advantage of the clean conditions to put away some very special rides.
Yesterday he was well and truly savaged in round one by 2004 Pipe Master Jamie O'Brien (HAW) and today he was eager for some water time in order to get reacquainted with one of his favourite waves.
"It's just like jumping back on a bike," said Slater. "If you surf there a lot, you remember pretty quickly. I had one, short free surf and caught two waves the other night – I wiped out on one and went straight on the other – and that was about the extent of my Pipe winter so far before yesterday."
While the seeds forged on, like yesterday there were still a large number of locals excelling on their home turf.
Ian Walsh, Makuakai Rothman and Dustin Barca all took first place in the final three heats of the round after slicing through some major barrels.
Walsh in particular was charging and on one occasion after threading a huge Pipe barrel he launched himself from his board and was smashed in less than 30 cm (12 inches) of water.
For him, competing against the best of the best at Pipe is a huge honour.
"Just to put the jersey on and paddle out in the Rip Curl Pro Pipe Masters is a dream come true," said Walsh. "If you look at all the names of the people who have won it over the years, every one of them is my favourite surfer. It's a real honour to surf out here."
Following the completion of round two of the main event the Foster's Expression session was run and won.
Taking equal first place for riding epic tubes were Jake Paterson (AUS) and Bruce Irons (HAW).
Both picked up US$2000 for their trouble.
Conditions will be assessed tomorrow (Tuesday Dec 12) at first light and a decision will be made regarding running round three shortly after.