We arrived at the infamous Pipeline to find the swell that we left behind yesterday evening decided to considerately hang around for day 4 of the competition. Thank goodness! The Pipeline delivering. But Satan also issued us a healthy dosage of morning glare. Arc-eye for all those who dared to look towards the ocean. The poor priority judge. Perhaps we can speak to Panado about a sponsorship deal for the priority judge, he’s already agreed to put stickers on the front of his board. By the time the glare backed off enough for Zigzag to consider casting it’s eyes oceanward, we were into Open Men’s round 2 action and a conglomeration of absolutely stacked heats. But the conditions were extremely tricky; flat with no real form and breaking everywhere.
All images, the almighty, Ian ‘Hawkman’ Thurtell!
First to fall prey to the tricky conditions was the handsome Slade Prestwich. Starting off with the second highest wave score of the heat, courtesy of multiple tight turns in the pocket, the ocean proceeded to go completely flat. And Slade needing only a 2.34 to advance was left high and dry, out the back sans an opportunity to prove his metal.
Heat 2 of the Open Men’s division could’ve been a QS 1000 final. Dylan Lightfoot, Jake Elkington, Koby Oberholzer and Matthew McGillivary. All four of the surfers who were standouts yesterday up against each other today. Dylan Lightfoot started off strong, dropping a 7.33 on a left, Jake followed suit, finding a left that stood up allowing for two vertical backhand cracks. Solid surfing. Matthew McGillivary found a right which he issued with one solid drop wallet for a 5.00. Dylan and Jake then backed their scores up with a pair of 5.17s while Matt wasn’t even able to catch a second wave – a testament to how tricky it was.
Jordan Lawler went on the prowl in heat 4 of round 2. Unfazed by the extremely difficult conditions, Jordy turned nothing waves into scoring rides. Like a lion prowling the Savannah was Lawler. Moving from one side of the beach to other in search of a wave he could prey on. And his prowler technique paid off, quickly amassing a solid heat score total, leaving the rest of the field scratching around for second place.
Onto the Women’s Open Division where Isabella Nichols continued to be a complete standout. Where the men struggled to find a ride over a 5.00, Isabelle, in-tune with conditions, noticed the other side of the beach come to life. And she lucked into the highest scoring ride of the heat; 7,67. Isabelle’s surfing is easily world class, like a chameleon, she adapts to whatever situation the Pipeline throws at her. And the Pipeline has thrown some difficult waves her way. Imagine a Chameleon adapting it’s colour to a tie-dye t-shirt, that’s how Isabella adapted to the Pipe.
Other noteworthy performances came from 2018 World Junior Champion Kirra Pinkerton. Another standout in the trick conditions, Kirra found a diamond in the rough, a running wave with a clean wall in a land filled with rocky terrain. Making hay while the sun shone, she took a good wave and converted it to an excellent score; an 8.33, highest wave score of the round.
By the time the Junior Women’s semifinals entered the water, the tide had risen, the onshore picked up and Pipeline was serving up laboriously difficult surf breaking a stone throw away from the shoreline. Ribs coming up the face, side washes, multiple lips on a wave, a free surfers nightmare. The girls struggled, one manoeuvre waves became a staple. The semifinals began with 4 South African girls, one survived… Kayla Nogueira. Kayla stepped up her game, keeping a sneaky eye on the lefts. And when the lefts came, she obliterated them with solid wraps on the forehand. She remained calm under the pressure and was the only South African girl to advance to the final.
On the Junior Men’s side of the draw the standouts were Luke Slijpen and Luke Thompson. Luke Thompson continues to impress us. Not only his surfing ability but also his decision-making prowess. Wise beyond his years, Luke is like an upstanding man who always chooses right over wrong. A righteous saint you can always rely on to do the right thing. Bad heat decisions don’t exist in Luke’s 14-year-old vocabulary. He’s a student of the game and a scholar beyond his years.
Luke Slijpen began his duel with a non-priority interference call. One scoring ride halved. A brutal punishment. A punishment that would spell the end for most competitors. Not Slijpen though. He kept calm. He kept his head in the game and quickly turned in a 6.50 for explosive surfing. He upped that to a 6.80 and as the heat wound to a close and needing a score he banged a wave for a 7.57. Unfazed by circumstance, Luke knows the judges love explosive surfing, and that’s what he delivered.
Ahhhh, the many moods of the Pipeline. It’s like a Christmas cracker, you never know what you’re going to get. You pull it and bang! There falls some cheap ass Chinese toy, like a tiny water pistol or something weird and a piece of paper with a bad dad joke #HappyFathersDay. And you sit there on Christmas day like an ass wondering what the hell you should do with this stupid toy gun. Anyway, I digress, Pipeline is like a Christmas cracker. By finals time, the onshore completely died, the tide drained a touch, and the wind puffed a gentle offshore. And the waves; fun bowls right out front! Perfect for competition.
The women enjoyed a seesaw affair with the lead constantly changing from one surfer to the next, Rachel Presti took the lead courtesy of a well surfed left, two whips off the top for a 6.00. Then Shina Matsudo made a dart for the lead courtesy of a left but it wasn’t until Piper Harrison found a reeling right hander which she garnished with several well-timed attacks on the lip that somebody took control of the heat. Shino Matsuda gave a last ditch effort at taking the lead from Piper but it was too little too late and Harrison was hoisted on the shoulders of her friends and carried up to the winner’s podium.
In the Junior Men’s Final, Eli Beukes took the bull by the horns from his first wave. Eli Beukes is like a younger Matt McGilivary. Explosive and powerful. Never shies away from taking a risk to get high scores. And it makes for highly entertaining viewing. The more risky surfing you endeavour in heats the more comfortable you get taking risks within the time constraints of a heat. Eli also has no qualms about who he draws in a heat. Not disconcerted by big names. No matter what, who, or when, Eli knows how and that’s big. Eli began the heat with a 7.67 and ended it with a 6.83 and that’s the second time he’s won in Port Elizabeth in one year. Well done Eli.
Tune in tomorrow for finals day of the Open Men and Women’s divisions.