O'Brien barrels through
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
This opening act will be tough to follow.
Waves — and the wave-riders — were in spectacular form on the opening day of the Volcom Pipeline Pro men's surfing contest yesterday.
The first round and 11 of 16 heats of the second round were completed yesterday. The famous Banzai Pipeline barrels were on throughout the day. Wave-face heights ranged from 15 to 25 feet in the morning, then came down to a more manageable 10 to 20 feet for the second round.
"The waves are going off," North Shore surfer Jamie O'Brien said after advancing through two heats. "It was kind of too big this morning, and it's slowly cleaning up (in the afternoon). There's some great barrels and great competition out there."
More than 100 surfers from around the world are competing in the event, which is the first professional contest sponsored by the surf-apparel company Volcom.
O'Brien led the charge with a near-perfect heat in his second-round victory. He received a perfect 10 for an extremely long barrel ride, then backed it up with a 9.33 for another barrel.
His two-wave total of 19.33 was clearly the best heat of the day, but it was not the only outstanding one.
Danny Fuller also scored a perfect 10, and had a heat total of 16.83 in his second-round win.
Five other surfers had heat totals of 15.0 or better: Mark Healey (17.83), Reef McIntosh (17.0), Anthony Walsh (15.3), Nils Schweizer (15.23) and Albee Layer (15.17).
"It's a real day at Pipe," Healey said. "I was pretty much just sitting where I normally do on a good day at Pipeline."
Healey had wave scores of 9.5 and 8.33 in his second-round win.
The North Shore surfers — such as O'Brien, Fuller and Healey — caught most of the best waves, but the non-Hawai'i surfers also had some good rides.
Walsh, who is from Australia, had a near-perfect score of 9.63 in his second-round heat.
"There's waves all over the place," he said. "You just have to be in the right spot."
Earlier in the same heat, Walsh survived a scary wipeout.
"I knew it was going to be tough," he said. "I kind of just paddled and air-dropped, and then just got under the lip and it engulfed me."
The most inspirational performance was turned in by 13-year-old Landon McNamara, the youngest surfer in the contest.
He cut his forehead and arm on the reef — and his surfboard snapped in half — after a horrific wipeout on his first wave.
"I took off kind of late and tried bottom-turning under the lip, but couldn't make it," McNamara said. "I tried jumping through it, but I got sucked over and just slammed my face on the reef."
Yet, he managed to paddle to shore to retrieve a new board, and then paddled back out and advanced through the heat.
"I had so much adrenaline after eating it on that wave, I wasn't really paying attention," McNamara said of his injuries. "I just wanted to get back out there and get a wave."
What's more, he will finish with a better showing than his father, veteran Pipeline surfer Liam McNamara. Liam was eliminated in the second round (in a different heat from Landon).
"He taught me everything I know out there," Landon said.
The Volcom Pipeline Pro offers a $120,000 prize purse, including $16,000 for first place.
However, it is crucial for the Hawai'i surfers for several other reasons. For one, it offers points on the World Qualifying Series, which helps surfers get to the elite ASP World Tour.
Second, the top Hawai'i surfers from this contest will earn wildcard spots into the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters in December.
"For a lot of us, that's our dream," said the Big Island's Jonah Morgan, who advanced through two heats yesterday.
Other Hawai'i surfers advancing to the third round were Solomon Ortiz, Ian Walsh, Albee Layer, Marcus Hickman, Kawai Lindo, Kevin Sullivan, Clay Marzo, David Wassell, Sean Moody, Myles Padaca and Makuakai Rothman.
The top-seeded surfers received byes yesterday, including Andy Irons, Bruce Irons, Sunny Garcia, Fred Patacchia Jr. and Pancho Sullivan. They will begin surfing in the third round.
The contest requires two more days of competition to determine a champion. For updates, visit www.volcompipelinepro.com.