In surprise fashion, the Pipe Masters Invitational was claimed not by a Florence brother, nor a Mr. JOB, but rather by young local-boy Finn McGill, checking in at only a mere 16 years young and followed up by the unranked yet always dangerous 40 year old Gavin Beschen. But we’ll get to that later, the obvious elephant in the room being the underwhelming swell in which the Trials were run, but we’re somewhat used to that. It’s well known that if the swell is scheduled to show up at Pipe (like it is late-week this week so stay tuned), the contest aspires to be as close to Finals Day as possible by the time it does fill in, and sometimes that means running in less-than-ideal conditions to set the stage for the Big Dogs in the later rounds.
It’s safe to say that one Bruce Irons was given the wildcard into the Pipe Masters Main Event, there were two favorites that stood out above the rest of the remaining 32-man Field; kid-phenom Jack Robinson and the main man himself, Jamie O’Brien. Simple enough to choose those two for high-end favorites since they ended up being the two who moved out of the Invitational just last year, but aside from that these two have been some of the the most consistently radical guys on the North Shore in recent years. I’m glad I’m not a betting man, as it was certainly a surprise to see the two of them get knocked out relatively early on; JOB making it only as far as the Quarters (behind Finn McGill who took only 1 wave but made it count with a 6.33) and Jack Robinson going down in the Semis to a smooth as ever in-form Gavin Beschen.
Semifinal Number 2 put up two of the best single-rides we saw all contest, as Josh Moniz threw down a 9.07 which was bested only by the buzzer-beater 9.50 put up by Finn McGill in the closing minute of the heat. On the short end of that buzzer beater was Nathan Florence and him losing out in the Semis was equally surprising, as the big wave charger is always hungry for a chance to surf against his brother but was denied the chance by the youngster’s last minute bomb.
The final however saw Finn stand out clearly above the rest to take down the Win and earn himself a wildcard spot into the Main Event followed in second place by Beschen. The two didn’t fair so well in Round 1 of the Main Event, drawing an in-form Jordy Smith and John John Florence respectively so they’ll be forced to give it all they’ve got in Round 2. Gavin Beschen will surf the first heat of Round 2 against Kolohe who looks poised to strike this year, and Finn will take on Joel Parkinson in heat 3 (good luck kid). In all fairness, it may matter little who makes it out of Round 2 as John John is the CLEAR favorite following that Round 1 Performance and fresh off his World Title Victory.