Ward, Florence and O’Brien shine on day 1 of the Pipeline Masters

Chris Ward took advantage of clean eight to 10-foot conditions at Pipeline to top score on Day 1 of the Pipeline Masters. Ward made two critical, late-drop barrels to amass a near perfect heat total of 19.90 out of 20.00 in Round 2.

John Florence.  Copyright: ASP Rowland / Covered Images“It isn’t the biggest day and it isn’t really that scary out there, it’s just pristine and there are pretty good ones out there,” Ward said. “You just have to luck out and get in the right position to get them. I was with both of those waves and those were two of the biggest sets in our heat. I was lucky to get under them and I was really happy.”

Currently rated 24th on the 2008 ASP World Tour, Ward needs to make heats to ensure his spot for next year’s tour. His heat win today will see him into Round 3 where the Top 16 seeded surfers on the ASP World Tour will make their 2008 Billabong Pipeline Masters debuts.

Round 1 and the first half of Round 2 were completed today. The first two rounds of the event featured low to mid range seeded ASP World Tour surfers, wildcards and replacement surfers.

Sixteen-year-old John John Florence (HAW) took full advantage of his last minute berth into the event to flare at his home break and eliminate ASP World Tour surfer Jay Thompson’s (AUS) hopes of requalifying for the 2009 tour. Florence found his way into the main event this morning when replacement surfer Reef Macintosh (HAW) was unable to fill in for injured Top 45 surfer Ben Bourgeios (USA).

"I woke up this morning and they said, 'You might get in,' and I was like, 'Really? Sick!’” Florence said. “I got in in Reef's spot and I am so stoked."

Florence, who has been charging Pipeline since he was 8-years-old, had his first shot at competing in the Pipeline Masters in 2005.  At 13, the North Shore local surfed the trials but did not make it into the main event. He will meet World No. 16 Kieren Perrow (AUS) in Heat 9 of Round 2 which will likely run tomorrow morning at 8.

"I surfed in the Pipeline Masters trials when I was very little but it wasn’t really that good because the waves were really big and weird,” Florence said. “So I am so stoked to be surfing out here when it is so perfect with four other guys out. There were some fun waves out there today."

Jamie O’Brien (HAW), the 2004 Pipeline Masters Champion, beat fellow Hawaiians in both of his heats today – Dustin Barca in Round 1 and Roy Powers in Round 2. O’Brien, like Florence, is in the event as a replacement surfer not as a Pipeline invitee earning a spot via the trials event held last January.

"I didn’t think I was actually in the event all year because I did not do well in the trials last year,” O’Brien said. “So it was kind of good I just found out I was in a couple of days ago so I was not really worried about it and it wasn’t on my mind. It would be a dream come true to win the event for the second time.”

Dusty Payne, who is currently leading the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing ratings, also surfed and won two heats today. Payne took out Tahitian Manoa Drollet in Round 1, Brazil’s Heitor Alves in Round 2 and is now into Round 3 where his Triple Crown Title competitors Bede Durbidge (AUS) and Joel Parkinson (AUS) are seeded.

"I am trying to not think about the Triple Crown,” Payne said. “I’ll just take it one heat at a time and hopefully end up on top with the crown on my head."

As the final competition on the 11-stop 2008 ASP World Tour, the Billabong Pipeline Masters is the last chance surfers have to cement their spot on the 2009 tour. Only 27 of the Top 45 surfers on the ASP World Tour requalify at year’s end with the remaining 18 competitors earning spots via finishing Top 15 on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) or receiving one of three ASP wildcard spots.



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