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Mixed Fortunes for World Title Contenders at Billabong Pipe Masters

December 11th, 2015
C.J. Hobgood (USA), 2001 WSL Champion, posts a Perfect 10 during Round 1 of the Billabong Pipe Masters, his final event on tour. Image: WSL / Kirstin

C.J. Hobgood (USA), 2001 WSL Champion, posts a Perfect 10 during Round 1 of the Billabong Pipe Masters, his final event on tour. Image: WSL / Kirstin

– Fanning and Medina Post Wins : Toledo, De Souza & Wilson Falter
– Hobgood Posts Perfect 10 at Final Career Event
– Owen Wright Withdraws : Jordy Smith Returns

BANZAI PIPELINE, Oahu/Hawaii (Thursday, December 10, 2015) – The final stop of the Samsung Galaxy WSL Men’s Championship Tour and Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the Billabong Pipe Masters In Memory of Andy Irons, completed the opening round of competition on Thursday in shifting 2.5-3m (eight-to-ten foot) waves at Banzai Pipeline.

With strong trade-winds consistent throughout the day and a predominant North swell on offer, Round 1 had moments of brilliance amidst unruly rip currents sweeping the lineup as the world’s best tackled the world’s most notorious wave.

C.J. Hobgood (USA), the 2001 World Champion who announced 2015 earlier this year that 2015 would be his retirement season, entered the final event of his pro career here at Pipeline. The Floridian came out swinging against Taj Burrow (AUS) and 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA), who between them boast 57 years of experience at the highest level of pro surfing. Hobgood opened his account with a Perfect 10 point ride, finding a near-impossible exit that had the crowd on their feet en route to earning the highest heat total of 14.97.

“Before the heat started I told Kelly it’s been a privilege to grow up in the generation I did – I’ve been surfing against the best surfer my entire life and I know when I’m old I’ll appreciate that,” Hobgood said. “Taj thought he sold me on a crappy wave and Kelly was thinking it didn’t even look that good – and it didn’t look that great to me either, I swear it was just a God thing. Even at the end I just thought it was going to knock me off but it just stayed solid the whole time. It was just an out of body experience.”

Following Owen Wright’s (AUS) withdrawal from competition due to concussion suffered in a free-surf session on Wednesday, the 2015 World Title is now down to five contenders at Pipeline. Leading the charge is Mick Fanning (AUS) who weathered the challenge of 2001 Pipe Master Bruce Irons (HAW) and Sebastian Zietz (HAW) with a 9.43 that earned the Jeep Rankings’ Leader a Round 1 victory.

“I was pretty nervous coming up against Bruce and Seabass, they’re some of the best surfers in the world – especially here at Pipeline and I just love both of them,” Fanning said. “We started off so quick and the nerves didn’t really set in once we were in the water but I was stoked to get two quick ones. The next twenty minutes was pretty nerve-racking just because Bruce is capable of anything.

Current World No.4 Gabriel Medina (BRA) increased his odds of earning back-to-back World Titles with a Round 1 victory over Keanu Asing (HAW) and Wade Carmichael (AUS). The 21 year-old reigning world champion looked in-form and poses a serious threat to the Title race with a carefree approach, knowing his chances are narrow.

“It was actually really hard to find the good ones and the wind is pretty tricky toward the middle of the heat so I thought the waves were going to get worse,” Medina said. “But I feel fine getting that 7 which was pretty good and I’m stoked to get through. I’m in a different position than last year but I’ve got some good boards and not worried about the guys fighting for the Title or the Title – I just want to do well and if it happens it will happen. I don’t want to put pressure on myself, just go out and surf.”

While Fanning and Medina are safely through to Round 3, World No.2 Filipe Toledo (BRA), No.3 Adriano De Souza (BRA) and No.7 Julian Wilson (AUS) all face elimination in Round 2 against formidable opponents. De Souza will face the Pipe Invitational Winner Jack Robinson (AUS) in Heat 3 and Wilson has to battle current Vans Triple Crown of Surfing ratings leader Carmichael in Heat 5.

South Africa’s Jordy Smith returned to competition after a five-event injury enforced layoff. Contesting his first heat since the J-Bay Open in July, Smith caught a couple of solid waves but finished runner-up behind 2010 Pipe Masters winner Jeremy Flores (FRA) and faces dangerous rookie Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) in R2.

Organisers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7:00am to reassess conditions. Up first, Toledo will be pitted against former Pipe Master Bruce Irons (HAW) in Heat 1, Round 2 when competition commences.

Surfline, Official Forecasters for the World Surf League, are calling for:

The surf fades through Friday as trades also ease. Small NW swell prevails over the weekend, with much lighter wind. Confidence is increasing that a strong NW swell will build in through the middle part of next week as trades also rebuild.

The Billabong Pipe Masters will be webcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com and on the WSL app starting from 7.30 pm South African time daily.

Heat 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.26, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.33, Glenn Hall (IRL) 1.70
Heat 2: Mason Ho (HAW) 6.17, Jadson Andre (BRA) 5.70, Dusty Payne (HAW) 1.70
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.60, Keanu Asing (HAW) 7.84, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 3.73
Heat 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.33, Adriano De Souza (BRA) 7.23, Jack Robinson (AUS) 5.06
Heat 5: Jamie O’Brien (HAW) 8.06, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 7.84, Kolohe Andino (USA) 6.50
Heat 6: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.60, Bruce Irons (HAW) 14.33, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 4.37
Heat 7: Kai Otton (AUS) 12.40, Julian Wilson (AUS) 3.84, Ricardo Christie (NZL) 3.10
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.27, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.17, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 3.94
Heat 9: CJ Hobgood (USA) 14.97, Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.26, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.80
Heat 10: John John Florence (HAW) 13.33, Nat Young (USA) 6.67, Brett Simpson (USA) 1.50
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 2.84, Adam Melling (AUS) 1.14, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 1.10
Heat 12: Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.06, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.17, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 3.44

Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Bruce Irons (HAW)
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 3: Adriano De Souza (BRA) vs. Jack Robinson (AUS)
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 5: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 8: Jadson Andre (BRA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 9: Nat Young (USA) vs. Glenn Hall (IRL)
Heat 10: Keanu Asing (HAW) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 12: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)


NOTE: High resolution images are available to Media Outlets on request

About the World Surf League
The mission of the WSL is simple: to inspire positive change for surfing, our fans and the environment. Formerly the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), the WSL has been championing the world’s best surfing since 1976, running global products across the Samsung Galaxy men’s and women’s Championship Tours, Big Wave Tour, Qualifying Series, Junior and Longboard Championships, as well as the WSL Big Wave Awards. The League possesses a deep appreciation for the sport’s rich heritage while promoting progression, innovation and performance at the highest levels; it strives to put the world’s best surfers on the world’s best waves.

Showcasing the world’s best surfing on its digital platform at WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL has energized an already-passionate global fan base with millions around the world tuning-in to see the likes of Kelly Slater, Filipe Toledo, Gabriel Medina, Makua Rothman, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Greg Long, Stephanie Gilmore, John John Florence, Carissa Moore and others do battle in the most dynamic field of play in all of sports. For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.

Issued on behalf of:

WSL Africa
Contact: Colin Fitch – Operations Manager
Tel: 021 534 5738
Email: cfitch@worldsurfleague.com

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