The day’s final heat carried huge repercussions as 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater took on the World Title hopeful Filipe Toledo at The Billabong Pipe Masters . The Floridian put a first good score on the board with a decent backdoor tube but the excitement reached an all-time high when both surfers started on back-to-back bombs on the 10-minute mark. Slater found the exit for an 8.67 (out of a possible 10) and Toledo looked like he was coming out of a perfect ride until the lip clipped him at the very last second. The result remained unchanged and Slater advanced into Round 4, ending Toledo’s World Title campaign, just shy of the final competition day of the season.
“I shared a little lineup stuff with Filipe,” Slater said. “I wanted to see a good battle come down. And just as a fan, I wanted to see a come from behind victory, at least a good battle in the end. We just had a couple of texts back and forth, you know, I really did want to help him out, but I didn’t I guess. It was fun, there was a lot of action out there. I saw a lot of good waves go unridden, I feel like I got lucky. Filipe didn’t go into a really good backdoor wave, it’s just experience, he didn’t quite see what they were going to do.”
In his sixth season among the world’s best surfers, Toledo put on a great fight and claimed two event wins at the Oi Rio Pro and the Corona Open J-Bay earlier this summer, to arrive in Hawaii tied for second place on the rankings with Wilson. Unfortunately, his run for a maiden World Title came to an abrupt end in Round 3 when he could not defeat Slater.
“I took a really bad wipeout at the end of that wave and everything went black for a few seconds,” Toledo said. “This is surfing, we put in so much work all year long, sometimes going away from the family on a trip to get better in waves like this, so this is hard. But I’m definitely proud of myself. I’ve had an amazing year as a father, as a son, as a professional surfer, it was really amazing. I’m definitely sad right now but at the same time it was an honor to surf perfect, heavy Pipe with Kelly in the water.”
Medina’s World Title hopes were on the line this afternoon in Round 3 when the Brazilian faced lethal replacement surfer Seth Moniz (HAW) in pumping surf. The Hawaiian was first to put a serious number on his scorecard with a good barrel at Backdoor for a 6.33 that pressured Medina to answer. The current Jeep Frontrunner stuck to the lefts and rode a critical tube for a 7.70 to turn the situation but Moniz kept chasing waves and once again jumped in the lead with a 5.50 on his backhand. With six minutes on the clock, the 2014 World Champion dropped into a final Pipe bomb and made it out clean for a 6.60 and the win into Round 4.
“I was really excited to wake up and finally see the waves,” Medina said. “I thought it was going to be bigger but it’s still pretty good. It’s really fun when you find the good ones but it’s challenging out there, it’s not easy. I’m really focused on my next round. It’s going to be a good one and hopefully, I can find more barrels.”
With the dual-heat system in play, Julian Wilson (AUS) entered the water while Medina was still surfing and witnessed his advancing. After a couple of unsuccessful tries, the current No. 2 in the world rode a solid right and laid into a good carve for a 6.00 and the lead over Miguel Pupo (BRA). Pupo answered with a 5.83 for a good left-hand barrel but Wilson kept the lead. In the dying seconds of their matchup, both surfers started on the same wave, splitting the peak, Wilson going right and Pupo on the left. The wave shut down and the situation remained unchanged with Wilson advancing into Round 4 to keep his World Title hopes alive.
“I just took all the experience I have and I let Pipe and Backdoor decide my destiny there,” Wilson said. “I just put myself in position, gave myself chances and never gave up. I feel like my injury and my year is kind of all coming together at the right time and I’m excited to put on a good performance.”
The Men’s World Title Scenarios at the Billabong Pipe Masters:
– If Gabriel Medina finishes 1st or 2nd at the Billabong Pipe Masters, he wins the World Title; – If Gabriel Medina finishes 3rd at the Billabong Pipe Masters, Julian Wilson will need to finish 1st; – If Gabriel Medina finishes 5th-25th, Julian Wilson will need a 2nd or 1st at Pipe.