The Pipeline Pro Lives On: Our Fab Five List

There was a swarm of confusion coming into the 2014 Pipeline Pro. One day the comp was completely off, the next day it was deemed back on. Were they holding trials? Would there be a webcast? Who were the sponsors? And who is the APB and would the Pipe contest serve as part of a larger world tour?

With the woeful demise of the IBA at the end of last season, we saw the pendulum swing back from some of the sports’ highest highs over the last few seasons to a catastrophic collapse that left us wondering who would pick up the pieces. In an age of social media where people need instant answers, the lack of transparency and conflicting streams of information were frustrating for the core fan base to say the least.

With this as a backdrop, the APB seemed to be cobbled together at the last minute to ensure some sort of contest at the Banzai. With little information known about this alliance, at least it seems clear that the riders themselves are in charge of their own destiny instead of in the hands of investors. The participation and viewership would suffer for this event, but the grassroots feel and modest swell on tap would give the comp a genuine feel reminiscent of its earlier years.

Although the backing had slipped, it was clear that the level of riding had not suffered at all. Throughout the waiting period there was plenty of progressive surfing in each division that left one hopeful for the sports’ future. After attending the final weekend of the contest we compiled our own list of top performers below. Shout out to all the sponsors and contestants for putting on a good show despite the hardships in getting this event organized last minute.

Tanner McDaniel
We’ve been seeing his antics for some time via podcasts but could it translate to the big stage? Tanner had a big flip on the Mens side that drew plenty of praise, but fell short of advancing in the more subpar conditions of the earlier rounds. But his performance on the Junior’s side during the quality run of waves toward the end of the final day made up for any earlier miscues with an assortment of flips, verts, and barrels that landed him a cakewalk victory. He’s not just a bag of tricks either. With a flowing style Tanner certainly is the future and his semblance to a young version of fellow Kauai native Jeff Hubbard is striking. He definitely has the right mentor in Mike Stewart and a well rooted head on his shoulders so look for plenty more podium finishes from this super-grom in the years to come.

Jared Houston
“Houston we have a problem.” We lost count how many times Happy the Hawaiian announcer (aka Chuckles) made this cheesy comment to the semi-shocked audience at Ehukai Beach Park. More fittingly it was Houston’s heat draw who had the problem. Either way Jared’s back to back heats in the quarters and semis will be one for the history books. The combined 36.57 out of a possible 40 was textbook, but even more impressive were the high 7’s and 8’s he was casually discarding in route to his finals birth. His lefts game has improved and his Backdoor dominance can’t be stressed enough. He looked poised for the win up to the final heat but ran out of steam in the final, landing him a 4th in his 3rd ever Pipeline final. With his first child born recently, the extra coin should help his diaper budget back in Puerto Rico.

Dave Hubbard
Rubba dubb dubb owning the DK club. Dave is still head and shoulders above all when it comes to jackstancing Pipe these days and he took the title with ease. Honestly it would have been a fairly major upset had we seen anything else. Still he did well even by his own high standards with some critical drops and ‘stand up comedians’ in probably the best waves of the comp on Day 3. He suffered a close defeat on the prone side of the draw in a star-studded quarterfinal heat that featured Romero, PLC, and eventual champ BP, so we can’t blame him there. With the formation of Hubboards with his repeat prone champion brother, look for plenty of media following these two this year whether there’s a world tour or not.

Spencer Skipper
When Dubb dubbed him “glutten free Skip” at the onset of the final day we knew something had changed. Channeling a more cut physique and intensive training regimen with a good family support base sitting beachside, Spencer looked rejuvenated. The 9.67 that he posted in Round 5 was the wave of the comp and looked like something you would pull from the Skippy archives of the late 90’s. He would power through Round 6 with clean combos and stylish punts as well. And when he just squeaked through his quarter and semi heats we started to think that maybe it was destined to come to fruition. The long time ripper and style god had made the podium before but had never won the Pipe belt. Would this be it? Unfortunately the guy below got off to a sizzling start at the opening buzzer and Skipper’s late-final Backdoor heroics weren’t quite enough to get the crown he so badly desired. It was only fitting with Skipper’s contest history that he bagged a sure heat winner only seconds after the clock wound down. I have a feeling Spencer will be doing the comp for many years to come, I just hope he still has enough left in the tank to taste the champagne.

Ben Player
Such is the luck of a man making the trek to the North Shore for 20 years in a row before winning his maiden Pipe crown…and then winning another on its heels. BP had quite the fairytale campaign in 2013 winning the IBA title and Riptide’s Bodyboarder of the Year award, and its looking like the momentum will carry into 2014 with this win to kick things off. He torched the others at the onset of the final, snagging a couple nuggets in the first few minutes that would prove to be just enough to carry him to the final horn. He was surfing confident and concise for the entire final day, showcasing his symmetrical abilities and deep maneuver repertoire that continues to churn through heats.

Seeking shade during the Junior Pro final before his final heat, Ben cruised in our tent that Murdock and I had staked up for the final day. He seemed pretty loose jamming to some music and giving praise to young Tanner. He stopped for a minute and said, “I kinda want Skipper to win this thing man, his style’s so sick eh.” After a moments pause he finished his thought “But fuck I wanna win it more.” Classic words from the 3 time champ who, at 35 years old, is still as competitive as ever and seeking crown #4.