Virtually every serious surfer out there, and especially every professional surfer, knows very well that Banzai Pipeline on Oahu is one of the most impressive and classic surf spots on the planet. Located near Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, Banzai Pipeline is not only among the most visually amazing wave breaks in the world, but it is also one of the most dangerous breaks in the world too. Understanding the dynamic forces and characteristics of the Banzai Pipeline break structure is really important in terms of having a clear perception of what surfers are dealing with when they paddle out at Pipeline.
Unlike many big wave surfing spots that tend to break out over relatively open water, Banzai Pipeline is such that it actually breaks over a shallow reef in a formation that is known as shore break. Shore breaking waves are always quite serious from a safety perspective, since this type of wave has the tendency to smash riders down onto the sand with incredible force and power. This type of wave is perhaps most well known for its ability to cause head, neck, and back injuries since it often causes surfers to go “over the falls”, which is suggestive of a scenario when a person is carried over the brink of the breaking wave with the water.
When this happens, the entire inertial mass of the wave smashes down upon the surfer, exerting an intense force on their body which can cause serious problems. Most of the surfing injuries in the world actually happen because of, or in conjunction with the force of a shore break wave landing on a rider. In this way, shore break wave dynamics are already formidable in their nature, but when it comes to Banzai Pipeline it is even more extreme than simple shore break for a couple of reasons. One of those reasons, and perhaps the more obvious reason, is the size and scale of the winter season breaks at Pipeline. The second main reason is such that Banzai Pipeline is situated atop sharp, hard, jagged reef formations that will absolutely shred a surfer to pieces should they have the misfortune of being slammed down by one of these behemoth wave breaks.
In this light, it is quite clear that Banzai Pipeline is among the most extreme spots on the planet, but it is also quite forgiving if only in the sense that the waves there are often fairly predictable, with clean and smooth barrel breaks that are rarely mushy, messy, or hard to read. Because of the extreme nature of Banzai Pipeline, along with its storied and famous history in the world of surfing, the Pipe Masters competition is one of the most exciting and anticipated annual events in the World Surf League lineup. For the benefit of surfing fans all over the planet, a summary of the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters competition along with final results will now be included below.
The quarterfinals usually represent the point at which major World Surf League contests really start to heat up and get exciting, and the quarterfinals of the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters definitely stayed true to that trend. Beginning in Heat 1, Quarterfinals, we saw a solid matchup between K. Andino and J. Flores and while there was a significant margin between the respective scores of these two athletes, it definitely was not an extreme disparity. K. Andino managed to take the first place spot in Heat 1, Quarterfinals by earning a scoring value of 14.87 points. This was compared to J. Flores second place heat ranking, with Flores bringing in a scoring level of 12.67 points overall. With just over two points separating them, K. Andino and J. Flores both competed fairly well, giving solid performances but they did not exactly blow the judges away by any means. With that being said, they did collectively bring in a fairly high average wave score at 6.89 points on average.
Moving over to the second heat within the quarterfinals, we got to see one of the highest surfer scores of the whole round, which was earned by M. Bourez. The matchup presented in the second heat was between J. Florence and M. Bourez, and unfortunately for Florence he simply was not on his game to the point that he would be able to present a real challenge to M. Bourez in the quarterfinals. M. Bourez was able to pull off the impressive scoring total of 17.20 points in Heat 2, Quarterfinals, and everything was clicking for Bourez from his drop-ins to his barreling accuracy and duration, he was on point in the quarterfinals. Trailing back about three points behind at 14.00 points was J. Florence, who simply was not able to put enough meat on the bones of his multiple wave scores to rival Bourez’s scoring position. The average wave score for the second quarterfinal heat ended up at 7.80 points, a high average, though surprisingly it was not the highest average in the entire quarterfinals.
Heading into Heat 3, Quarterfinals, the matchup was set between one of surfing’s living legends, Kelly Slater, and professional surfer J. Kerr. K. Slater has been having some hiccups lately in his competitive performances, and unfortunately for him those hiccups continued into the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters competition at Banzai Pipeline. With surprisingly low scoring levels for both of these competitors, K. Slater was able to take the first place slot in Heat 3, Quarterfinals with a total of 11.50 points overall. While not the worst score ever by any means, 11.50 points is definitely below Slater’s ability and is not an accurate reflection of his insane abilities as a professional surfer. Coming in second within the third quarterfinal heat was J. Kerr, who brought in a 10.24 point score leaving barely more than one point separating the two competitors. Both surfers were solid on their drops, but simply looked a bit unimpressive to the judges, with Slater almost looking a bit lazy on the wave leading some to wonder if his interest in competitive professional surfing might be waning a bit. Together Slater and Kerr brought in the lowest average wave score of any heat in the quarterfinals, with their heat average set at 5.44 points.
Heat 4, Quarterfinals saw some of the most intense action of that round within the overall progression of the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters contest. The fourth quarterfinal heat presented a matchup between K. Igarashi and J. Smith, with K. Igarashi bringing in the highest overall scoring total of the quarterfinals and some of the most impressive surfing of the whole Pipe Masters event. K. Igarashi brought in the first place slot in Heat 4, Quarterfinals with a tremendous scoring total of 18.03 points. Anything above 18.00 points in a competition as important and prestigious as the Pipe Masters event is, has got to feel really good as a professional surfer.
Heading into the semifinals after all the cuts of the quarterfinals, surfers M. Bourez, K. Andino, K. Igarashi, and K. Slater all managed to make the cut and went on to compete further. Starting out with coverage of Heat 1, Semifinals, we witnessed a matchup between M. Bourez and K. Andino with M. Bourez charging hard right out of the gate. For his Wave 1 scoring, M. Bourez earned a high 8.57 point score compared to K. Andino’s rather lackluster 5.33 point score. This put M. Bourez in a great position to win the heat, giving him an early lead of roughly three points over his competitor, K. Andino.
That early lead would end up proving to be absolutely critical for M. Bourez, since he was only able to bring in a 6.80 point score for his Wave 2 performance but still won the heat due to the early lead he established. K. Andino did very well in his Wave 2 performance, brining in an 8.60 points score that was the highest wave score of the entire Heat 1, Semifinals proceedings. M. Bourez finished out the heat in first place with a comprehensive scoring total of 15.37 points, with K. Andino trailing not far behind in second place with a 13.93 point total overall. The average wave score in Heat 1, Semifinals came out to be 7.33 points in total.
Heat 2, Semifinals would turn out to be one of the most closely competitive and contested heats of the entire 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters event. The matchup in the second semifinals heat was K. Igarashi versus K. Slater, and after the first round of wave scoring we saw K. Slater in the lead with a Wave 1 score of 8.10 points compared to K. Igarashi’s Wave 1 score of 6.67 points overall. This early lead by Slater would not hold however, given that the Wave 2 scoring panned out with K. Igarashi bringing in a phenomenal 8.83 point performance, compared to K. Slater’s 6.90 Wave 2 score.
When it was all said and done, the final scores were tallied up for Heat 2, Semifinals with K. Igarashi the first place finisher in that heat by the slim margin of only half a point. K. Igarashi finished out with 15.50 points in total, compared to K. Slater’s 15.00 points score, making this one of the closest calls of the whole event. The average wave score in Heat 2, Semifinals came out to be 7.63 points which was the highest average in the semifinals.
The final round of the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters competition was somewhat strange compared to the characteristics of most World Surf League contest final rounds, in the sense that it was remarkably low scoring with both competitors making a lot of mistakes. Perhaps it was the pressure and high stakes of competing in the final round of the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters, but whatever it was, these two professional surfers were not on their game in the finals. Michel Bourez was facing off against Kanoa Igarashi in the final round, and they got off to a slow start with Wave 1 scoring coming in at 5.00 points for Bourez and 4.17 points for Igarashi.
When it came time for Wave 2 scoring to come in, the results were pretty ugly to say the least. With some bails and incomplete runs factored in, Bourez came in with a poor 2.53 point Wave 2 score, and Igarashi managed to earn to very low 2.00 point Wave 2 score. Not exactly a shining moment or high point for either of these professionals, the finals finished out with Michel Bourez bringing home the first place title at the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters event with a final score of 7.53 points overall. This was compared to Kanoa Igarashi’s also low final score, which ended up at 6.17 points overall. The average wave score in the finals was 3.43, indicative of the relatively poor surfing that came out of the finals. Admittedly it was a fairly disappointing finish for such an awesome competition, but in any event Michel Bourez still deserves to be celebrated for winning the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters competition.