For shapers with surfers going for a World Title, the Billabong Pipeline Masters should be one of their career's biggest highlights. A new World Champion getting carried up the beach will have the all-important logo plastered all over the surf world, and sometimes far beyond. 

However, in another quirk of fate, which yet again delivers a planer to the nut of the humble board shaper, Hawaii can also be a double-edged sword. It is the only place on tour where many surfers, even those on big contracts, can ride other shaper’s equipment. Thus Mick Fanning’s biggest triumphs saw him exit the water, not with a gun shaped by his career-long shaper and sponsor Darren Handley, but with instead with a Wade Tokoro. Tom Carroll and Pat Rawson had a similar deal. 

With Tuesday looking like the run day for the Billabong Pipe Masters Gabriel Medina’s long-time shaper, Johnny Cabianca, is in a similar predicament. You’ll remember that Cabianca is the Brazilian who moved to the Spanish Basque Country to surf and shape and found work with the Pukas label. When Gabriel arrived in France for the first time in 2009, Gabriel’s Dad Charlie (and childhood friend of Johnny) ordered boards off Pukas and Cabianca for his 14-year-old son. That was the event where Medina announced himself to the world by winning the King of the Groms Final with a pair of perfect tens. When Cabianca left to shape under his own label Medina, despite many other lucrative offers, stuck with him. It’s been a  ten-year relationship with Cabianca that has helped engineer 13 CT wins and two World Titles. 

Cabianca supplies more than 100 boards a year to Gabriel in what must be one of surfing’s last handshake deals based purely on trust. Gabriel doesn’t ride any other boards apart from Johnny’s, well except in Hawaii. Here Gabriel, with the input of Johnny, has worked with Wade Tokoro to deliver the boards that have helped Medina become one of Pipe’s best ever surfers. Cabianca will feed the legendary Hawaiian Gabe’s top-secret templates and widths and any changes in volume that have occurred since the last Hawaii season. Tokoro then weaves his magic. 

However, Gabriel still gets boards of Cabianca for the Hawaii leg. When we checked in with Johnny a few weeks ago he had just shaped 10 boards to send to Hawaii. They were all the same model, the dFK that Gabriel has won on in Teahupoo. They ranged from 6’0” up to 6’4” and have a bit more rocker, more concave and length than his other model, the Medina, which he uses in beachbreaks. The 6’0’s usually come in 28.3 to 28.6 litres in volume and are 19” x 2 7/16”.

Now if Pipe gets bigger, Medina will usually opt for one of the Tokoro models. Of course these days these the best surfers ride small boards at Pipe and it will come down to the type of swell and how Medina feels about each individual board when he decides what stick to ride. Now Cabianca’s main goal is to get the best possible outcome for Gabriel. However, it sure would be much sweeter for the underground shaper if his rider does clinch the Title and he’s riding just one of the 120 he’s made for him this year.