The 2019 Pipe Masters just keeps looking better and better. Not only will it decide a full-blown brawl of a title race, not only will it kick some arses off tour and save others, it will also likely decide the second provisional USA qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics.

And do you know who the two main horses in that race are?

Slater and John John. The king and the prince.

See, with the top 10 male surfers from the 2019 CT rankings set to fill half of the 20-man field in Tokyo, and with just two surfers allowed to qualify from each nation, and with Kolohe having already sewed up the first spot for Team USA, and with John John currently sitting at 8th on the rankings with a total of 33,220 points and Kelly sitting at 10th with 30,090 points, well, this shit just got real interesting.

Never mind that 12th-placed Seth Moniz could have an absolute blinder on his home turf and jump them both, let’s focus on John John and Kelly.

Basically, the situation is thus.

If John John doesn’t surf at Pipe, Slater needs to post at least a 9th there to clinch qualification from him. Considering he’s been bagging ninths all year (or at least five of them) and is a bonafide weapon at The Banzai, it certainly seems like a feat within his reach.

However, evidence abounds that John John is coming back for Pipe. He said he would earlier in the year and all but confirmed it on Instagram last week. The knee is feeling great apparently. Considering what happened in Brazil this year I’m not confident in the knee until he says it’s feeling like it could survive a land mine, but whatever, he’s coming back for Pipe. A Kelly and John John showdown looms. Shit gonna get real!

How real? Well, even if John John bombs out straightaway, that 9th Kelly needs is going to become a 5th. Which is a tall order. If John John doesn’t bomb early it only gets harder from there.

But it’s Kelly we’re talking about here. 

Then again, it’s John we’re talking about too.

Either way, Pipe is going to be a doozy.