John John loves Pipeline when it’s big and gnarly. When there are waves out there that can kill a man, when waves hold-hold-hold as they pass over second reef before crashing down with deathly force onto the inside killing floors. He loves a bit of excitement like that. It’s the same sort of conditions that gets JOB revved, but it’s the very conditions that get most other surfers on the Championship Tour except for a few experienced elders, shitting in their custom-made and colourful sponsored boardshorts. It’s the sort of situation that gets everyone nervous, and sitting on the edges of their seats as they peer at the webcast in the middle of the night, because Hawaii is the least friendly time zone for any one that isn’t ruled by Donald Trump.

This year, however, it’s not going to happen. John John is not going to show his prowess when it gets too big and too heavy, and we are not going to see the best twelve-foot barrels of the year and some sickening wipe-outs. No, we’re going to see a few Twirly-Whirly’s, some float-the-boats, maybe an alley-oop or two, and if we’re lucky we might see a Toledo flip or a Kerr-upt or two, but that’s about it.

Still, even though the forecast is rank, it is John John’s back yard so he still has the edge, very much, over the other three surfers in the run. In fact, by the time you read this Julian and Gabby could be out of the game and heading for Honolulu, with enough time ahead on a plane to figure out what just happened.

When it comes down to changing conditions and air maneuvers, all four of the final surfers in the world title pursuit have got game.

John John’s prowess needs no more magnification, but Gabriel Medina is one of the best aerial surfers in the whole world on any given day. He can drop single move 9-pointers at the drop of a hat, and has pulled many last minute tricks out the bag for sudden heat advancements. Even at places like JBay and Teahupo’o he has been known to get ridiculous hang time for the win.

If Jordy gets on a roll with his air game, there will be no stopping him and he will win the event outright. It’s probably not going to happen, because Jordy is Jordy and his game is about doing crazy things and winning heats by such massive margins, and then losing rhythm and getting beaten by lesser surfers. If he does find rhythm however, like he did at Bells, he could be launching huge punts over the Backdoor section for heat wins, quarters and semis wins and then more. Watch out for the big lad.

Julian is another who has all the moves when it comes to turns that aren’t barrels or cutbacks. He has a surprisingly fresh arsenal, and he has won heats and events with new school futuristic surfing that belies his long years experience on the CT. To take his air game and to smash some heats he is going to need to find a bunch of aggression somehow, so maybe his brother Bart will need to slap him around a bit or make some joke about a puka necklace to get him riled up and ready to crush some opponents out of the event.

It is Pipeline and nothing changes the fact that there will be a Pipeline Master after the mayhem, a recalibration of the Jeep Leaderboard, and there will be a deserving world champion, whoever it might be.

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