As you’re probably well aware, day two of the Volcom Pipe Pro was held today and the waves were absolutely firing. After a number of lay days, viewers and competitors alike were rewarded for their patience with picture perfect six-to-ten foot drainers unloading on the reef. All the action happened in round three, with all the top seeds officially throwing their hats in the ring. With this in mind, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look at some of the contenders.

John John’s obviously the man to beat, having scooped four wins here in the last five years, including what must’ve been a pretty satisfying trouncing of Slater in the final last year. His skill and comfort level at his home break requires little endorsement, and the kid seems to have found a formula for kicking butt in the January edition of the Pipe comp that has otherwise eluded him in December. If he is able to continue his winning streak here, it’ll be interesting to see if he can carry that swagger forward to the Gold Coast and put a title campaign in motion, or if it’s going to be another frustrating year of watching the most hyped surfer in the world under-deliver in the jersey. He did just put together the performance of the contest so far this morning in his round 3 heat, and it was a good reminder of what a freak he can be. But freaks don’t always win world titles, as Adriano proved last season.

Former member of the Volcom royal family, Mr. Bruce Irons, has made it blatantly clear he’s on a mission, and having scraped through three rounds already (including an epic backdoor buzzer beater this morning), let’s hope the comeback continues for him. A win here would complete the fairytale story everyone’s been hoping for this winter, and it’d be a beautiful thing to see the rising sun up on the podium again. But contests can be fickle beasts at the best of times, and Bruce has shown a tendency to be a little slow to get going in recent heats, so if the fairytale doesn’t come true at this particular event I hope he can continue on his new path, because I think we’d all rather watch him surf than fade into obscurity.

Personally, my pick for the contest is young Jack Robinson. He beat Jamie O in the Pipe Masters trials in December (no easy feat), and at seventeen, with the kind of deft and ballsy barrel-riding skills he’s shown himself to possess, seems poised to make the leap from next big thing to legitimate superstar. Or so I’m hoping. A lot has been said about the kid from WA, with some drawing similarities between his tuberiding approach and that of the late great Andy Irons, but in reality there’s still a lot to be seen, at least in terms of video exposure and contest performances across a variety of conditions. My hope is that this is the event that lifts the lid on Jack Robinson for good and turns him into the superstar us Aussies have been waiting for him to become. The display he put on in his round three heat win this morning certainly won’t hurt his cause, either.

Aside from these three hopefuls, there’s a whole league of world class surfers also in the mix, from Pipe specialists both past and present to an assortment of internationals, as well as a bald guy in his forties who’s won more contests than anyone. But regardless of who comes out on top, if today’s conditions are anything to go by, it looks like it’s going to be one hell of an event. The waves are pumping, Sal and Wassell are trading top-notch banter on the mics, and if you didn’t tune in, I’d highly recommend you watch the highlights below.

Mahalo, baby.