Carissa claims wave of the day but Wright makes the right moves at the right time.
The promise of seeing the world’s best women at Pipe was an exhilarating prospect. Who didn’t want to watch Carissa Moore or Tyler Wright standing tall through a hissing Pipe cavern?
Outside of a contest, overcoming the crowd at Pipe is a serious challenge. We heard a zoomed-in Keala Kennelly explain that she earned her Pipe stripes after years of being burned by the guys in the testosterone-fuelled lineup. Yet this rescheduled contest was a chance to ride the most famous hollow wave in the world minus the crowds. The women desperately wanted their moment on the Pipe stage.
When Sage Erikson and Tatiana Weston-Webb hit the lineup Pipe was shifty and wind-ruffled with four to eight-foot peaks – in some ways, it’s more dangerous at that size (as Italo Ferreira found out) as it focuses the energy on the ultra-shallow inside of the reef.
After the heavily touted Tatiana slashed past Sage, Tyler Wright put her stamp on the first semi, sliding purposefully into a Backdoor right and backing it up with a committed grab-rail cutty for a 6.67. Sally Fitzgibbons was valiant in defeat, hucking over the ledge on waves that jacked with frightening speed. The learning curve was always going to be steep. Sal had never surfed Pipe before the location shift was announced. She has always had courage in spades, but the Pipe barrel is a riddle that only gets easier to understand with time in the lineup.
Carissa Moore’s semi-final, free-fall to stand tall at Backdoor for a 9.6 was a glorious moment in pro surfing. As she emerged from the tube in a hail of spray, Moore truly claimed ownership of the Pipe lineup. The wave was, unsurprisingly, an automatic Instagram sensation. Expect to see it a few thousand times more in the WSL promo clips.
By the time Tyler and Carissa paddled out for the final they looked considerably more comfortable at Pipe. There was no hesitation as they both free fell into pits early in the heat. Unfortunately, the waves lulled out a little for the final, or we might have witnessed a full-blown tube duel.
Instead, with twenty to go, both Tyler and Carissa had heat totals below two points. The only real advantage was Carissa’s priority, however Tyler cancelled that out with a smart, tactical switch to turns. The judges rewarded her with a 5.17 for a pair of well-timed snaps on a Backdoor insider. Carissa then made an uncharacteristic error by failing to catch a wave and handing Tyler priority with eleven minutes on the clock. Then, as rain fell heavily and turned screens into a kind of surfing Monet, Tyler made the same mistake with two minutes to go, handing priority back to Carissa. Moore pounced claiming a 5.4. and a fleeting lead with a neat, backside barrel to turn combo. Then, in a frantic finish, Tyler did enough on an open face wall at Backdoor to secure a 3.17 and the win.
Tyler Wright, who some say is in the best form of her life, was officially the Maui Pro Champion but to fans she was also the first Women’s Pipe Masters champion. Whatever it says, it’s the sort of trophy you’d expect to take pride of place alongside her two world titles.
“… We got this opportunity through tragedy. It was devastating what happened in Maui,” stated Tyler before paying homage to the WSL for pulling off the event in the wake of a shark attack and a COVID break-out.
“I do want to say thankyou to the WSL for showing true leadership through this last couple of weeks.”
It will be interesting to see if the WSL consider taking the women back to Pipe. It’s a decision that will likely be debated amongst the women surfers. The power of Pipe may be preferred to Honolua Bay if the fatal shark attack still haunts the lineup come next year. “The more time we get out there, the more opportunities we get the better... it’s definitely back on the table,” insisted Tyler in relation to questions about surfing at Pipe in the future.
Whether the women return to Pipe or not, it was an exciting episode in Pro Surfing. The surfers who took part will not be forgetting their heats at Pipe in a hurry.
Like the men, the women shift to Sunset for the next event. The fixture is heavily anticipated and many fans can’t wait to see the women wax up their guns and take on the colossal, shifting peaks of Sunset beach. No doubt many of the women will be doing their time in the lineup at Sunset over Christmas. The inside at Sunset boasts a thick, right barrel. Who knows, now that the gate has opened, a few of the women might even sneak down to ‘The Banzai Pipeline for a little barrel training.’