“If I can go out and win the event then that’s all I want do. If I had the chance to throw a heat for John John or something, I wouldn’t do it.” Hawaiian competitor, Dusty Payne, had just won the Billabong Pipe Trials. Although it’s not confirmed, based on seeding, he should meet number two on the Jeep leaderboard, Gabriel Medina, and Miguel Pupo in the first round of the main event. Dusty, a former WCT member who is on the come-back trail after back surgery, was adamant that other people’s world title aspirations weren’t factoring into his preparation. “I want to win the Pipe masters more than anything. It’s the one event since I was a kid that I really wanted to win. I’ve got the opportunity to do that, but it’s a long way to go to get there.”

While Dusty may be focused on his own destiny, it’s impossible to deny that his presence throws a delightful variable into the world title equation. With no thoughts of WCT points or requalification scenarios to burden him, Dusty can zone in on the singular ambition of doing well in the contest. It’s a liberating mindset to be in when many of those around him have other agendas to consider. Medina might tell you that he isn’t giving much thought to his opposition, but he’s no doubt very aware that in Dusty he has drawn a CT calibre surfer with plenty of Pipe credibility.

While Medina will be supported by a football stadium of screaming Brazilian fans, Dusty will come equipped with his own heavy-duty cheer squad. Spread over three tiers in their Pipe castle, the occupants of the Volcom House definitely make their presence felt at Pipe. Dusty is their boy and expect the support to be vocal. The shouting competition between Team Volcom and the Brazilian barmy army is likely to be almost as fun as the surfing.

The tower of Volcom will be backing Dusty all the way.

The other trialist progressing through to the main event, Benji Brand, is an unassuming goofy footer who resides in Hawaii, but is originally from Sth Africa. He was lethal on his frontside in the trials and almost equally as formidable at Backdoor. The current Hawaiian regional champion boasts plenty of form going into the event and has the air of a reserved, giant killer. Like Dusty, Brand initially suggested he was self-focused. “It’s just you vs the waves out there. I’m not really thinking about those guys.” He later admitted that John John was his friend and he’d like to see him win the world title, but he seems unlikely to hold back when he paddles out against John in round one.

The unassuming but lethal, Benji Brand.

While the Hawaiians triumphed, it was a disappointing day for Australian fans, most of whom had their hopes set on seeing Jack Robinson qualify for the main event. While dominant for much of the day, Jack was totally out of rhythm in the final.

With the swell dropping it’s difficult to say whether the main-event will kick off tomorrow. Meanwhile Sunday (Monday in Aus) shows a marked spike in swell.    

We can only hope it will be what the Hawaiian beach commentator, Rocky, called in his grand fabulous tone a ‘shakadelic’ showdown, when the main event kicks off.