Nine long days into its 13-day waiting period, the Volcom Pipe Pro finally came alive on Monday, when well-groomed eight- to ten-foot bombs detonated across the reef at Pipeline after one lackadaisical day of competition at Gums last week. And our East Coast warriors represented in the Round of 64, with Evan Geiselman and Damien Hobgood winning their respective heats while Kelly Slater and Brian Toth both advanced to the Round of 32 in 2nd-place. (Read more below the slideshow)
Geiselman was the big story of the day, lodging an event-high 18.53 heat total to hold off frothing grom Parker Coffin and take down defending champ John John Florence. Evan’s first wave of the exchange, a late drop to flawless barrel to foamball ride, came in as the highest score of the entire event, a 9.63. But most impressive, Evan followed up that gem with another kegger less than three minutes later — another steep entry, another beautiful soul arch, and another humble non-claim for an 8.90.
Chalk it up to John John’s lack of comfort with four-man heats, or Geiselman and Coffin chomping at the bit to prove themselves, but whatever it was, it looked damn good — even better considering it came in Evan’s first true heat at Pipe, and on one of his dad Greg’s handshaped Orion Surfboards to boot.
“I definitely can’t believe how that just worked out,” Evan said in his post-heat interview. “I don’t really get too many good waves out there, but that’s why we do this contest. I got the first one and saw that it sparked everyone’s eyes. But the 8.90 was harder to ride for me… probably one of the steepest drops I’ve ever had. But I made it. It worked out. It was just one of those heats where everything went my way.”
What does it say about the state of the East Coast’s ASP presence that we wrote about Evan Geiselman before Kelly Slater, who surfed immediately before Evan but barely advanced? In fact, Kelly didn’t successfully ride out of a single wave in his heat, starting with a 3.17, a 3.43, and a 2.6 for three straight Pipe pinchers. On Kelly’s last wave, however, he pumped into a Backdoor mutant, navigating a rare double barrel before getting slammed onto the reef.
Those two barrels earned him the advancing score, though, a 7.17 that actually tied him with Chris Ward and catapulted him hesitantly into the Round of 32. "When you don't have that priority phase in your heat, you don't have the freedom to take off and line up where you want,” Kelly said. “Some waves maybe you want to ease into, some waves you maybe want to take a deep line across it... there are a lot of variables when there are four guys in the lineup. It's just a different game. It's equally fair, but it's equally tough for everyone."
Damien Hobgood surfed a few heats later in similarly tough conditions. Even though he won (and laid down two beautiful double-arm drag left barrels, including one after a Second Reef roll-in, Damo was hard on himself after the heat, unimpressed by his underwhelming but victorious 9.94 heat total. “It was pretty hard,” Damo said post-heat while keeping his eyes fixed on the ocean. “The waves were weird out there. I had a bad start and was kind of out of rhythm.”
Before Damien could even make his way to the beach for that interview, Brian Toth had lodged a 5.83, stroking into a graceful forehand glide on his very first wave. Toth was safely ensconced behind eventual winner Kaito Ohashi in 2nd-place throughout the 30-minute affair, surprisingly never threatened by North Shore heavy Makua Rothman, who only managed a 2.27 total. But Toth still put an exclamation point on his road to the Round of 32 by sneaking a 6.87 at the end of the heat and earning hearty seals of approval from announcer Alex Gray.
What’s next for our crew whenever competition resumes and the Volcom Pipe Pro finishes up, either Tuesday or Wednesday according to organizers? Kelly Slater will take on Charley Martin, Nate Yeomans, and Krystian Kymerson in Heat 4; Toth and Geiselman will square off against Kaito Kino and Torrey Meister in Heat 5; and Damien Hobgood will face Parker Coffin, Maxime Huscenot, and Kaito Ohashi in Round 6. Fingers crossed that one of those East Coasters ends up on the final podium.