By Lincoln Feast
(Reuters) – Californian teenage sensation Caitlin Simmers and local Hawaiian Barron Mamiya won the Lexus Pipeline Pro in perfect pumping waves on Saturday, kicking off surfing’s 2024 world championship tour in spectacular fashion.
Pipeline has only been a regular stop on the women’s world tour for three years and the standard of surfing has sky-rocketed at the sport’s most challenging and dangerous wave.
Reigning world champion Caroline Marks and Australian Molly Picklum, both 21, charged their way into deep tubes and high scores in classic double-overhead barrels on Oahu’s North Shore.
Picklum scored some of the heaviest and best waves of the day, including a perfect 10 to beat gutsy local teenager Betty Lou Sakura Johnson in a humdinger of a semi-final, and she started the final with a 9.27 for another long tube.
But it was the 18-year-old Simmers who caught some bombs of her own and kept her nerve to hold on for a narrow win 12.66 points to 10.64.
“This wave is terrifying. I respect everyone who wants a part of it – and everyone who doesn’t want a part of it, because it’s friggin’ freaky,” Simmers said after her win.
Mamiya, 24, was flawless in his semi-final against Connor O’Leary, now surfing for Japan. The Hawaiian racked up a handful of excellent waves without a fall and finished with a combined two wave total of 18.84 points out of a possible 20.
He took the lead in the final against fellow Pipeline local John John Florence with a perfect 10 for a deep backside tube that finally spat him into the channel.
“Oh my god dude, I can’t believe it! That 10, I literally couldn’t believe I made it. I was in the barrel and I just couldn’t believe I came out. I’m like, baffled.”
Reigning back-to-back world champion Filipe Toledo dipped out in the first day of competition. The Brazilian, who has been criticised by some fans for his lack of enthusiasm for heavy, barrelling surf, barely caught a wave in losing his opening round heat and pulled out of the event soon after, citing illness.
The impressive performances confirm Simmers and Florence as strong Team USA medal hopes for the Paris 2024 Olympics, being held in the similarly powerful reefbreak waves of Teahupo’o in Tahiti.
(Reporting by Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Sonali Paul)
Brought to you by www.srnnews.com