Big questions in the Pipeline
Ignition point, ground zero, that’s Hawaii’s Banzai Pipeline, the altar of surfing glory.
Eleven-time American world champion Kelly Slater is back to throw down some deep tubes on the world’s most famous wave, after a much-talked-about layoff through injury.
Low talkers are whispering in the dark recesses – he’s too old, can’t cut it, too self-absorbed. But I’m not buying it. Slater’s back to wreck some dreams and lay waste to the world one last time.
His sure-footed composure in the maw of the Pipe beast is beyond compare.
At 45, can he thrill the crowds once again at the deceptively peaceful, palm-lined death zone?
And then the children will play in the ruins of Paradise Lost, next to the crumbling statue of a long-forgotten surfer.
A champion of the mighty ocean.
The same goes for megastar J.J. Florence, also back from a hiatus due to injury.
Questions swirl about him. Has he lost the heart? Will he sail his yacht off into the Hawaiian sunset?
Other demons might lurk in Florence’s mind, but not one of them is how to get tubed at Pipe.
Rare as goat’s teeth and the only big thing he hasn’t won, Pipeline awaits the new heir apparent.
If Steph Gilmore is the smiling assassin, Brazilian Gabriel Medina is the terminator.
Medina is a stone-cold surfing machine and anyone getting in the way of his second world title is going to get roughed up on the way.
Swashbuckling Australian Julian Wilson is fencing around the edges like a wounded bull, but is the gate open wide enough for him to make a last stampede to the title?
Either way, let’s hope big.
Hard to tell which would feel better – Stephanie Gilmore’s seventh world title or this tube.