It was a pivotal day at the Billabong Pipe Masters In Memory of Andy Irons, the final stop of the Samsung Galaxy WSL Men's Championship Tour and the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Here's what you need to know.
The World Title race narrowed by two in Round 3, leaving Gabriel Medina (BRA), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Mick Fanning (AUS) in a sprint for the finish. Fanning's victory over Pipe specialist Jamie O'Brien (HAW) knocked Julian Wilson (AUS) out of contention -- Wilson was also eliminated from the Pipe Masters in a close heat with Adam Melling (AUS) in Round 3 -- while Filipe Toledo (BRA) had a shocker against wildcard Mason Ho (HAW). After trading tube rides, Ho's local knowledge saw him through, ending Toledo's incredible season that included three CT victories .
Ho had a monster day at Pipe. Competing as an injury replacement for Owen Wright (AUS), Ho not only eliminated Toledo but scored a 10-point ride in Round 4 to advance into the event's Quarterfinals.
John John Florence (HAW) opened his run by delivering two near-perfect rides in his Round 3 heat. Both rides featured dramatic drops, grabbed rails, thick curtains and incredible exits. In typical John John fashion, the Hawaiian phenom stood tall, emerging on his backhand.
Round 4 supplied fans with a superheat for the ages, with conditions cleaning up just in time for Fanning, Florence and Kelly Slater to hit the water. A steady influx of tremendous sets made for some of the biggest barrels of the day as each competitor found scores in the excellent range (8.00 or above). Ultimately, the World No. 1 prevailed compliments of a 9.30 as he glided effortlessly through a double-overhead, perfect Pipe barrel.
As a result, Florence and Slater were relegated to Round 5.
Slater survived his match against Keanu Asing (HAW), setting up a Quarterfinal rematch with Fanning. But Florence's luck ran out during his Round 5 battle with the a reflective C.J. Hobgood (USA), who's looking to retire on a high note after this contest. It's another tough loss for Florence, who's always considered a favorite at Pipeline, yet there remains an empty spot on his mantle that's waiting for a Billabong Pipe Masters In Memory of Andy Irons trophy.
- Keanu Asing (HAW), who will be competing in Round 5, requalified for the 2016 Championship Tour after his advance out of Round 3 and the elimination of Michel Bourez (PYF) in the same round.
- Bede Durbidge (AUS) suffered an injury after being flipped head over heels and landing on the reef. Get Strider's update here.
- After his Round 3 loss to De Souza, Glenn Hall (IRL) announced his retirement. Watch his post-heat interview here.
Tune in for more Billabong Pipe Masters action starting at 7:30 a.m. local time Thursday, live on the WSL website and app.