King Rightly Crowned at Pipe; It's Player's World Tour (1/06)
Rockstar Games Pipeline Pro 2006
by Neal Miyake
It has been a tumultuous few years for bodyboarding. But if this
contest is any indication, then maybe the sport is finally turning the
corner for the better. Great waveriding, high drama, and even a bit of
controversy were all a part of the Rockstar Games Pipeline Pro 2006
presented by Mike Stewart Labs, with cosponsor BodyboardersHawaii.com.
The Pipeline Pro was the final event of the International Bodyboarders
Association (IBA) 2005 professional bodyboarding world tour. As such,
the touring pros hoped to finish the season strong, some with tour
title aspirations. But the rest of the competitors from ten countries
around the globe just looked forward to gathering together as one tribe
and savoring the waves at the infamous Banzai Pipeline (possibly
gaining some recognition along the way).
Overall the surf was pretty solid, even though the event spanned
three-days in a short seven-day waiting period window. The contest
started on January 9th with the trials held in clean 2-4' Hawaiian
scale surf. To the pleasant surprise of all, a swell forecasted for the
midweek came in early and strong. The middle rounds ran on January 11th
in sizable 6-10'+ Haw'n surf with medium trades. The remaining rounds
were held in dwindling, but still highly contestable 4-6' Haw'n surf.
As with most contests at Pipeline, tuberides are the most coveted
maneuver. However, besides barrels the bodyboarders raised the
performance levels even higher with aerials, el rollos, spins and other
gyrations above the lip-line.
Hawaii's brightest hope going into the event was Jeff Hubbard, who was
ranked second in the world tour standings coming into the Hawaii leg of
the tour. Unfortunately, early losses at both the Honolua Bay and
Pipeline contests extinguished any chance of winning the tour this
The contest was also a coming out party for a couple of young
Hawaiians. Big Island's Tucker Bontecou, 14, and Kauai's Travis Smith,
12, went out and charged on the big day two, with Bontecou advancing
one round. The highest placing Hawaiian was Vaj Lederer from the Big
Island. Lederer's heroic riding got him all the way to the semis before
finally succumbing to dwindling waves and intense competition. The
future looks bright indeed for Hawaiian bodyboarders.
As far as other U.S. riders, former pro bodyboarder and videographer
Ross McBride (CA) showed that he still had skills to compete with the
best. Coming from the first round trials, ironman McBride advanced
eight heats, surfing smartly and within his self. Like Lederer, he
finally went down in the semis, the highest placing for a Mainland
Other highlights included Rusty Friesen, who had a magical heat on day
two, riding some of the biggest waves of the contest (scored 17.5 out
of 20.0). Also, three girls entered the event, with women's world
champion Kira Llewellyn actually winning her trials heat before going
down in trials round two.
However, there was no denying the Australians, who continue to dominate
the pro bodyboarding ranks. Their support structure Down Under, coupled
with solid sponsorship opportunities and hard-charging attitudes have
made them the biggest force to be reckoned with on the tour.
Three Aussies powered into the finals-Damian King, Ben Player, and
Ryan Hardy-along with lone Frenchman Cedric Dufaure. King, 27, was
the defending champion (2004, no event in 2005) and reigning tour
champion for the past two years. Player, also 27, had finished
runner-up to the world tour twice and needed a first or second place
finish to secure the tour title. Hardy has been a perennial competitive
champion for many years, and even scored a near perfect 19.5 out of
20.0 in the semis. Dufaure was, until now, a relative unknown outside
his native France.
Although the surf continued declining through the last day, conditions
were still very good. The rights at Backdoor started working and played
heavily in the final results.
The key exchange was at the nine-minute mark of the finals. King split
the peak with Player taking off right at Backdoor. King made a deep
barrel for a 9.0, with Player getting a solid left. Right after that
wave, Hardy and Dufaure split the next wave with Hardy also getting a
wicked tube at Backdoor. The raucous Aussies on the beach were
screaming their heads off during the finals, but especially after those
two Backdoor barrels were made.
Going into the awards ceremony, both the event and tour titles were
still up for grabs, with all four riders performing phenomenally.
Referencing the "Where Did Bodyboarding Go?" article this writer
recently penned, contest announcer Judah Oshner proclaimed, "Someone
said bodyboarding is dead? No way!"
In climactic fashion, it was revealed that Player won both the event
and the tour title. However, a protest was filed, and a subsequent
recheck found that one ride by Hardy (the Backdoor tube at the
nine-minute mark) was inadvertently awarded to Player. In the spirit of
good sportsmanship, all finalists acknowledged that an error was made.
With the scores corrected, King was deemed the winner of the contest,
followed by Player, Hardy and Dufaure.
Although King didn't win the tour, the event win was a nice consolation
prize, along with $3,000. For Player, the tour title was a dream
finally fulfilled, having come in a frustrating second in the overall
tour standings twice prior.
Anyone who has been around the contest scene long enough knows that
these things happen. The most recent example is the 2002 Quiksilver
Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational where a scoring error changed the
winner from Tony Ray to Kelly Slater. It was unfortunate, but in the
end it was corrected and made right.
Although the result error undoubtedly put a damper to Player's elation,
it really didn't phase him all that much in the long run. "No worries
mate; no biggie!" was his response to me in the lineup a couple of days
later. Player is the founder of Australia's Movement bodyboarding
magazine, and the tour win just affirms that he is the right man to
represent and express bodyboarding to the world (he's a cool mate too).
In a special dropknee mini-event, Kauai's David Hubbard (Jeff's
brother) used his lanky style to win the title, a cool $1,000, and
garnered enough points for the world dropknee championship.
In the end, King was rightly crowned, Player finally took the tour, and
bodyboarding had a few days to shine in the sun. The sport may not be
the strongest financially, but the level of enthusiasm and stoke by its
participants makes it rich beyond measure.
By the numbers:
3: Number of perfect 10-point rides (Adam Benwell, David Hubbard and
9: Number of Australians placing in the top 16 of the event
10: Different countries represented in the contest
12: Age of the youngest competitor (Travis Smith of Kauai)
19.50: Highest heat score of event out of a possible 20.00 (Hardy in
42: Age of the oldest competitor (the legendary Mike Stewart himself)
125: Number of competitors entered
1,010: Total amount of waves scored during the contest
3,000: First place purse in dollars won by Damian King
3,000: Estimated round trip cost in dollars to/from South Africa
Is the rider still connectged to the board?
Nice shots and article Neal. Thanks.
>Neal Miyake wrote:
>> Article I wrote for a mag (Caution: do not read if you find surf name
>> brands offensive):
That wave looks like it could drill the photog. Did you get pounded
Neal? Who's the charger in #15? That's a lot of wave for a little bit
Your pics have just gotten better with time, Neal.
I managed to duck this one--was scary though. not sure who that guy
is--I know he is a local boy though.
> Your pics have just gotten better with time, Neal.
Thanks. Good camera and can shoot a lot of images. I think for the
three days I shot 1,100 images from the water! (most duds though)