North Shore locals and Rip Curl team riders Pancho Sullivan and Jamie O’Brien have accepted Wildcard entries into the main event of this year’s Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters, the year’s final ASP World Championship Tour event.
The sponsor Wildcards mean 31-year-Sullivan and 21-year-old O’Brien will not have to surf in this week’s Rip Curl Code: STL Trials, set to start at Pipeline on Wednesday, December 8. Instead of battling it out in the Trials, the boys will be sitting on the beach watching 24 local surfers and eight of Rip Curl’s international pro team dual it out for the final two Wildcard slots.
For Sullivan — a nine-time Pipeline Masters Trials veteran – the Wildcard entry is the perfect early Christmas present. The powerful natural footer has won through to the main event on six of those nine times, but is relishing the opportunity to stay out of the water until his Round 1 heat.
“I’m really thankful to my sponsor Rip Curl for giving me the Wildcard opportunity, said Sullivan, a semi-finalist in the 2001 and 2003 Pipeline Masters. “In any competition you want to beat the best and being in the main event means I’m up against those considered the best surfers in the world.
“The Trials are such a tough event, continued the 2003 Backdoor Shootout Champion. “The majority of competitors are locals who know the wave incredibly well, and so it’s really nice to avoid having to compete in the Trials. The wave takes a lot out of you physically and mentally, and not having to deal with the Trials makes the process of winning that little bit easier.
Jamie ‘Freakshow’ O’Brien is another Hawaiian focused on winning as many Pipeline battles as he can. O’Brien, who can almost reach out and touch the Pipeline shorebreak from his front yard, has surfed the Trials three times before, winning through to the main event twice. He was on fire in 2001, blowing heads with an amazing fourth place finish in the contest Final behind first placed Bruce Irons, runner-up Kelly Slater and third placed CJ Hobgood. In 2003, starting from the Trials again, Jamie styled his way through the contest’s early rounds before being unluckily knocked out in the Quarterfinals. Year 2004 could well mean third time lucky in the main event for Jamie.
“I’m stoked about the Wildcard, said O’Brien, the 2003 WQS 4 star Hansen Energy Pro Champion. “But the Trials have had the best waves recently, so it’s going to be a bit weird not surfing them.
“The whole event doesn’t really seem like a contest to me though, because it’s my home, he continued. “I know think the contest is going to be really good — it’s going to be a great week. I’ll just go out and have fun.
With just three days to go until the first heat of this year’s Rip Curl Code: STL Trials, surf forecasters and event organizers are hopeful of a good conditions and a good swell for Day 1 action.
The Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters is held at the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, and its waiting period runs from December 8 to December 20. The
Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters is part of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Contest action can be viewed by LIVE webcast on www.ripcurl.com, www.aspworldtour.com or at www.triplecrownofsurfing.com from December 8 through 20.