22nd February 2011
Jeff Hubbard, 35, Hawaii, has won the first event of the 2011 International Bodyboard Association World Tour, the IBA Pipeline Pro, which culminated today in one-to-two metre waves at Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii.
It was the third win at the break for Hubbard, who today earned 2000 valuable GSS ratings points, US$6000 and the all-important lead in the race for the 2011 IBA World Title.
Hubbard previously claimed the event in 2006 and 2002 and is considered a Pipe specialist and one of the greatest aerialists in the game. His win today was an incredible come-from-behind effort that saw him snatch the title in the dying moments from a host of hungry rookies - Tom Rigby (Gold Coast, AUS), 2011 IBA World Tour Rookie of the Year, Jared Houston (Capetown, ZAF) and Dallas Singer (Newcastle, NSW, AUS).
With seven minutes remaining in the 35-minute decider, Hubbard's chances looked dashed. In fourth place and requiring two waves to have a hope of winning, it looked like debutant and upstart, Rigby, would have his first-ever taste of victory.
Then Hubbard did the unthinkable, pulling a near-perfect 9.75 ride out of a possible 10, for a huge ARS (air, reverse spin) followed by two rolls, to push himself into third place and contention.
Two minutes later, Hubbard was again up and riding, pulling into a deep Backdoor cave before launching to the heavens, to pull the ultimate Houdini act, earning a 9.5 from the judges and victory.
"I felt like I was surfing form behind all day ... I finally got in a rhythm in the finals at the very last minute. But I was in combo-land for 17 minutes. I thought to myself, 'what's happened?'. I just felt totally out of rhythm again. I thought I have to dig deep, it's my local spot, it's the final - no one was giving an inch. So I just tried harder and it all fell together," said Hubbard.
"It's probably the most exciting final I've ever had out here. I'm over the moon! To come from so far behind and then take first place, I'm really feeling it right now ... wow!"
Rookie Rigby was on the verge of history, the 18 year-old putting in a career changing performance on the final day, consistently hitting big backflips over the shallow Backdoor reef to the delight of the strong Aussie contingent who cheered him from shore.
Rigby earned his spot via his local Australian qualifying series and surfed his way through nine rounds qualify for his first ever Grand Slam final.
"I'm living in a dream world right now. I really had no expectations of making the final. To beat Hardy (Ryan Hardy, WA, AUS) in the quarters, he has always been a hero of mine, was awesome. And Amaury, the world champ ... it's been an amazing day. Congratulations to Hubb (Jeff Hubbard), I'm just stoked to be able to surf a final against all these guys, It's pretty surreal." said Rigby.
Jared Houston (ZAF) finished third at Pipeline last year during his debut appearance at elite level and matched that effort again today.
"So stoked to make another final. It's only my third event here at Pipeline so it feels good to make back-to-back finals. It's good to compete against these guys. Rigby, he's come so far in the last year, and to compete against Jeff, he's one of my idols - it's fun to a part of it," said Houston.
Fourth place went to Australian Dallas Singer.
Finishing in equal fifth place today were Mark McCarthy (Richards Bay, ZAF) of South Africa and Pierre Louis Costes (FRA). McCarthy had been powering through his heats up until the semi final where we opened up with the heat's hightest scoring ride - a heavy roll which he punched through Backdoor which earned him the 8.5. McCarthy made the most of his only other wave of the heat - a small cover-up tube and two rolls but the size of the wave dictated the 4.2 score which he received. Needing only a 4.7 to progress to the final, he unfortunately sat waiting out the back with no waves coming through in the tricky conditions.
Pierre Louis Costes (FRA), 21, scored the event's first and only perfect 10-point ride on route to a semis berth, for a big, blue Backdoor tube that he followed up with a text-book roll and backflip.
"I wasn't expecting a 10 point ride, I wasn't sure what my score was going to be, but the judges gave Mike's first wave an 8.5 and mine was better so ... I'm pretty stoked to get a perfect score at Pipe and it's only my second 10-point ride ever on the IBA World Tour. It's an addictive feeling, I hope I get more." said Costes.
Defending IBA Pipeline Pro event champion and reigning IBA World Tour champion, Amaury Lavernhe, suffered an upset elimination at the quarterfinal stage. On a day where the rookie upstarts prevailed, Lavernhe was forced to settle for equal13th after placing fourth in his quarter behind Australian Ryan Hardy (WA, AUS), rampaging Rigby and the South African, McCarthy.
I was a bit disappointed in my heat. I didn't have good waves in the beginning. Technically I still have a lot to learn in these kind of conditions. I had my money on Jared I'm really stoked for Jared, in fact I put my money on Jared for the final because I like him as a guy and I like his riding. But Tom Rigby is good too. He's just 18 and won the Pipe final. I mean, 'wow'! Both those guys inspire me technically," said Lavernhe.
Early event standout, Brian Wise saw his run ended this morning by Rawlins and Magno Oliveira (BRA). Having returned to competition at Pipeline after a three-year competitive hiatus, Wise emerged as a sentimental favourite with fans having progressed through five rounds.
South African, Sacha Specker (Cape Town, ZAF) was another early stand-out, the 27 year-old constantly scoring in the excellent range and boasting the highest two-wave combined heat score heading into the final day. But drawn against three of the tour's most daunting names - Valadao, Tamega and Rawlins - Specker saw his flawless momentum reach an end in Round 7. "I couldn't get into rhythm at all. I couldn't pick off a good one. Tamega and Uri were on fire - they had such a cracker heat, the both of them. There wasn't a whole lot more I could do," reflected Specker.
All the action from the final day was broadcast live to Australian viewers via FUEL TV while iPhone users enjoyed the finals action, free, via the Red Bull TV iPhone App.
The next event on the IBA World Tour is scheduled for April 14-20 at The Box, a notorious shallow, right hand reef break situated near Margaret River, West Australia.
The Box event will also be the first to feature the new three-round non-elimination format that will be utilized at each remaining location on the 2011 GSS tour.
MEN'S GRAND SLAM SERIES
1st Jeff Hubbard (Haw) 2000pts $6,000
2nd Tom Rigby (AUS) 1720pts $3,800
3rd Jared Houston (ZAF) 1460pts $3,000
4th Dallas Singer (AUS) 1340pts $2,000
3rd = 5th place, 1220pts, $1400
4th = 7th place, 1110pts, $1000
SF1: 1st Tom Rigby (AUS), 2nd Dallas Singer (AUS), 3rd Mark McCarthy (ZAF), 4th Yeray Martinez (CNY)
SF2: 1st Jeff Hubbard (Haw), 2nd Jared Houston (ZAF), 3rd Pierre Louis Costes (FRA), 4th Guilherme Tamega (BRA)
3rd = 9th place, 1000pts, $800
4th = 13thplace, 900pts, $600
QF1: 1st Dallas Singer (AUS), 2nd Yeray Martinez (CNY), 3rd Lucas Nogueira (BRA), 4th Spencer Skipper (Haw)
QF2: 1st Mark McCarthy (ZAF), 2nd Tom Rigby (AUS), 3rd Ryan Hardy (AUS), 4th Amaury Lavernhe (REU)
QF3: 1st Pierre Louis Costes (FRA), 2nd Jeff Hubbard (Haw), 3rd Diego Cabrera (CNY), 4th Uri Valadao (BRA)
QF4: 1st Jared Houston (ZAF), 2nd Guilherme Tamega (BRA), 3rd Mike Stewart (Haw), 4th Magno Oliveira (BRA)
The IBA Pipeline Pro was made possible with the support of: Turbo Surf Designs, Dave & Busters, Aqua Hotels and Resorts
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