History was made on Sunday, when surfers Sally Fitzgibbons, Courtney Conlogue, and Molly Picklum paddled out in the first heat of the first Women’s Billabong Pro Pipeline, on the North Shore of O’ahu, Hawaii.
Previously, this leg of the women’s Championship Tour was held at Honolua Bay, Maui, but now the women have the opportunity to join the men at one of the most challenging and unforgiving breaks on tour.
In the second heat on Sunday, Hawaiian Malia Manuel made more history by being the first woman to score in the excellent range, an 8.17 after threading a clean barrel at Backdoor, the righthand break at Pipe, World Surf League (WSL) reported.
“To be honest I was super stressed, I wanted to alleviate that by catching a few waves and kind of just getting the ball rolling,” Manuel said.
She said it was her first real winter surfing Pipeline, but that she’d put in a lot of hours and that she had an excellent crew and great support.
As well as being an intimidating wave, the crowd at Pipeline can be equally intimidating, and Manuel said it’s really difficult to get waves out there to practice on.
“So it doesn’t matter how much time you spend out there, sometimes it all comes down to being in the right spot,” she said.
Defending world champion Carissa Moore and HIC Pipe Pro winner Moana Jones Wong featured in the next heat, Jones narrowly pipping Moore, but both going through to the next round.
“I started surfing Pipe when I was 12, and I’ve been coming here consistently since I was 18,” Wong said.
“Surfing against Carissa pushes me to be better because she’s the best in the world. I look up to her and I want to surf as good as she can.”
Australian two-time world champion, Tyler Wright, also moved through to the next round after getting the highest score of the opening round, a combined score of 11.83 for her two best waves, two Backdoor barrels.
“The most exciting thing for me this year is seeing all the rookies,” Wright said.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had such fresh faces on the tour, and it makes me emotional just seeing how they’re coming in and making the most of it. It feels incredible to be a part of this sport and to be a woman in the sport right now.”
Meanwhile, in the opening round of the men’s division, Australian goofy footers Conor O’Leary and Owen Wright looked comfortable in the gaping double-overhead Pipe barrels, as did Hawaiians John John Florence, Barron Mamiya, and Seth Moniz, who scored 17.13, 16.67, and 16.44 respectively for their two best waves.
However, Australia’s Jack Robinson stole the show, getting deeper in the Pipe barrels on his backhand than anyone else to achieve two 9-plus scores and clock the highest total of the event so far, 18.67.
“Watching the conditions, it’s easy to get too excited today so I was just trying to calm down,” Robinson said.
“I’m trying to not think too far ahead and just enjoy every moment of competing out there.”
Robinson got a run for his money though, with 11-time world champion Kelly Slater charging Backdoor to pull a score of 16.57 in the same heat.
The event is set to continue on Monday, waves permitting, and has an available time bracket up to Feb.10.