Nelson Rice
Tuesday December 16th, 2014

Two rounds have wrapped up at the Billabong Pipe Masters in Oahu, and we know…about as much as we did after Portugal. Gabriel Medina, Mick Fanning, and Kelly Slater have all made it through to the third round and are still vying for the ASP World Title.

Medina and Fanning each moved straight into the third round after winning their first round heats, though neither delivered a convincing performance. Medina posted an 8.83 out of 20 to advance past Reef McIntosh (5.10) and Dion Atkinson (3.30).

Fanning looked in control of his heat against Artiz Aranburu and Makai McNamara after netting a two-wave total of 12.13. But it wasn’t secure for long. Aranburu pulled into a deep backdoor barrel right from the take off and came out clean for a 9.27—the highest scoring ride in the first round. Yet, after Aranburu failed to find a back-up score, or even catch another wave, Fanning had survived. “I’m thinking final,” Fanning said when asked during his post-heat interview about his mindset. “My whole goal is just to try to win this event, it’s been on the bucket list for awhile.”

Laurent Masurel/ASP/Getty Images

Slater could spare one. The 42-year-old Floridian has won a record seven Pipe Masters titles, but will need to add another to have any chance of finishing ahead of Fanning and Medina.

Breaking down the 2014 Billabong Pipe Masters and ASP title race

Slater’s Pipe and World title hopes came under pressure after Adam Melling outdueled him and Dusty Payne in their first-round matchup. Needing a combined score of 15.80 with less than four minutes remaining, Melling appeared content to let Slater and Payne battle for a berth in the third round. But the Lennox Head, Australia, native, currently ranked No. 25 on the WCT, had other ideas. He scored a 7.00 ride with three minutes to go and then capped it off with an 8.90 as the buzzer sounded.

Despite being out of the water for more than five weeks heading into this event due to a foot injury, the 11-time world champ showed no rust when he was down early to McIntosh in the first heat of round two. Slater rallied—posting 7.43 and then a 9.57, for the highest-scoring wave and second-highest heat total to that point. 

With Medina, Fanning and Slater all advancing, the real action will begin when Round 3 gets underway.

Here’s what you need to know going into Round 3:

The title picture will start to shape up if Medina gets through the third round, he will automatically eliminate Slater from title contention. Simple as that.

Laurent Masurel/ASP/Getty Images

Heat to Watch: Gabriel Medina vs. Dusty Payne

Heat 6 of Round 3 pits the Brazilian world title hope versus Dusty Payne—a 25-year-old surfer from Maui who this time last year was preparing for life off the tour.

After Payne lost his spot on the 2014 World Tour due to a series of sub-par results and a knee injury, he seemed ready to move onto the next phase of his surfing career. “That’s not my focus right now,” Payne said about re-qualifying in an interview with Surfing Magazine back in March. “I didn’t do too well on tour so I’m not really dying to get back on.” Winning has a tendency to change people’s minds. Payne was ranked No. 24 on the QS coming into Hawaii. He won the Reef Pro at Haleiwa and after placing second at the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset, he sealed his requalification.

“I still didn’t even know until after the presentation,” Payne told STAB Magazine earlier this month. “A lady from the ASP told me that I made it and I was like, ‘What? You’re kidding me?!’ I just screamed like a little kid. I was so stoked.”

Now, Payne has a chance to threaten Medina’s title chances and move one step close to winning surfing’s Triple Crown. What a difference a year makes. 

Laurent Masurel/ASP/Getty Images

There’s another race going on

While everyone may be focused on the world title race, there’s more at stake. All three surfers in contention for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing are still in the hunt at Pipe.

As the name suggests, the Triple Crown of Surfing consists of three events at some of the best known breaks on the North Shore of Oahu: The Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach and the Billabong Pipeline Masters at the Banzai Pipeline.

After winning at Haleiwa and then placing second at Sunset, Payne leads the Triple Crown race with 13,000 points. Since Payne leads the points standings, he received a spot in the Pipe Masters after CJ Hobgood pulled out with an ankle injury.

Michel​ Bourez is in second place with 10,000 points. The powerful Tahitian, who had a break out year on the WCT, carried that momentum into Hawaii with a quarterfinal finish at Haleiwa and then a win at Sunset. He faces Matt Wilkinson of Australia in Heat #11 of Round 3 at Pipe.

Finally, Julian Wilson stands third with 8,700 points. Although Wilson made it to the final at Haleiwa and was runner-up to Payne, then followed that result by getting through to the quarters at Sunset, he’ll need to win Pipe to have any shot at taking home the Triple Crown. 

Triple Crown Race

  • If Payne loses in Round 3, Bourez will need to finish third and Wilson will need to win the Pipe Masters.
  • If Payne wins in Round 3, Wilson will be out of the race and Bourez will need to win the Pipe Masters.
  • If Bourez and Wilson lose in Round 3, Payne will clinch the Triple Crown regardless of his result.
  • If Payne reaches the Semifinals, he'll win the Triple Crown regardless of where Bourez and Wilson place.

Will Medina succumb to the pressure like Brazil in the World Cup? Will Dusty keep Slater’s title hopes alive? Will another surfer emerge from the pack to win surfing’s most iconic event? We’ll see what the next wave brings.

Check in on the status of the Billabong Pipe Masters, and watch live here.

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