Whenever I work commentary for a bodyboarding event, whether it be an IBA world tour or a USBA national tour event, I try to remain as impartial as possible. Seeing as how I am not in Hawaii this year working commentary for the 2013 IBA GoPro Pipe Challenge, I am afforded the opportunity to be a bit more vocal on whom I think will be the riders to watch. Here are my 2013 Pipe Picks...
|Japan's Minami Hatekyama has a legitimate chance of winning at Pipeline. Photo: IBA|
In the Women's Pro Final, we are looking at two world champions from Brasil going up against two young up-and coming Japanese talents. Minami Hatekyama and Sari Oohara are both still in their teens, but I have been thoroughly impressed by the level of riding demonstrated by these two over the past couple of years. These girls are not afraid to charge Pipe and Backdoor. They will definitely have their work cut out for them, though, going up against a pair of very competent world champions with experience in winning at Pipeline. 1999 World Champion Karla Costa Taylor is no stranger to Pipeline, having lived in Hawaii for many years now as well as having won multiple Pipe competitions in the past...the 2000 GOB (Global Organization of Bodyboarders) world tour Mike Stewart Science Pipeline Pro in which she clinched her 1999 world title, the 2010 North Shore Soap Factory Pipeline Pro, the 2011 USBA (United States Bodyboarding Association) Pipeline Pro, and the 2012 USBA Pipeline Pro. Also in the Women's Final is the defending IBA Pipe Challenge winner, 2x World Champion Isabela Sousa.
|Defending IBA Pipe Challenge winner, 2x WWT Champion Isabela Sousa from Brasil. Photo: IBA|
MY PICK: Isabela is, in my opinion, the best women's bodyboarder in the world right now as demonstrated by her win at Pipe last year and her two world titles in the past three years...2010, 2012, with a vice-champion 2nd place for 2011. She's always dangerous out in the water, capable of pulling off big maneuvers in critical sections that rivals the skill and power of some of the best men on the world tour. I think the 2013 IBA GoPro Pipe Challenge Women's Final is going to be a tough battle for all four competitors, but in the end I think Isabela Sousa will repeat as Pipeline Champion.
WINNER: Isabela Sousa (Brasil)
In the Drop Knee Pro Final, we have three world champions and a legitimate contender to round things out. Australia's Dave Winchester has been reminding people how much of a threat he can be at both DK and prone riding. He came up just short of a world title in the Men's division last year, and he's been taking down some respectable names in the world of drop knee. I view Winny as a bit of a "Dark Horse" in the final, but if the other competitors don't keep a close eye on him, Winny could very well make them pay the price. Also, in the final, we will see 2010 IBA DKWT Champion Cesar Bauer (Peru). As a former world champion, he's got the skills to get the job done. Meanwhile, defending Pipe Challenge Champion and 2012 DK World Champion Sacha Specker (South Africa) seems to be picking up right where he left off at the conclusion of his championship season last year. Despite being hindered by a nasty centipede bite, a bout with the flu, and lackluster conditions, thus far, he's in the final and ready to go to work. last but not least, rounding out the 2013 IBA GoPro Pipe Challenge DK Final...
|Dave Hubbard. Pipeline. Need I say more? Photo: IBA|
MY PICK: 5x World Champion Dave Hubbard (Hawaii) is in the DK Final after coming up short the past couple of years, and I think he will make the best of it. The combination of his wave knowledge at Pipe and Backdoor, his new equipment courtesy of the new HUBBOARDS launched by his brother Jeff and himself, along with his usual free-flowing style will help make Dubb a little tougher than usual to beat. I have no doubt that this will be a hotly contested final, but when all is said and done I think Dubb will emerge victorious as the 2013 IBA GoPro Pipe Challenge DK Champion..
WINNER: Sacha Specker (South Africa)
As I write this, only Round One and Round Two of the Men's division have been run. When competition resumes, there are still a lot of heats to go through, and the field of competitors is still very much wide open. Almost on a yearly basis, the Pipe Challenge is graced with unexpected stand-out performances from one rider or another. I don't expect this year to be any different. With a very talented pool of Trialists, Wildcards, and seeded competitors waiting to hit the water I'm not counting anyone out at this point. Having said that, here are five riders I think everyone should watch for along with my pick for Pipe champion this year...
|PLC has been having a solid North Shore season, and should definitely be considered a contender at Pipe. Photo: MTN|
5 RIDERS TO WATCH IN THE MEN'S PRO:
1. MIKE STEWART (Hawaii) - 9x World Champion Mike Stewart's wave knowledge at Pipeline is unmatched, as is his level of success. In 30 years of Pipeline competitions, he has finished in the Top 3 in 15 of those events...that's an unheard of 50% of the Pipe Bodyboarding competitions EVER...including a 3rd place finish in the 1982 event, a 2nd place finish in 2012, and 11 Pipeline championship wins in between! Odds are pretty good that, if Pipe is in form, Stewart will be on the hunt.
2. GUILHERME TAMEGA (Brazil) - 6x World Champion Guilherme Tamega has a rather respectable record at Pipeline as well. GT is a 2x Pipeline Champion (1994, 2002) along with 10 other Top 4 Pipeline appearances. His aggressive competive style is legendary. Pipeline is his home break these days. Never count him out.
3. JEFF HUBBARD (Hawaii) - 3x World Champion Jeff Hubbard is the 4x Pipeline Champion and defending champ, having won back-to-back Pipe events the past two years. If he's in the final, Hubb is always a threat...in five finals appearances, he has never finished lower than 2nd...and even when he's down he's never completely out of contention. This was a lesson we all learned in 2011, when he came from a 4th place combination situation (needing two new high scores) to win in the final five minutes.
4. PIERRE LOUIS COSTES (France) - 2011 World Champion Pierre Louis Costes' only finals appearance at Pipeline came in the form of his 2nd place finish in 2009. Keep in mind that, despite being an IBA world tour veteran and already having a world title to his name, PLC is still only in his early 20's. We have yet to see him at his best. If he can put together a consistent performance at Pipeline, he could very well walk away with the crown.
5. JARED HOUSTON (South Africa) - 2010 Rookie of the Year Jared Houston has two 3rd place finishes at Pipeline (2010, 2011). After missing the final last year, look for Jerry to make his charge not only to make a return to the final but to take his shot at the win.
|4x Pipeline Champion Jeff Hubbard at Backdoor. Glide Photo.|
MY PICK: I'm going with Hubb for the Pipeline 3-peat. Jeff has a chance to add another piece of bodyboarding history to his already impressive list of career accomplishments. If he can win his third in a row, Jeff would become only the second men's bodyboarder in history to be crowned Pipeline Champion in three or more consecutive years...behind only Mike Stewart who won Pipeline an impressive six consecutive times between 1987-1992.
WINNER: Ben Player (Australia)
UPDATED on 2 MARCH 2013: Well, I called the winner in the Women's Pro. Congratulations to Isabela Sousa for winning back-to-back Pipeline titles. In the DK Pro, it was Sacha Specker also defending his title and making it two in a row at Pipeline. Well done, Spex! In the Mens Pro, I picked two out of the four finalists...Jeff Hubbard and Pierre Louis Costes. In the end, though, it was Ben Player claiming a long sought-after Pipe win to walk away as the 2013 IBA GoPro Pipe Challenge Champion. Great job, BP! Until the next time, I'm Steve "Action" Jackson. See you out in the water...YEEEWWW!!!