Large waves generated by a North Pacific storm are expected to reach Hawaii's north-facing beaches today, in time for the beginning of the final event on professional surfing's elite World Championship Tour.
Competition in the $260,000 Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters will take place between today and Dec. 20, depending on conditions. Oahu's North Shore has been plagued by strong onshore winds that are expected to continue much of this week, but the swell should last through the weekend, according to Sean Collins of surfline.com.
Aside from being the season's last WCT event, the Pipeline Masters is the third jewel of Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Phillip MacDonald of Tomakin, Australia, is the Triple Crown points leader after advancing to the final of the $125,000 Vans Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa last month and the semifinals of the $125,000 O'Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach, which ended last week.
Sunny Garcia of Honolulu won at Haleiwa, and Andy Irons of Princeville, Hawaii, clinched his third consecutive world championship in a WCT event last month in Brazil. Irons then won at Sunset Beach to put himself back in position to defend his Triple Crown championship, which is awarded to the surfer who accumulates the most points in the three North Shore competitions.
MacDonald has 1,764 points and Garcia 1,632. Irons has 1,488, which means he may need a victory at Pipeline to give himself a chance.
Already victorious is Tim Reyes, 22, of Huntington Beach. Needing only a modest finish at Sunset Beach to earn a spot on next year's elite WCT, he surfed into the semifinals by posting the highest heat total of the competition in the quarterfinals -- 18.07 out of a possible 20 points.
Also qualifying for next year's WCT was Fred Patacchia, a North Shore local who was one of four finalists at Sunset Beach.
The swell that has kicked up surf along Hawaii's North Shore is also producing big waves along California beaches -- but not big enough to start the $75,000 Maverick's Surf Contest, a non-tour event featuring some of the world's top big-wave specialists at the notorious break beyond Half Moon Bay.
The competition window for the one-day Maverick's contest opened Dec. 1 and runs through March 31.
Another non-tour big-wave competition awaits Mother Nature's call. The holding period for Quiksilver's $82,000 In Memory of Eddie Aikau Invitational, at Waimea Bay on Oahu, will run through Feb. 28. The winner will receive $50,000.
The contest will be held only if wave heights reach 20 feet or more during the holding period. If that doesn't sound daunting, traditional Hawaiian measurements are estimated from the back of waves. In reality, 20-foot swells measure nearly 40 feet from trough to peak as they begin to break.
The "Eddie," last held in 2002 and won by Kelly Slater, is in honor of the legendary lifeguard who was presumed drowned in 1978 after disappearing while swimming for help after he and nine others capsized in their canoe 12 miles east of Lanai.