Mid-December on the North Shore has always meant the Pipe Masters, and this year was no different—except for the fact that the Pipe Masters was completely different this year than we’ve ever seen it before!
An invitation-only event hosted by Vans, the 2022 Pipe Masters turned heads early on by announcing that it would be adopting a new format. Four-man (and woman), 30-minute, non-elimination heats were run over the course of two days, with all athletes getting three chances to surf.
The athletes’ top three scores count to their total, with the top four men and women at the end of the preliminary rounds moving forward to the final. In addition, emphasis was put on airs and turns, which means that a big barrel wouldn’t be enough to win if you simply kick out into the channel after the spit. The judges wanted to see big barrels followed by big maneuvers, and that makes sense, because that’s what the crowd wants to see as well.
Eight days into the waiting period, Vans hadn’t run a single heat. The swell had been small and unexciting, but the remaining few days of the event window looked iffy, so things were a bit stressful on the North Shore coming into the final weekend.
But the North Pacific ended up delivering an XL swell with light wind that lit Pipeline and Backdoor up for two exciting days of preliminaries. By the end of day two, the stacked field was whittled down to four men and four women—Balaram Stack, Griffin Colapinto, Joao Chianca, and Kaulana Apo on the men’s side and Carissa Moore, Caity Simmers, Betty Lou Sakura, and Molly Picklum on the women’s
Although Carissa Moore finished the preliminary rounds with a commanding lead on the rest of the field, she made an uncharacteristic interference mistake in the final, which was handily won by Molly Picklum. Betty Lou got second and Caity Simmers took third, while Carissa had to be satisfied with fourth due to losing half of her top wave score to the interference.
On the men’s side, Kaulana’s Cinderella story was brought to an end by a rampaging Balaram Stack, who upset the field to claim the Pipe Masters trophy for New York. Griff took second, Kaulana third, and newly qualified CT surfer Joao Chianca took fourth.
Congratulations Balaram Stack and Molly Picklum!