(World Surf League) – Dusty Payne (HAW) won the Pipe Invitational Friday and earned the coveted wildcard entry into the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, the final stop on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) and the third gem of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (VTCS).
Former CT surfer Payne had a comeback performance after returning to competition from an eight-month hiatus due to injury but has proven successful rebounds throughout his career, including a win at the 2014 Hawaiian Pro, the first stop of the VTCS. Recently crowned WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Regional Champion Benji Brand (HAW) will also advance into the main event after earning the runner-up finish in the Pipe Invitational event.
32 of the best Pipe surfers from Hawaii and around the world battled in the Pipe Invitational on Friday for a chance to compete alongside the WSL Top 34 men at the Billabong Pipe Masters. With only two event wildcards on the line, the day saw outstanding performances amongst the trialists with Payne and Brand besting the field.
“I’m excited to be in the Pipe Masters, it’s an event every kid growing up in Hawaii who’s a surfer dreams about,” commented Payne. “It’s just a blessing to be here. Had a great day surfing with Benji and all the guys, Seth (Moniz) and Jack (Robinson), everybody out there was ripping. It’s a fun day, I’m just super grateful the WSL gave us this opportunity.”
The 35-minute final opened with a quick ride by Brand but Seth Moniz (HAW), 20, set the bar when he dropped from the sky and pulled into a beautiful Backdoor runner, followed by a nice turn off the top for a 6.50 (out of a possible 10) from the judges. Brand stayed active and continued to lock in scores on his backhand, while Payne, 29, put a 4.0 on the scoreboard for a quick right-handed wave. Priority then shifted to Jack Robinson (AUS), a Margaret River local who won the 2015 Pipe Invitational, but after choosing an inside wave that only garnered a 1.30, the young surfer remained in fourth when he was unable to find a backup score.
Moniz had the lead for the majority of the heat with a 6.50 and 3.33 until Payne found an open Backdoor barrel that put him in an unsurpassable lead with an 8.0. Moniz dropped to second, but Brand continued to demonstrate versatility by riding both Pipeline and Backdoor waves and earned a 5.50 on his second to last wave to overtake Moniz. The final horn sounded and gave Dusty his first win of the season.
Payne will face 2017 World Title contender John John Florence (HAW) and Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) in Round 1 Heat 6 of the Billabong Pipe Masters when competition resumes.