Wahine Pipe Pro complete, but bigger things should be in store

The Wahine Pipe Pro has remained a niche event on the Qualifying Series calendar. Something about that seems appropriate because it gives a lot of local talent the chance to surf Pipeline without a crowded lineup filled with chargers looking to prove something. That’s one of the best aspects of the contest, according to Bethany Hamilton, who received a wild card entry into this year’s event. She loves that she and, even more so, the younger wahine can get that Pipeline experience with just a few other competitors.

That all makes a lot of sense, but there’s a part of me that would love to see the WSL change the format from a QS 1,000 to a more substantial incentive. In a time when the women are getting more of a chance to surf competitively in big waves — Keala Kennelly getting an Eddie invite, a special women’s heat during the Pipe Masters, the Peahi Women’s Challenge — I’d be very interested in seeing a Pipeline champion actually have that notch on their resume help with a world tour bid.

Last week, Frankie Harrer surfed her way to the Wahine Pipe Pro championship in very impressive fashion. The German native resides in Malibu and has been a huge factor in these lower level QS contests for a few years.

Harrer’s quarterfinal round was the highlight of the event as she earned a 17.55 total, including a 9.25 barrel. The win is Harrer’s first on any level, including the Juniors. She bested a field that included a lot of Hawaii talent, even getting some local assistance of her own. Makua Rothman, who certainly has a unique understanding of Pipeline and all big waves worldwide, gave Harrer some pointers throughout the contest. Obviously his guidance paid off.

Mahina Maeda finished in third and Brisa Hennessy took fourth, each representing the Hawaii wahine with some big scores during the contest. Hennessy won each of her first three heats, including a first-round matchup that included Hamilton.

Kauai’s Bailey Nagy reached the semifinals to take an equal seventh place. The same was true for Oahu’s Zoe McDougall.

Summer Ivy, Summer Macedo, Gabriela Bryan and Aloha Lopez were some of the other participants waving the Hawaiian flag.

Alongside the women’s QS event, the Junior Men also took advantage of an empty lineup. Barron Mamiya continued his impressive young career by securing the victory. He highlighted an all-Hawaii final heat with Eli Hanneman, Finn McGill and Cody Young also reaching the podium.

McGill might be the best young Pipeline rider in the world. He showed again why that’s likely the case with a perfect 10.00 in the final heat. Unfortunately for him, he was only able to secure a 1.65 as a backup.

Kauai’s Ryder Guest actually bested McGill in the first round with a 15.00 two-wave total that included a 9.00 on his second wave. Guest exited in the quarterfinals for an equal 13th finish.

Pipeline will now get a competitive rest until we return to winter action along the North Shore. It’s great to see all the local talent get an opportunity to shine, but I still believe a truly valuable QS women’s contest should exist. It’s the most iconic wave in the world and it has no impact on competitive women’s surfing. It’s time for that to change.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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