Brazilians Filipe Toledo and Adriano De Souza, currently second and third on the rankings accounted for the highly fancied Bruce Irons and Jack Robinson.
Irons had been gifted a wildcard into the event, named in memory of his brother, Andy, but only managed a combined heat total of 5.07 to Toledo’s 14.23.
Robinson (Aus), who won through to the main event after winning the trials, came within just a few points of liminating De Souza, however the Brazilian navigated through a large barrel in the dying moments of the heat to take the win.
De Souza has enlisted the help of local surfer Jamie O’Brien to familiarise himself with Pipeline’s notoriously shifty and dangerous playing field.
O’Brien grew up in a house located directly in front of Pipeline and won the event in 2004 and is seeded against Mick Fanning in round three
“I realised the championship was going to be won out here and I needed to do a lot of work,” De Souza said.
“So I knocked on Jamie’s door and said, ‘I want to learn how to surf Pipe. If you say no, I am going to sleep at your door. I’ve learnt so much from Jamie.”
Australia’s Julian Wilson, a long shot for the title, dedicated his heat win to fellow title contender, Owen Wright, who yesterday withdrew from competition after sustaining a head injury while free surfing at Pipeline.
He remains in hospital after it was found the injury had resulted in a minor bleeding of the brain.”I’m carrying Owen on my shoulders out there,” Wilson said after his heat win over fellow Australian Wade Carmichael. “I’m really sad that he’s stuck in the hospital. I know how badly he wanted to be out here for this.”Gabriel Medina is the other surfer in contention for the title.
Other winners were Joel Parkinson and 11-time world champion, Kelly Slater who said De Souza’s win over Robinson was a significant one. The 43 year-old logged the day’s highest score.
“Coming into this morning, it looked like everything was going Mick’s way,” Slater said.
“But the energy has definitely shifted back to De Souza, his best wave this morning was one of those ones you dream about. But having said that, Mick is a three-time world champion for a reason and has probably put in more time out at Pipeline than any of the other contenders. It’s going to be an interesting couple of days.”
Parkinson, who just days ago flew back to Australia to attend a Taylor Swift concert with his family, said he looked forward to helping Fanning win his fourth world title.
“I’m on Mick’s side and it’s looking like I might be up against one of the other guys in the title race,” Parkinson said.