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O'Brien had held the lead for 34 minutes and 45 seconds of the 35-minute final... and then it evaporated before his eyes. He bolted away at the start of the heat with an apparently insurmountable lead and Florence wasn't even in the picture. O'Brien's top two scoring waves were near-perfect: 9.0 and 9.43 with all three of his challengers requiring a combination of high scores. Maui's Kai Barger had posed the biggest challenge with a 9.33, but a second wave eluded him. San Clemente's Nate Yeomans was a distant third with 7.57 points total. Florence's score was just 9.93. Then at the five minute mark, two waves in the 8-10ft range pushed through. Florence got the first: an unbelievable backside tube at Pipe that was deep, critical, and near-impossible. He blasted out with the spray and scored a perfect 10. Right behind him, O'Brien swung, pulled in deep and blew out in front of Florence's face for a 9.93 - further extending his lead. Game over? Not a chance and the final few seconds saw the John John twenty grand 9.93 slumdunk.© 2014 Volcom
Less than eight weeks ago, Florence lost in similar fashion here to 11X world champion Kelly Slater during the Pipe Masters. Today's victory seemed to realign the trajectory of the 19-year-old, who appears at this moment in time to be destined for one of pro surfing's greatest careers of all-time. "I wrote myself off half way through," said Florence. "Kai and Jamie both had nines. I can't believe it. Here at Pipe anything can happen. "With 40 seconds to go I wasn't even thinking about it. I was like, yeah Jamie, congratulations, I won last year and I'm stoked for you. Then I turned around and there'ss a peak. I didn't even know if he was going. I was going to go left and backdoor the peak, then I ended up having to fade, go right, and barely got under it. It was a wild ride. "Last year this gave me so much confidence going into the year. This is the first contest of the year and I've got confidence again. So much has gone down in the last year, qualifying for the tour, changing my whole way of surfing and trying to get into the contest thing. I'm so happy right now." n, I feel like you just threw me out of the car before we got home," said O'Brien. "I'm going to come and steal that trophy from you in the middle of the night," he laughed.© 2014 Volcom
Nine years John John's senior, O'Brien has long been the man to beat at Pipe, having won at Pipe Masters, Backdoor Shootout, and multiple Volcom Pipe Pros. But Florence is quickly leveling the scores. "It hurts," said Jamie, holding onto the runner-up $10,000 check. "You think you're going to win and you don't. It's OK. I got some really good scores and I felt I put on a great performance. To me that means everything. I had a great time. I finally got in a good rhythm my last couple of heats. I enjoyed myself and it was a good day." O'Brien appeared to toy with Pipeline today, switching up Backdoor and Pipe with regular foot and goofy foot barrels. But while he might have made it look easier than it was for everyone else, he was quick to admit things aren't always as they may appear - hence the credo that Pipeline is for warriors. "It might look easy, but some of the stuff that happens to you underwater while you're getting pounded is really intense and scary. Getting caught inside out there, drags you and drags you, you've got to climb up your leash - it's a lot of work out there."© 2014 Volcom
Third place in the final was Barger. Fourth was Yeomans. Worthy mentions include top Australian finisher Mitch Coleborn, and former Pipe champion Bruce Irons, who showed a fantastic return to form this week and lost out in the semi's. From today's results, the following surfers have won a spot in the first round of next December's Pipe Masters: O'Brien, Barger, Billy Kemper (Maui), Flynn Novak (Oahu), Fred Patacchia (Oahu), Kalani Chapman, and Bruce Irons. Florence is an automatic starter at the Pipe Masters as he is on the elite ASP World Tour. Also awarded today was the Todd Chesser Hard Charger Sportsmanship Award - presented to Costa Rica's Carlos Munoz who posted a perfect 10 score in the early rounds and finished the event in equal ninth place. Next up for Volcom is a return to Fiji on for World Tour stop number four. Let's hope the lucky company stay lucky with the swell.© 2014 Volcom
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