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Molly Picklum pipeline
Molly Picklum thrived at Backdoor on day one of women's competition at The Pipeline Pro. Photo: WSL/Heff

PipeLine Pro: The Women Get Underway but hopefully Pipe has ‘Moore’ to offer.   

Molly shows us how to have fun at Backdoor while Sawyer Lindblad let’s everyone know she has arrived.

The phrase “about time” encapsulated the mood on the beach at Pipe as the women finally hit the water, well over a week into the event waiting period. In only the second year the women have officially had their own Pipeline Pro, we have been waiting with giddy expectation for their contest to begin. The sense of anticipation was given an added layer of context when Steph Gilmore and Carissa Moore announced their intentions to spend 2024 on the bench. Pipe was our first chance to get a glimpse at what a new, WSL world order might look like.

Tatiana Weston-Webb finds her line at Backdoor. (Photo by Tony Heff/World Surf League)

The sun come out and the Pacific twinkled a brilliant shade of blue beneath rainbow skies, but alas, the good waves were in short supply. Crowds watched on in disbelief as five-time world champion and local hero Carissa Moore was knocked straight into the elimination round of her last event for the year. It was a heart-wrenching thirty minutes to watch as Carissa was bested by Brisa Hennessy and Sally Fitzgibbons.  

Yesterday the big situation changes happened late in the heats and everyone, and I mean everyone, watched on in disbelief as Moore seemingly held out for her own Crosby Colapinto moment. By heat’s end she was scrambling as time rapidly slipped away.

With so much love, hype and emotion built up around Carissa making what is possibly her final CT appearance, the loss felt ever more sorrowful. An accumulation of signs on the beach and Kam highway read “Moore to come” and “Moore joy”. And hopefully there is in the elimination round.   

While Carissa capitulated, Molly Picklum finessed her way through round one with the top two single waves of the day. Molly’s 7.33 and 8.5 Backdoor rides amounting to a 15.83 heat total that put her miles beyond anyone else. Picklum’s inspired performance reinvigorated a crowd that had spent the morning dodging intermittent rains squalls. Molly admitted she felt “pretty fortunate” that the waves turned on and the sun came out during her heat, which saw her as the clear standout of the day. Asked about her goals for the year, the confident natural footer mentioned world title and gold medal at the Olympics in the same breath – watch out for this world-beater.  There is no doubt Molly thrives in heavier, hollower waves and she will be eager to get a jump on the competition in the Hawaiian leg of the tour.  

Caitlin Simmers looked extremely comfortable in the Pipeline lineup. (Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League)

As whispers began rippling through the contest site that the elimination round wasn’t going ahead due to the poor conditions, the crowd was treated to a power performance by Californian goofy footer, Sawyer Lindblad. The San Clemente-raised rookie showed us just how hungry she is to make her presence felt as she ran laps around her competitors during the last heat of the day. On her best ride, Lindblad clutched a rail and zippered through a glassy backside tube, before dipping her head and using her helmet to burrow through the falling lip. It was an emphatic way to announce her arrival on tour and a chuffed Sawyer later explained it was her first genuine backside tube at Pipe.       

Sawyer Lindblad all smiles after her successful, CT debut. (Photo by Brent Bielmann/World Surf League)

Elsewhere Caitlyn Simmers surfed with typical aplomb, busting fins and slipping effortlessly through a cute, Backdoor cavern. Meanwhile, Caroline Marks got the job done with turns, while incumbent Pipe champ, Moana Jones Wong was lucky to scrape through in a heat which provided precious little opportunity for her to display her tube-riding skills. Tyler Wright was typically solid and will certainly be a contender, particularly if Backdoor is the focus.      

As crew members began the early pack up, a pod of whales provided the day’s finale, boldly hurling their humpback frames at the blue sky. They obviously had more to jump for than the fans, who had longed for better conditions in which to watch the women finally give the men a run for their money on the North Shore. A building NW swell looms with promise, hopefully we get to see the women in some real waves of consequence for the next round.   

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