After some fairly impressive predictions during the ISA WBC 2015 in Iquique, Chile the Tom Waterhouse/Confucius of the bodyboarding game is back with his 2016 Mike Stewart Pipeline Invitational Form Guide.

Froth

Froth levels around competition bodyboarding are about as high as we have ever seen in anticipation for the 2016 Mike Stewart Pipeline Invitational (MSPI). It is so sick to see the godfather of our sport turning his hand to promoting events and inviting the best bodyboarders in the world to compete at the break that made him the greatest waterman on earth.

The modern era of athletes have responded in kind with a very impressive list of the world’s best bodyboarders returning to the competition arena to kick off the 2016 season and vie to become the King of the Banzai.

In this author’s humble opinion, this is what bodyboarding needs to survive – the sport’s best riders turning their hand to promoting and taking ownership of events in their own countries where they use their high profiles to attract sponsors as well as their sponging brethren to compete.

The Outsiders

No one from Round 1 will make it to the semi finals or win the MSPI. This isnt taking anything away from the high-quality bunch of riders who have made it into the event as invitees or through the trials.

However, history is well and truly against them, as well as the format of the draw in which some of the winners from Round 2 will be thrown into “the wolf’s den” of a three-man-heat with some of the world’s best. A great example is Heat 24 of the event:

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 9.00.05 PMThis stacked heat features Kainoa McGree, who is the only man to have ever made a Pipe final both on a stick and a bodyboard. Joining him will be the prince of Mandurah wedge and big wave charger George Humphries and the greatest Australian bodyboarder of the modern era in Ryan Hardy.

If it were me progressing into this heat, I would just sit in the channel and enjoy the show. That is how remote your chance of making it through that one would be.

This isnt to deflate the hopes of any of the fellas in Round 1. I really hope they use this prediction to stoke the fire and steam their way through a few rounds. Fans love upsets at bodyboarding comps.

Who knows? If the event runs in condition as big as predicted, we could see the king of Moon Island Garth Mac scoop into a couple of beasts or mad man Josh “Garnye-West” Garner throw himself into a couple of death slabs.

The Hawaiian contingent will also bring a good showing with guys like David Phillips, Keahi Parker and JB Hillen who will be hard to beat.

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Ryan Sewell driving through a Backdoor slab. Frame by Tyge Landa

I am personally very excited to see Ryan Sewell and Julien Miremont take on the banzai. These guys are some of the most tech and explosive bodyboarders in the world who will go big.

J.O.B (Jamie O’Brien) will be out first heat and ejected from the competition with his tail between his legs by hard Irish cold water madman and charger Shane Meehan.

Youth

The youth contingent in this event is super exciting and who knows how far some of them may go. We all remember Tom Rigby’s heroic antics in front of a parochial drunk Aussie crowd in 2011, which has now been etched in film in the latest Drag Board Co clip.

Tanner, Lewy Finnegan and Davis Blackwell will be very hard to beat in any conditions. These guys have well and truly graduated from the school of small-wave competition surfing and have matured into some of the most exciting and talented bodyboarders who are comfortable in waves from 2ft to 20ft. Lewy and Davis were very nearly crowned the Free Surf World Tour champions last year with a highly impressive showing in massive waves during the 2015 Swell of the decade in Western Australia. If trailing in a heat with moments remaining will Tanner pull out the “angry dragon“?

Brazilians

Besides Guilherme Tamega, there isn’t a Brazilian in the draw who can win this event. If the swell and heavy conditions arrive as predicted, our Brazo friends will probably all be on the first flight back to their girls in Ipanema long before the quarterfinals are in the water.

Fingers crossed GT takes us back to the late nineties with some flared hair flick spins in the pocket and extendo rolls off the end section.

Dark Horses

One name springs immediately to mind here: Lachlan Cramsie. The kid is a former Australian champion, World Tour competitor and has been living (almost hermit like) deep on the South Coast of Australia for the last few years training in huge waves and quietly plotting the demise of the world’s best bodyboarders.

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Can Lachlan Cramsie cause an upset at this year’s Pipe contest? He has been impressive so far this winter season. Photo by Joao Ricardo

To add fuel to this kid’s fire he was recently dropped by his major board sponsor so to say he is pumped to prove a few people wrong is a huge understatement. He has the whole bag of tricks, charges and can beat any bodyboarder on earth on his day.

The other more obvious choice is Andre Botha. This guy has been training on the North Shore for months now and will soon have to start his own magazine just to showcase the number of insane photos he has been getting.

His new clip just shows how well he has Pipe totally wired. One question stands though – is his competition nous enough to get past the world’s best? His two world titles would suggest so. I can see Andre winning the event if the waves are good.

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Andre Botha takes on Waimea Shorebreak earlier this season. Photo by Kevin Starr

The third name I would throw in the mix here is Dave Hubbard. I think he is very underrated for his prone riding. Actually, I think he is the only person who has the ability to hold the prone and DK world titles simultaneously. Just imagine that – what an accolade!

He has been tearing Pipe apart this winter and is not scared to hit any section throwing out some of his giant funky boosts. Interestingly, I have seen him get a wave at the Encanto Pro in Puerto Rico where he performed almost every move possible on a bodyboard on just one wave. Forward spin in, barrel, roll out, reverse spin, invert, cut back then an air reverse off the end section. A champagne effort and earned 10 points from all judges.

Heats of Death

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 9.23.44 PMWhoever runs into this freight train in Heat 33 can expect to be in some serious trouble. These guys are former sworn competition enemies who are secretly as thick as thieves and will use every trick in their extensive books to out manoeuvre any grommet, or seasoned veteran who may dare to progress into their side of the draw.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 9.24.25 PMYou better not be limping into this heat sapped of energy from surfing big waves in earlier rounds. These two ultra-fit super groms will be paddling around you until you’re dizzy. They will probably be getting a minimum of 10 waves each during the heat, milking every wave with a roll onto the sand at beach park before pro running in their fins along the beach to paddle back out at Backdoor. Then they will paddle back out, high five you, snake back onto the inside, shake your hand as the hooter blows, and be on the beach tuning your girl and sipping a cold beer all before you even know the heat has started.

Bigwigs

Four names come to mind here: Dave Winchester, Pierre-Louis Costes, Amaury Lavernhe and Ben Player. Some of the biggest names in bodyboarding, who are very experienced competitors with the full arsenal of big moves to win any event on earth.

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PLC with a flip at Backdoor this week. Photo: Wonderland Prod.

These guys will be very hard to beat and will demonstrate to everyone why they are some of the highest paid bodyboarders on earth. I am super excited to see Ben back in a competition rash vest being the 2016 injury wildcard. He is one of the most driven, intelligent and flawless bodyboarders Australia has ever produced and this will show if he makes his way deep into the second day of competition at pipeline.

The Favourites

So here we go the predictions and the reason why Riptide pays the author the big buck to write these articles for your reading pleasure. Everyone thinks that JJJ is an indie, left-wing, government funded, aussie radio station that most people only listen to on one day a year for the Hottest 100. But I beg to differ, JJJ actually stands for Jacob, Jeff and Jared.

Yes that’s right, Houston, Romero and Hubb are my predictions as the favourites for this year’s MSPI.

Hubb’s track record goes without saying so I wont even waste your reading time with why he is in the mix.

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Jerry with a big invert on his way to winning the Arica Challenge 2015. Photo by Pablo Jimenez

Jared Houston is your current APB world champion and has made a few Pipe finals already, as well as showing he has what it takes in the big stuff at events in Chile and the Canary Islands. The guy is one fire and has added a competition intelligence to his riding in the last two years which will mean he will go down as one of the great bodyboarders of the modern era. Surfing the warm water reef breaks of Puerto Rico (where he lives) has been the perfect training ground for this year’s Hawaii season.

All I can say about Jacob is that it’s about time. This guy is one of the most explosive, raw and creative bodyboarders on earth. His antics at Honolua Bay are legendary and it sends a shiver down my spine thinking what he might do if presented with a 10-foot Backdoor section. If he can use the priority system to his advantage and aim for some massive barrels and big sections the numbers the judges will be pencilling down for this guy will be hard to beat.

The Mike Stewart Pipeline Invitational waiting period is from Saturday, February 20 until Saturday, March 5.

 

 

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