The Banzai. The Proving Grounds. The Mecca. If there’s one wave in the world where anyone would chop off his left pinky to win, it’s Pipeline. With the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Memory of Andy Irons just around the corner, all eyes are on the North Shore. There’s a world title race boiling in the cauldron, requalification hopes rising in people’s throats and, with luck, a thumping west swell ready to explode on the coral shelf just feet from the beach. Most of the time this event is won with a mix of calculated risk, a bit of fortune and a great deal of tube-riding skill. Knowing what it takes to win Pipe, here’s a look at how the Billabong boys are likely to fare when the siren sounds on the final event of the 2018 WCT season...

Joel Parkinson

Parko’s last event ever. The swan song for the swooping starling, or if you’re an Aussie, the flamin’ galah. Joel is phenomenal at Pipe. He’s had multiple 10s, tons of finals finishes and one win to cap off his world title in 2012. After a win at Haleiwa to warm things up for the Triple Crown, you can bet he’ll be champing at the bit to go out on a major high.

He’s absolutely deadly in the lefts here, but when Backdoor fires, Parko really comes into his own. Behind the peak, swoop in, yarrrrr! Flying out with the spit. #ONYAPARKO! It’s been an absolute pleasure watching you and can’t wait to see a big one to cap off a crazy career.

Italo Ferreira

Italo is sitting right toward the top end of the ratings and has been a major star on tour this year. 3 wins where he’d never had a single one before. Are you kidding? The Brazilian Kid is now a Smiling Superman. He made quarter finals last year too at Pipe, so given his history and current form you’d have to say he’s well in the talks of possible trophy takers.

Italo will shine especially in pitting lefts, or if it’s mid-sized backdoor with the opportunity for hail mary rotations and pig-dogging pits. His Kryptonite could be facing rampaging wildcards early on where they’re known for mowing down even the toughest competition. If Italo can thread through round 3 though, be sure to look at for him come finals day.

Griffin Colapinto

Despite winning the Triple Crown last year, Griffin Colapinto didn’t actually surf in Pipe. He’s never had a start at this wave for the WT but that doesn’t mean he’s a slouch in heaving pits. Far from it. Griff is one of the best tube riders in the world, especially when it comes to ledging takeoffs and toenail digging bottom turns. He’s like a Hail Mary Hucking Honeybadger when it comes to making impossible situations.

Griffin is also sitting just inside the qualification bubble when it comes to cementing his place on tour through the main channel. You can bet his motivation is high to ensure he’s on the right side of those calculations once the season wraps up.

Frederico Morais

Frederico is another guy who is sitting just inside qualification stakes. Yet, unlike Griffin he’s not double qualifying on the QS right now. So, he’ll be double pumped to post a big finish at sweet lady Pipeline. He’s got the chops for it too. Fearless in big waves, he can thread pits in both directions and has an ace up his sleeve when it comes to spray-throwing pocket hooks to gain those extra points.

Fred’s record here is something to be concerned about though. In his two starts at Pipe he has been knocked out in round 2. But, if we’ve learned anything from watching Fred surf in heats, it’s that anything can happen. Hang onto the edge of your seat waiting for this European magician to pull a rabbit out his arsenal.

The Wildcards

When it comes to Pipe there’s always a lot of talk around the wildcards and what they might bring to the event. These guys are specialists in big, dangerous surf and are often better than a lot of the top 32 when it comes to testing conditions.

Watch out for possible inclusions in the draw like Seth Moniz, Josh Moniz, Finn McGill and Jack Robinson. All have the capacity to win the whole damn event, let alone the trials.

To tune into all the action of the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, check out the WSL website from December 8th onward.