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Kemper, deVault advance to Pipe Masters round of 32

Maui’s Billy Kemper advances directly to Round 3 of the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters after winning his opening round heat 6 of round 1 at Pipeline on Tuesday in Oahu. WSL / Kelly Cestarii photos via Getty Images

The Maui News

Maui’s Billy Kemper and Imaikalani deVault both advanced through to the round of 32 as the Billabong Pipe Masters got underway Tuesday on Oahu’s North Shore.

Fresh off his win in the Pipe Invitational, Kemper dazzled with a ride of 9.40 and won his opening seeding-round heat of the World Surf League Championship Tour event with a two-wave total of 15.63. Brazil’s Italo Ferreira, the world rankings leader, was second at 10.67, while fellow Brazilian Michael Rodrigues (5.60) was third.

“Obviously, it’s an honor to share the water with the No. 1 surfer in the world,” Kemper was quoted as saying in a WSL press release. “At this point, I don’t care if you’re number 1 or 100, I want to beat everyone. I love competing. This is my backyard and just enjoying myself. I have my wife and children down here, my coach Kahea (Hart) and like I said, just having fun.”

Kemper also has an eye on Maui, with the Jaws Big Wave Championships called on for Thursday. The defending Peahi champion could have a busy few days ahead with today’s Pipe Masters rounds, Thursday’s big-wave competition and then Friday’s finals day back at the Banzai Pipeline.

Maui’s Imaikalani deVault placed third in his opening round heat at the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters. He remained alive after finishing second in his next round.

“I trained really hard for this and am very excited about this week,” Kemper said. “Jamie Mitchell took some of my boards over to Peahi for me last night. In my mind, I planned on making it through today and going on to tomorrow. I hope I go on through my heat tomorrow and then will be over on Maui for the Big Wave for Thursday and then straight back here for finals day.”

DeVault, competing in his first CT event, opened with a 6.10 to place third in his heat against World No. 2 Gabriel Medina (17.30) and Willian Cardoso (7.56) of Brazil. The loss sent deVault to the elimination round, where he survived with a second-place finish (8.00) in a heat that also included Japan’s Kanoa Igarishi (13.60) and Italy’s Leonardo Fioravanti (3.26).

In the round of 32, Kemper takes on Oahu’s Seth Moniz and deVault faces Medina.

Also avoiding elimination was Oahu’s John John Florence. The two-time world champion, who is competing for the first time since June after recovering from a knee injury, won his elimination heat over Kauai’s Sebastian Zietz and Portugal’s Frederico Morais to continue in his quest to claim the last spot on the U.S. Olympic team — he and 11-time world champion Kelly Slater are in a battle to join Kolohe Andino as the male American representatives in surfing’s Olympic debut next summer in Tokyo.

Slater moved to the round of 32 when he placed second in his first-round heat. He entered the Pipe Masters trailing Florence in Championship Tour points, which will determine the Olympic berth.