Things were looking good for California’s Conner Coffin as he entered Round Three of the Billabong Pipe Masters. His victory in the second round against Jack Freestone had guaranteed him an official spot in next year’s Championship Tour. Furthermore, his main rivals for Rookie of the Year, Stu Kennedy and Caio Ibelli, had fallen out early of the Pipes competition.
Conner needed just one more win to capture the coveted Rookie of the Year award, and he might well have gotten it, had he been surfing against someone other than 11-time world champ Kelly Slater.
The results of the heat were agonizingly close. In the last two minutes, Kelly’s score stood at 15.27. Conner, needing a 9.14, made his way through what looked like the best runner of the heat and came out looking certain of a winning score. The judges’ pronouncement came back: a 9.07.
It was official – Brazilian Caio Ibelli was 2016 Rookie of the Year.