Aussie Picklum falls in Pipe final after perfect score

Melissa Woods |

Molly Picklum has surged into the semi-finals of the Pipe Pro.
Molly Picklum has surged into the semi-finals of the Pipe Pro.

Australian surfer Molly Picklum has posted the first perfect score of her career but has fallen to American Caitlin Simmers in the final of the Pipe Pro in Hawaii.

The 21-year-old nailed a 10 in her epic semi-final win over local Bettylou Sakura Johnson, which was widely rated as the best ever women’s heat on the Championship Tour.

But Picklum was unable to back up that performance in the decider, with 18-year-old Californian Simmers continuing her dominance over the NSW surfer, with their head-to-head record now 4-0 in the American’s favour.

Barron Mamiya also posted a 10 for a deep backside tube en route to a score of 16.00 to clinch a tight win in the men’s final over fellow Hawaiian John John Florence, who scored 15.33.

Picklum, who will represent Australia at this year’s Olympics, posted the top score in the final, opening with a 9.27, and only needed  3.39 to regain the lead with plenty of time left on the clock.

But after dialling up barrels all competition, Picklum, who won the Pipe Masters Invitational in 2022, couldn’t find the winning wave, with her tally of 10.64 short of Simmers’ 12.66.

With Johnson also only 18 and with the likes of eight-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore and Hawaiian great Carissa Moore taking the year off, it marked a shift to the new generation.

Pipeline has only been a regular stop on the women’s world tour for three years, with the standard of women’s surfing rocketing at the sport’s most challenging and dangerous wave.

“Pipeline is for the f***ing girls,” a jubilant Simmers declared after her win over Picklum.

“This girl, she’s a Pipe Master, I couldn’t let her have it again.

Caitlin Simmers
Caitlin Simmers (pic) held off Aussie Molly Picklum to win the Lexus Pipe Pro final in Oahu, Hawaii. (HANDOUT/World Surf League)

“I’m really happy. This wave is terrifying and I respect everyone who wants a part of it, and I respect everyone who doesn’t because it’s frigging freaky.”

Simmers will wear the yellow rankings leaders jersey at next week’s Sunset Beach event, where Picklum is the defending champion.

After multiple delays in competition, organisers were rewarded for their patience with double overhead waves on offer early at the famous Oahu break.

Picklum’s 10 came midway through her heat against Johnson, which came down to the wire.

With less than 40 seconds remaining, Johnson pulled into a huge barrel and exited, celebrating her finish.

But her score of 8.33 was just short of the required 8.61 and gave her a total of 15.33 to Picklum’s 15.66.

World No.5 Picklum had laid down the challenge when she flew through a barrel on her backhand side to earn the only 10 in the women’s competition.

“There’s no more fitting place than Pipe to give me my first 10,” the NSW surfer said.

“I’m just so, so happy – 10 points, it’s hard to come by.

“With the wave I needed a score and I know she’s capable of a 10, so I just took off and I just thought it’s got some draw to it and I may as well roll the dice and try.

“But 10 points, I love it, I want more.”

Earlier, Australia’s world No.2 Ethan Ewing made a quarter-final exit, taken out by Sydneysider Connor O’Leary, who last year switched his allegiance to Japan in the hope of locking in an Olympic berth.

O’Leary’s mother, Akemi Karasawa, is a Japanese former surfing champion, but the world No.11 grew up in Cronulla.

The young Queenslander was crunched in a big wave that snapped his board in half, and he never managed to get back in the game.