He came to Hawaii looking to fulfill a childhood dream and humbly gain experience at the world's most revered and feared surf spot: the Banzai Pipeline. But 20-year-old New York pro surfing rookie Balaram Stack scored one of surfing's rarest waves: a perfect 10 on a fearsome day deemed only for warriors at the Volcom Pipe Pro. Fifteen-to-20 foot Pipe doled out its fair share of injuries, snapped surfboard and bruised pride today. No-one imagined that the kid from New York would steal the show, unscathed.
Stack was up against one of Pipeline's most respected riders today - Kalani Chapman, 29, and a pair of rising Hawaiian stars in Granger Larson, 21, and Tonino Benson, 22. He had a nail-biting start; skittling to the bottom of his first ride on his stomach, and following up with a short tube-ride that almost knocked him off. But none of his challengers were fairing much better in the rogue lineup and Stack surprisingly took a slim lead.
Then with three minutes to go, a huge A-frame peak pushed through and Balaram, sitting deepest, swung and stroked over the ledge. He dropped weightlessly, set the rail of his surfboard on edge and pulled up into a gaping, hollow barrel, arms outstretched. When he exited in a plume of spray and whitewater, he was standing casually with hands held behind his back... in disbelief.
Stack also scored a bonus $1,000 as part of the ELECTRIC Perfect Ten bonus awards. He is now among the final 32 surfers left in the event and will next face defending event champion John John Florence (Hawaii). The Volcom Pipe Pro is expected to wrap up and crown a champion tomorrow.
"It's what I've always wanted - to have a heat out there in pumping waves," said Stack. "I just thought that if the wave came, I was going, if not, I'll regret it forever. I knew the waves were firing and there were only three other guys out. That never happens, so I was just hoping I would get a wave. The stars aligned. I got one.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking just being out there. All I was hoping was to make another heat and make it to the next round, but now I don't even care if I make the next round, that was the best thing ever.
"It's the first time I've ever surfed a contest out here and it's definitely a dream I've had for a while."
On taking the heat from Kalani Chapman with a perfect 10: "Yeah, that definitely wasn't supposed to happen."
Visit Surfline for more from Day three of the Volcom Pipe Pro, including highlights of Quiksilver Team Riders Balaram Stack and Koa Rothman
Photos by Mike Coots