World surfing title challengers Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater are set for their opening heats in the season-ending Pipeline Masters in Hawaii.
Little-known Mitch Crews has the chance to clinch a third world surfing title for countryman Mick Fanning after earning a clash with Kelly Slater at the Pipe Masters.
Championship leader Fanning and his only title rival Slater are due to enter the season-ending contest at Pipeline in Hawaii in the third round on Tuesday AEDT.
For Slater to win a 12th world crown he must win the event and have Fanning fail to reach the semi-finals.
But 23-year-old Crews can become an Australian hero and end the title battle early if he’s able to eliminate the American superstar in their match up.
The Queenslander, a qualifier for next year’s world championship tour, showed he’s in the form to cause some problems, pulling off the biggest upset of day one when he beat Hawaii’s former tour veteran Shane Dorian in round one.
Crews then backed it up in the pumping two metre surf with a second round win over countryman Matt Wilkinson.
“This Hawaii season’s one of the best I’ve ever had,” Crews said.
“This has been an incredible run and that (Dorian) heat was a great time. I never usually even get waves out here, so I’m really happy.”
The often brutal North Shore surf was less kind to Australia’s retiring former Pipeline Masters champion Kieren Perrow.
In the final heat of his career, the 36-year-old dislocated his shoulder in a heavy wipeout.
“It spat me out and I just felt my shoulder snap,” said Perrow, who won the event in 2011.
Perrow’s opening round competitor, Kaimana Jaquias of Hawaii, will surf against Fanning in their round-three heat.