Surfing rocked by wild Pipe punch-up
Long-simmering tension between a Hawaiian and Brazilian surfer exploded at the year-ending Pipe Masters in a heated beach scuffle.
Maui charger Tanner Hendrickson was suspended by the World Surf League and withdrawn from the glamour event on Oahu after he was filmed confronting World No. 14 Michael Rodrigues.
In what some are calling a set-up, Rodrigues and his entourage began filming as the championship tour surfer walked up a staircase leading away from the beach - only to run straight into Hendrickson.
The Hawaiian slapped an acai bowl Rodrigues was eating out of his hands before the camera was partly obscured. He appeared to wrestle the Brazilian to the ground and was throwing punches - but the camera man retreated back down the stair case.
Hendrickson told Stab Magazine the pair have beef dating back several years and Rodrigues had "shoulder bumped" him moments earlier before the filmed scuffle.
"The WSL said that I 'initiated the violence' so I'm out. It f***ing sucks," Hendrickson told Stab. "I just went home (to Maui) to work for a few days to make enough money to be here for this event. Now I'm going home without making any money back from the Trials, let alone the chance to qualify for the Pipe Masters."
"He knew it was being filmed. I had no idea," Hendrickson added. "So he instigated this while walking up the stairs, knowing it would set me off. I feel like he played me and got the better of me."
Hendrickson was one of 32 non-championship tour surfers given the opportunity to compete for two wildcard slots in the main draw of the event at the Pipe Invitational on Thursday (AEDT).
But he was pulled from the draw by the WSL. "The WSL has provisionally suspended Tanner Hendrickson from all competition until a full investigation can be completed following an incident involving Championship Tour athlete Michael Rodrigues," it said in a statement.
There's been intense social media backlash in the wake of the fight, with surf fans from Brazil and Hawaii arguing - and threatening - the surfers involved.
"I've gotten messages from a lot of Brazilian people, half of them saying, 'Thank you for doing that, he's such a scrub,' and the other half saying they're gonna kill me when I go to Brazil," Hendrickson told Stab.
Rodrigues broke his silence on Thursday morning (AEDT), writing a post to his Instagram followers.
"Faced with the repercussion of the aggression I suffered here in Hawaii, I would like to say that I am well focused solely on the competition here at Pipeline, and my career as a professional surfer," a translate of his Portuguese read.
"In addition, I repudiate any and all acts of violence against myself, or against any other living being.
"Nothing justifies the aggression I have received, so I feel obliged to take all reasonable steps to ensure that unfortunate events such as these do not recur, with me, or against any other athlete and/or person.
"Finally, WSL has already demonstrated that surfing, as a top-level sport, no longer tolerates this type of behaviour. I hope this fact does not negatively effect the surf, let alone my career. I'm a surfer, athlete! Hugs to all, and thanks for the support."