2006 Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters

In what was arguably the best
finale ever seen at the 36-year-old Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters, Andy Irons
(HAW) has claimed a well-deserved victory over long-time rival Kelly Slater
(USA), Cory Lopez (USA) and Rob Machado (USA).

Putting on a totally courageous show in the two metre (six foot) plus
conditions, the former three-time Foster's ASP World Tour champion and defending
event champion, put his body on the line and showed the world that when he puts
his mind and his heart into his surfing he is a truly inspirational athlete.

The final began with all surfers scoring some serious tube time but as per the
classic event script, Slater had the early upper hand.

By the eight-minute mark of the 35-minute extravaganza, Slater had a 9.00 and a
7.40 in his score line, after disappearing and reappearing from a Pipeline left
and then a Backdoor right.

He then surged further forward, locking in an 8.53 for a crazy Backdoor barrel
where he willed himself through a mammoth section of water.

And while the massive crowd were roaring their appreciation at the newly-crowned
eight-time world champ, who looked like he would romp on home with his sixth
Pipe Master crown, none would have fathomed what was about to unfold.

Irons' passion for surfing, and especially winning, constantly burns deep
within, and while the masses were about to slap the back of Slater, Irons was in
no way about to lay down and let him walk away with the final prize of the year
without a spirited tussle.

After notching up some rides that were mind boggling to say the least, Irons was
back in the race but still looked to be huge outside chance as he needed a 9.10
to reign in his foe.

And then it happened… A solid set wave lurched through the infamous break and
Irons grabbed the inside, took off deep, freefalling a full two metres down the

At the bottom of the wave he grabbed the edge off his board, digging his body
into the wave to stall. He then raced through and under an unbelievable cascade
of water and emerged to a deafening crowd roar.

It was a 9.87 and Irons had pulled the unthinkable and taken the lead.

Slater lashed back… another amazing Backdoor barrel and an 8.73. So close but
yet so far… Irons was leading but it wasn't over yet.

The two then jockeyed for position in the lineup and Irons had the inside. He
dropped into Backdoor yet again, freefalling, just edging in his rail then
lining up the barrel on which many mere mortals would have floundered, fallen
and been eaten by the ocean.

Irons shot out at light speed and with the judges holding up scorecards of
perfect 10.0s across the board, Irons pumped his fists hard as the action
lusting crowd leapt to their feet and shrilled a glass shattering cheer.

"I just never count myself out," said Irons. "I know Kelly is an amazing surfer,
but he's out at the same spot I am. It's hard to put it in words [how I feel].
It worked out perfect. I fought back and then that last wave at the end the
10.0… Kelly [Slater] almost got it, and if he had he would have had me. He would
have won. I'm glad that I didn't back down at all."

For Irons it was an amazing end to a year where outside of Slater, the rest of
the tour front-runners were finding it difficult to string together results.

And after taking today's illustrious victor's trophy Irons sent out a message
that he would in no way back away from reclaiming the world crown, which Slater
stole from him in 2005.

"He knows that I'm not going away quietly and I'm in no way disappearing," said
Irons. "I'm still here and I still want to fight back. Hopefully next year,
things will go my way instead of them going against me like they did this year."