The Pipeline Masters is supposed to be exactly what we all just witnessed over the last three days: a 6- to 12-foot west swell with surfers putting their lives on the line with every horrifying drop. To win this year you had to become a true master of the Pipeline, as even with all the perfect waves that came in--and were ridden--there were a dozen more hell bent on giving you the beat down of your life.
Coming into the final day, the stage was set for three major story lines to unfold. The first being John John and Michel Bourez locked in a close battle for the Vans Triple Crown Title. Second was the John John vs. Kelly Slater quarterfinal in what was being talked about as the possible end of Slater's reign and the beginning of John John's. The third was the question of who would win the best Pipeline Masters event since Rob Machado's win in 2000.
With the surf dropping overnight to 6-foot with the occasional 8-footer, and the wind increasing to 25 mph and higher gusts, Kelly Slater went on a crusade to have contest officials postpone the event in hope of a better swell coming in 7 days. Nobody was having any of that though, and the call was made for an 8am start.
To Kelly’s credit, he composed himself and attempted unsuccessfully to keep up with John John during the first 27 minutes of their 30-minute quarterfinal. Facing his second loss in a combination situation to John John of the event, Slater made a miraculous white washy tube for a 9.7, equaling John John's top score. That's when John John made a horrible rookie mistake, as he could have won the heat without even riding another wave. Instead, John John took an average wave with Kelly on the inside, failing to improve on his two wave total. This left Kelly alone on the lineup with a minute to go and needing a 7. Of course a perfect Backdoor wave came right to him, scoring a 7.8 and leaving John John with a very bad taste in his mouth--DEFEAT.
When the semifinals began, Kelly was expected to take Parko out and whoever else was left standing between him and another Pipe Masters title. Parko wasn't reading the same script as he orchestrated an impossible comeback of his own, finding two high scores in succession and snatching the win from Kelly.
Semifinal no. 2 had the entire North Shore community on the edge of their seat awaiting the outcome. If Bourez lost, Florence would win the Triple Crown Title. After a very frustrating 20 minutes that saw Bourez and Perrow locked into a battle of 2-point rides, Perrow slid into a perfect 10-point backdoor tube. The entire North Shore erupted and Florence became the youngest Triple Crown champion to date.
The final was a match up of veteran Australians, with 3-time Triple Crown Champion Joel Parkinson against heavy water legend Kieren Perrow. The world loves an underdog with heart, and with that Kieran was the overwhelming crowd favorite. The tidal wave of support and the lingering sting of a last-second finals loss to Jeremy Flores last year sent Kieren all over the lineup, grabbing almost every quality wave and winning handily over Parko.
Earlier in the week, the opening rounds featured Hawaiian qualifiers and a few sponsor wildcards up against the back third of the World Tour. What transpired was a wake up call for any international surfer who thinks he can show up in Hawaii and expect to ride the most challenging wave in the world. Evan Valiere, Markus Hickman, Ian Walsh, Shane Dorian, Mason Ho, and others all showed why it is so important to have not only the WT top 34 in the Pipe Masters, but also a solid representation from the locals who dedicate their life to surfing Pipeline on every swell--and they do it damn well.
Even into round 3 on the second day, Kalani Chapman, Jamie O'Brien, Evan Valiere, and Shane Dorian all took down top seeded WT competitors. The stand out surfer of all the early rounds was none other than North Shore born and raised John John Florence, who dropped three perfect 10s before any other surfer had even gotten a single one.