Reef McIntosh Wins Backdoor Shootout

The Kauaian standout takes the win in the best Pipe of the year

Reef McIntosh takes the win over a stacked field of incredible Pipe surfers. Photo: Noyle

After three days of thundering Pipe, the Backdoor Shootout crowned a champion in the form of Kauai native and Pipeline mainstay Reef McIntosh. We spoke with Reef about the contest’s unique format, what a win at Pipe means to him, and what it’s like to be labeled “the hardest working man in surfing.”

Can you run me through how the format for the Shootout works?

Yeah, it’s a team event and they also crown an individual winner. There were eights teams and 15 surfers on each team. Each heat had four guys and lasted 30 minutes. You don’t get eliminated, but you add up each guy’s best four scores to determine the winner. There’s really no other event in surfing quite like it.

Since there’s not a webcast, I don’t think a lot of people realize how good Pipe has been.

It’s been amazing. The contest always seems to get the best waves. Eddie [Rothman, the event’s organizer] always seems to have the magic touch for this contest. I think this has been the best three days of Pipe we’ve had all winter. The event’s like the Eddie event at Waimea, where we don’t run it unless Pipe is really amazing. And that’s what we had for this comp; really amazing waves.

Late yesterday afternoon, you were in the lead when they decided to hold off on the event and try to finish today. But they wound up not running today and crowning you the winner. That must have been pretty brutal last night.

Oh man, I was pacing around all night. I’ve never really won anything before so I was just really anxious. The event’s not over until Eddie says it’s over, so I was definitely feeling the nerves. To be honest, I don’t know how the top competitive guys do it all the time. There’s so much pressure. But when they announdced that the event was over and that I’d won, that was pretty amazing.

What’s the vibe like in the water for the contest?

It’s pretty lighthearted. Most of the people out the in water are just psyching to surf Pipe with just a few other guys out. I had a heat with Cheyne Magnusson where we talked about the Chargers the whole time and just traded waves. The cool thing about this event is that you can build on your scores--it’s like building house. You’ll post a 7 and then try and post an 8. And then if you get a 10, you’ll be pushing for an 11 or 12. That’s another cool thing about the event, you can score up to 12 points on a wave.

So you’re always a Pipe standout, but you’re not really known for competitive surfing. What’s it feel like to win an event like this at Pipe?

Like I said, I’ve never won an event before so it’s a feeling I’ve never thought that I would experience. Not that I’ve ever doubted myself, because I thought that I could win out here if the waves were good. But yeah, it’s definitely something I’ll never forget.

Someone once referred to you as “the hardest working man in surfing.” Does it feel like the work paid off?

Yeah, that’s funny that someone said that about me. It’s an honor for sure, but it’s tough for me to feel like I’m working when I’m surfing. It’s a little weird to equate surfing to a job, but I guess it is and I try and work hard at it. But I feel like I’m good at my craft. I’m not sure if I want to call myself a working-class surfer, but it’s cool to take a win over the guys that are always winning out there. I just thought it’d be cool to finish in the top 5, so to win it is really special.

See video highlights from day 1, day 2, and day 3 of competition, and check out our photo gallery here.

Your 2012 Da Hui Backdoor Shootout champ, doing a victory lap at Pipeline. Photo: Noyle


1. Reef McIntosh $30,000
2. Jamie O'Brien $20,000
3. Marcus Hickman $10,000
4. Bruce Irons $5,000
5. John John Florence $2,500

Volcom [Marcus Hickman, Bruce Irons, Dean Morrison, and Dusty Payne]