Derek Ho clawed his way to the '93 title after a race muddied by lead changes and paltry league finances. Photo: Bielmann

Derek Ho was ranked fourth with just the Pipe Masters left in ’93, eventually frog-hopping his way to the title and becoming the first male Hawaiian to win the pro tour. Photo: Bielmann

In his post-heat interview yesterday, after getting Filipe’d in the Quarterfinals at Lowers, Kelly Slater commented that not since 1993 was the men’s title race this unpredictable. We asked Matt Warshaw to walk us through that year’s leader board scenario, which featured an octopus-tangle of Damien Hardman, Potts, Kong, and Derek Ho, all grabbing for the trophy.

Are this year's title chasers similar to those from '93? Who was who?

It was super-tight going into the Pipe Masters that year, and it'll be the same this year; that's probably the only comparison. In 1993, just before the Masters, Damien Hardman was first in the ratings, Potter was second, Elkerton third, Derek Ho fourth, and Dave MacAulay fifth. Really close on paper. Slater and Machado were mathematically still in the running, but barely. Of the top five surfers, Hardman didn't have much game at Pipe, and MacAulay had even less. Potter and Kong were both good Pipe surfers. Derek was magic.

Who was the favorite headed into the season?

Slater, by a mile. 1992 was his first title, and everybody knew he was just getting warmed up. Baywatch jacked his '93 campaign. It fortified him for 1994, when he started that five-year run of titles. And by "fortified," I mean "embarrassed."

Did the ASP build up any rivalries to juice the storyline?

Not sure if it was a rivalry beforehand, but there was a really intense few minutes that afternoon at Pipe, and I'm sure it still keeps Elkerton up at night. Kong and Derek were in the same semifinal heat. The other contenders were all out of the running. Ho needed Gary to go down in the semi, then Derek had to either get first or second in the final. Here's where it gets dicey. It was a four-man heat; Pipe that year was the only ‘CT event with four-man heats. Tom Carroll was in the semi, too, but he pretty much sat by and let Gary and Derek surf it out, which didn't help Gary. Larry Rios of Hawaii was also in the semi, and he actually blocked Gary out of a wave or two. Then, right near the end, Derek was in first, Gary was second, and Larry third. Wave comes, Derek's inside, he paddles, Gary has to back off. Then Derek backs off so that Larry can catch it. Larry gets the score, moves into second, Elko's out. Slater, Rios, and Jeff Booth were in the final, but Derek basically surfed alone out there. Won easy. It was his day.

Anything else from that year that stands out?

It was a big deal that Derek Ho was 29. Ancient! The oldest surfer to win a World Title at that point. And I just came across this amazing and kind of sad fact: Ho's 1993 prize money was $32,250. For the whole year. The surf economy was so deep in the toilet. The Masters didn't have a sponsor ’til late November; the whole Triple Crown was basically one tiny bank withdrawal short of bankruptcy.