Surf: Six feet, mainly rights, clean with windy periods
Events Held: Event to final
Nature’s Call: Well, I did what I could
Predicted: Mick Fanning to be world champion in 2004 Oh my God! Why have we rented the house opposite Andy Irons’s? They’re all out there right fricken now. Deano Morrison has dumped all his beer in our fridge. Actually, it’s wine coolers for god’s sake. Adrian, the Gold Coast kid who’s Parko’s caddy, is out there screaming something about someone being his “boy”. “You’re my boy!” he’s screaming. “You’re my boy!” It’s only a matter of time before the entire massive Volcom House Crew, with their black “A. Irons 03” t-shirts and “AI Hawaii” baseball caps, come charging around to wreak uncontained emotional havoc on everything that dares to stand in their way.

OK, so your correspondent has only a few precious minutes to rip this report out of his computer before inevitably being sucked into the whirlwind … and therefore, let’s dispense with too many formalities and cut to the chase. Andy Irons is the world professional surfing champion for 2003. He’s also the {{{Vans}}} Triple Crown champion and the XBox Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters champion for the same period. And the great reign of Kelly Slater, as indisputably the finest pro surfer in the sport’s history, is over. The last few days have been withering for this contest. A strong northwest swell was smashed through midweek by the return of evil north winds, rain, and a kind of special North Shore bleakness. As the bad weather passed, you could see how it’d scoured all the sand out of Ehukai and Pupukea and dumped it all across the entrance to Pipeline’s left-hand hole. The two combatants took quite different routes through those few days. Kelly stayed largely clear of the water, relaxing with friends and family — Judy Slater and Kelly’s brother Sean have been here since December 3. “I had thought about losing quite a lot,” he said. “I just wanted to prepare myself either way for how it would feel … I’m not sure why I’d do that.” Perhaps it’s just being grown-up.

Andy was long past such ponderings. Before Sunset Beach, he reckons, “I was thinking about what it’d be to lose way more than what it’d be to win. Way more! For sure. I was thinking runner-up’s fine, whatever, last year I won, so…. But then Mick (Fanning) my room-mate, he was like ‘What’re you doing buddy, what are you talkin’ about? You’re not even over! Runner-up? You’re gonna kick his ass! Go take it!’ And I went, hey yeah! What am I thinking?” Their few encounters were barbed with tension. On December 15, Kelly paid a visit to the Off-The-Wall compound where Andy’s been staying, on the pretext of visiting Damien Hobgood, who’s in the nearby Oakley house. After leaving Damien’s, he walked straight into AI’s kitchen. It was around 8 am. “Hey man, nobody’s here you’re looking for,” Andy said.

Kelly hung out for 30 seconds or so, then said “All right, see ya,” and walked out again. Andy looked a bit stunned. “F–k, that was random!” he grunted. Next day, just before the wind destroyed everything, Kelly paddled out alone to Backdoor wearing a white springsuit and put on a casual, lethal, lonely exhibition. There weren’t many spectators, but the show was clearly intended for only one person. Who sat up on his lanai, watching, and saying almost under his breath: “Break an ankle! Break an ankle!” When it came down today, Kelly surfed like an intelligent, mature adult and Andy surfed like a wild fricken animal. Two of the Champ’s most critical rides — an 8.0 in his quarterfinal and an 8.33, the highest scoring wave of the final — were ridden on virtually broken boards, creased and flapping in the heat of battle. “The first one, I looked at it and went wow, it’s buckled!” Andy told SURFING. “There was some glass loose on the bottom. Then the wave came and I had to go… I pulled in, came out, did a bottom turn and thought ‘Hope it holds together for a cutback or something’.” It did — just. When Andy got to the beach to switch boards, he saw the glass had peeled entirely away from the bottom. “I was surfing foam, man!” The second snappage occurred after a clumsy first ride in the final, a ride engendered by near-exhaustion on the Champ’s part. He stumbled on a minor pull-in, then found himself cleaned up by a following set. Again his board was buckled, and again a perfect little wave reared up. “I don’t know how it made it through that wave. I just came out and did a couple of turns. It was falling apart under my feet.”

That was enough for Andy to set up what will surely prove to be the most important victory of his career. Because this was generational. This turned the hands of time just as Tom Carroll turned ’em on MR and Shaun Tomson at Sunset in 1982, or Kelly turned ’em on the Carroll/Curren generation here at Pipe in 1992. But this is to leave out a vital subplot, to ignore the form surfer of this final day of days at a beach they normally call Banzai but might as well today have called Burleigh. Joel Parkinson. Parko was out of the running for world champ this year, and don’t think it didn’t hurt. “I think back to Bells, where I got second,” he sighed, just after a dominating performance in his third round heat. “Then in Fiji I made a stupid mistake, and lost early to Beau Emerton. Then I came second in Japan. Right now I’m thinking back and going ‘If a couple of things had gone my way, I’d be right there’.” He had little doubt who’d come out on top in today’s surf — a uniquely taxing situation, in which a northeast swell and an oddly placed sandbar created long peeling rights running clean across Pipeline’s normally peaky reef. “Here in Hawaii, it’s really about manhandling the conditions. And I think Andy more than anyone can do that, just manhandle any surf that comes along. I mean Kelly, he’ll probably finesse it more, but Andy makes it happen.” Actually, Parko was making it happen. He ripped smoothly to the final, steering clear of Andy in the first time they met — the semifinals — yet winning the heat with a lovely powerful aesthetic series of tubes and top turn carves. Between heats, he worried what to do if he found himself in the final with the Contenders. Paddle down to Off-The-Wall? Leave them to it? “Maybe me and Phil (Macdonald) should just get clear of ’em,” Parko pondered. “Maybe we should ask Kelly!” Instead he did something extraordinary. With 12 minutes gone in the final, Parko paddled from deep on Backdoor on a wave he couldn’t possibly have made. Only one surfer could’ve made it, actually — Kelly, who was sitting just slightly wide at the time. Parko flicked off just past Kelly, whereupon the wave went crazy, barreling all the way to Off-The-Wall 50 yards away. It was a 10 gone begging, a wave that could’ve changed the whole game, and Kelly knew it. He let fly with a few rude words, and was still feeling it an hour or two later, after the whole presentation gig had wound down. “I wouldn’t have expected any more from (Parko),” he said. “I’ve surfed with him.” Meantime, brother Sean Slater walked back up from the shoreline, pretty choked up. “I’ve never seen my brother lose,” he said. AI was visibly buggered after this enormous day, during which he surfed five times — one warm-up, four heats — in conditions that’d have tested most surfers once. “Man,” he shivered on the stage after having lifted all three of his nice new trophies, “get me a warm shower!” He plans a Christmas in California with girlfriend Lindsy’s family, followed by a little snowboarding and a trip to Australia in January for the premiere of his movie, Blue {{{Horizon}}}. And …. well, hell, we’d like to write more … but the band’s set up next door, and they’re playing something, and I think Deano’s coming back for his wine coolers… Arrrrgghhh! There’s only so much a man can stand!! — Nick CarrollGERRY LOPEZ XBOX PIPE MASTERS
Final placings
1 Andy Irons
2 Joel Parkinson
3 Phil Macdonald
4 Kelly Slater
5 Bruce Irons, Luke Hitchings
7 Pancho Sullivan, Cory LopezCheck the ASP site for live scoring and final ASP WCT rankings for 2003!