A Bugs Eye View

A simply outstanding series of events that made up the {{{Vans}}} Triple Crown of Surfing. Of course, with the Billabong Pro Maui awaiting a Final's day at Honolua Bay 9or possible Ho'okipa) it is all still in motion. A wonderful Billabong Pipeline Masters, the dual-heat format functioning like a well-oiled machine, transcending into exotic man-on-man, a real Pipe treat.

What made it even more amazing was that the final day was nestled in between two flash flood events. On the eve of the final, half of Haleiwa went under, streams transformed into rivers, which duly broke their banks, transporting all manner of flotsam onto the beaches, including the odd stray farm animal. Mercifully, the only marked effect on the event was that the 09 Billabong Pipeline Masters was chocolate flavored.

One could have expected at least a ruffled surface or a lumpy swell following the previous evenings kona maelstrom, but no, Pipe was relatively smooth and the sets quite orderly in the 6-10' range. There were however certain dangers lurking, however they were virtually imperceptible to the naked eye. Luke Stedman and Tim Reyes felt the danger. There was a subtle backwash that would ripple through only occasionally, making it hard to pick up on radar. Thousands of cubic metres of water had intermingled with ocean water. This not only effected buoyancy, it actually changed the molecular structure of the lip, the varying consistency resulting in huge slabs of water cascading without notice.

Contest Director Bernie Baker also pointed out another anomoly, an ever so feint ripple of windswell, a remnant of the previous nights gale. These ripples did not have enough body to lift on the reef, so they didn't break. Now when all three of these floating elements connected at the same spot, they created quite a dangerous intersection. If Luke Stedman, who by the way put it a stellar Masters, thought his first beating was a doozey, the second made Graham Stapelburg, standing next to me, jump out of his skin.

Stedman ped in super late, is there any other way, thought about pulling in, reconsidered, then wham, the lip hit him square on the back of the skull. Anything could have happened, the rsulting concussion was a lucky escape. For his next heat it was like the 10th round of a heavyweight fight, Dr Leland Dao taking him through the steps to prove he was with us enough to paddle back out.

The opening two days of the Billabong Pipeline Masters offered barrell candy, of the Backdoor variety. So many amazing stories, the local chargers ripped through the back-end Top 45 guys then lined up against the next layer. That next round offered much heavier resistance, you had guys like Damien Hobgood and Dean Morrison fighting for the careers, so plenty of motivation. The Vans Triple Crown was also up for grabs. With most of the big guns either going down early at Haleiwa or just surfing Pipe it was wide open. Young Maui prodigy Dusty Payne led a group that included defending champ Bede Durbidge, Joel Parkinson, {{{CJ}}} Hobgood, Marcus Hickman and Kamalei Alexander.

Far from being a blow by blow campaign, while it did come down to the wire, with Chris Ward having to win the final to triumph, the clinching match was way back in the early rounds, a heat between Parko and Dusty Payne. He may not have made a final on the North Shore this season but Parko equalled history by posting two magnificient 10's at Backdoor to join Kelly in perfect land, 20 out of 20. Little did he know that this would be the Triple Crown clinching moment.

When Wardo paddled out to do battle with 5 times Masters champion Kelly Slater, he had already surfed two 40 minute heats and a 35 minute Semi. Chris also had the short rest after Semi 2, and duly battled out through the shorey, traversing the perceptable current, rounding the impact zone and over to Backdoor. As Head Judge Perry Hatchett signalled his panels readiness, Wardo inexplicably took off on a bomb Backdoor set, I guess he couldn't help himself, pulled in, got smashed, was mauled by 5 or 6 more, then had to re-start the whole paddle-out procedure. For mine, that was the heat, his arms were heavy, he was tired.

As it turned out, there were only two Backdoor specials during the entire final and Kelly jagged both of them. The fireworks of the previous clash with Timmy Reyes might have been missing, but they weren't required, the maestro never had to break into anything more then a canter. The Reyes/Slater Semi was outrageous. With under 10 minutes to go, Kelly was in combo/land. Timmy had surfed an impeccable heat, he seemed in control. Then in a magical two minutes Kelly got pitted at Pipe, then drove his curiously rounded surfboard through a series of chasms at Backdoor. Suddenly Timmy Reyes needed a high 9. There was nothing he could have done about it, as one observer quipped, “you are really in trouble when you get the guy comboe'd”.

Hawaiian Professional Surfers Union President Liam MacNamara was beside himself. He was trying to figure out how long it had been since a Hawaiian or Aussie had not won a single Triple Crown event. It turned out to be mid {{{90}}}'s or thereabouts, a long time ago. Then the question was raised how long it had been since the Triple Crown had been won without making a final. The jury is still out on that one. At least Parko had surfed the perfect heat. Both President's agreed, that was worthy.

Before the final the crowd was treated to a return of the king, the return of a legend and the newly crowned king of longboarding. It was so cool to see Gerry and Rory in the marshalling area. Rory was in his element, gushing a signing and smiling that big smile, but then it was time to paddle back out to Pipe. Gerry paddled strongly into the rip, Bonga Perkins glided out with little friction, Rory hailed a cab. And then they were in the line-up, Bonga perched at Backdoor, King Gerry on his throne at Pipe, Rory an imposing figure, taking command of the spot known affectionately as Gums.

The Billabong Pipeline Masters had somehow threaded a path between two major weather systems, it had hardly rained all day, but for all Bonga's World Championship form and Gerry's wholesome, clean living regime, the heavens opened and it bucketed down. Obviously somebody had been a naughty boy. And then Bonga pulled into a solid slab at Backdoor, Gerry graced the fabled arena once again, and down the beach, the unmistakeable style of Rory Russell was on show. It was pure theatre, all soul arches and style, the climax coming when a real lightning bolt nearly took Rory's head off.

Well, I suppose the real climax was when 9 times ASP World Champion Kelly Slater proceeded to take out a record 6th Masters, in doing so recording his 6th victory on the 08 Dream Tour. For the Greatest it was another dream conclusion to a perfect year, only chocolate flavoured. Congratulations Kelly, you are the man, well done Wardo, you took your lickings well and surfed a great tournament, well nearly, and congrats to Joel on Triple Crown success and a shared slice of history.

Of course, the year is not done yet. The girls are starting to get anste on Maui, the Billabong Pro possibly on the move to the other side of the island. Good luck to the remaining 8 still standing for 2008. I'll do a final wrap on the year before Santa comes down the chimney.

Until then, surf your brains out.

For more from {{{Rabbit}}} and the ASP, visit www.ASPWorldTour.com