A Bugs Eye View

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It may not have been 10' Pipe, however the final day of the Billabong Pipeline Masters, the final day of the Foster's ASP World Tour, was packed with drama, with last gasp efforts to qualify, final thrusts up the ratings and heartbreaking near misses the order of the day. There was also some outstanding {{{Vans}}} Triple Crown business to wrap up, as well as the small matter of who would be Men's World #2.

By days end Australia's quiet achiever, Bede Durbidge, had it all, the car, the trophy, the first prize cheque, and most of all, the Billabong Pipeline Masters title. He stitched up the Vans Triple Crown by making the final, then, in a four man dogfight, somehow separated himself from the pack and scorched the wave of the day for a 9.5 and a virtual winning lead. Dean Morrison was the only other surfer not in combo-land, he too had cottoned onto this separation deal and jagged a 7.83, but there was no more magic left in the diminishing swell as the final minutes ticked by.

Without doubt the form surfer all day had been Joel Parkinson. Every heat saw 9's going down, Parko just unleashing in conditions more reminiscent of his home break Duranbah then Backdoor. The dual heat format had proved very successful in its debut, but in the regular four man final Parko found himself targeted, the guys knew that it was all over if Parko managed to snaffle set waves. It was pretty civilized really, just the very nature of four man heats is a hassle, there is no priority, and a guy can make a pig of himself with no regulation other then the interference rule.

When Bede was all alone he jagged the winning wave unchallenged, when he came back to where Parko and Dean were he got himself in a paddling altercation with Deano, whereas Parko just got paddled off the peak with regularity. The other finalist, Hawaii's Pancho Sullivan, just went over to the solitude of Backdoor, but unfortunately the dying swell just coughed up nothing for him, and by the time he joined the guys at Off The Wall he was too far back to challenge for the title.

Today Vans Triple Crown Director Randy Rarick sent out a note saying “today is the final day of the waiting period, it's 1 foot and raining hard. Thank god for Off The Wall”. In all the decades of surf meets in Hawaii, I cannot {{{recall}}} another event at OTW. It definitely added another element to the Pipe experience. The first adjustment to be made was that it wasn't Pipe and we were not going to see Pipe performing this time around. With a not so promising forecast thru to the end of the waiting period, event director Bernie Baker was deadset intent on running. It was a great decision, the gallery saw the guys pull out their hotdoggers and carve the place up. No Pipe caverns, no Backdoor streakers, just huge snaps and reverse 360's at OTW.

Fred Pattachia and Bruce Irons were looking to leapfrog some guys, while Wardo was trying to hold back the barbarians at the gate. Both Fred and Bruce did just enough to requalify, it was like as soon as they past through the pain threshold they exhaled, and were promptly bundled out. Wardo actually went on to take 5th spot with some pretty dynamic moves at OTW. The unlucky ones were Phillip MacDonald and Cory Lopez. Both needed to keep progressing. Cory was a finalist last year, would have backed himself at bitchin Pipe, and although he surfed well definitely could have done with a barrel section. Macca ended up just one spot short, at #28 will have to rely on being next in line for injuries and withdrawals in 08.

After a double victory year Taj Burrow secured World #2 at the Billabong Pipeline Masters. He will be officially recognized as runner-up to Mick Fanning at the ASP Banquet in February. Taj finished runner-up to Occy in 99 and is a perennial contender, although one senses he has his eyes on the big prize. He may well have got it this year had he not ran head-on into a rampaging Mick Fanning, but there were times this year where Taj was definitely doing the best surfing in the world. Kelly Slater gracefully relinquished his World Crown to Fanning, another Top 3 finish proof that the 8 times champ is still zoning into title contention.

Joel Parkinson and Bede Durbidge round out the Big 5. Both had magnificent stretches in 07, Parko looking threatening in nearly every event but not quite sealing the deal, the Billabong Pipeline Masters remarkably being his only Final this year. Bede began the year in sensational form, his 2nd to Mick Fanning in the season opener a giant killing performance. And he went on with the job, posting solid if not outstanding results through the middle stretch before book ending 07 and going one better at Pipe.

With such a prestigious title under the belt and after such a strong season I doubt if Bede Durbidge will have the luxury of sneaking up on the leaders in 08. He is now in the elite group and will benefit from the seeding he has earned for the start of his 08 campaign. Rounding out the Top 10 are former 3 times World Champion Andy Irons, who had that flash of brilliance in the heaviness of Chile in what was to him a forgettable season. Knowing how competitive the guy is, plus the high standards he expects of himself, Andy Irons will be itching to have a crack at a new season.

Pancho Sullivan barely qualified last year but this time around he hit his straps from J/Bay on, a #7 world ranking the high point of a so far illustrious career. As he approaches his mid 30's Pancho shows no signs of backing off, in fact as a late bloomer seems to have worked out a successful formula on the championship tour. Jeremy Flores is the first European surfer to secure a Top 10 ranking, at #8 a fantastic rookie performance. Dean Morrison went one better then last year, coming in at #9 after surfing to runner-up in the Billabong Pipeline Masters, and Bobby Martinez, who exploded from a fairly lacklustre year with a blitzing performance at Mundaka, dropped a few spots from last year but still recorded a healthy World #10 ranking.

Newly crowned ASP Women's World Champion Stephanie Gilmore flew into Coolangatta Airport to an even bigger circus then greeted Mick Fanning. The outgoing teenage sensation was absolutely beaming, that flashy smile just perpetually on her face. And why wouldn't there be a lot of joy accompanying this achievement. Taking down the world's best in her rookie season is something to grin about, and to think she is getting better at her chosen discipline is a scary thought. Stephanie Gilmore represents the leading edge of a new generation of rippers who will take women's surfing to places it's never been before.

And it's been the awesome groundwork that the likes of Layne Beachley, Lisa Anderson, Wendy Botha, Frieda Zamba, Debbie Beachem and Margo Oberg have constructed since the mid 70's that have laid the foundations for Steph and her generation to benefit from. Well done ladies, take a bow; you can all be very proud of your new World Champion.

On behalf of ASP I extend warm Christmas greetings. Have a happy, safe and boisterous New Year's celebration.

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