The North Shore of Oahu looks quite different in the winter than it does in the summer. The little, gently rolling waves we surfed over the summer have transformed into monster 10-15 foot waves. That’s why the world’s best surfers gather on the North Shore every winter to close out the competitive year with the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and, its final event, the Billabong Pipe Masters at the Banzai Pipeline.
The real story was between Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater. Both were battling for the ASP World Championship Title for 2013. Based on the points that each surfer accumulated during the year, Kelly would need to win the event outright AND Mick would need to fail to make the semi-finals in order for Kelly to win the title. Mick just needs to make it out of the quarterfinals to win the title.
In other words, on the final day of the contest, Mick needed 4 more good waves and Kelly needed 6 more good waves.
The World Champion
The final day was a near perfect with pumping waves at one of the world’s most famous surf breaks. Mick surfed the first heat in the morning, a Round 5 heat against CJ Hobgood. For 28 minutes, Mick seemed to take on every wave that came his way and got pounded by each one.
CJ managed to squeak out the first decent wave and held the lead. Mick needed a score of a 8.0 to win the heat. With 2 minutes left, Mick took off on a huge wave and was super deep, barreled and spat out on a big foam ball. As he exited the wave, his arms are raised and he’s just elated. He got a 9.5 and his world title quest was saved.
In the first quarterfinal heat, Mick surfed against Yadin Nicol. This was essentially the championship heat. Win the heat and Mick wins the title. Yadin surfed an amazing heat and posted high scores. It seemed like a replay of Mick’s previous heat and again, with 2 minutes left, out of nowhere, another wave emerged for Mick. He needed a 9.57.
As he waited on the beach, he heard the score – 9.7 – enough to clinch his 3rd World Title, all before Kelly Slater even had a chance to get in the water.
Understandably, Kelly is frustrated and upset and he came out to surf with a vengeance. He blew through his quarterfinal heat against Sebastian Zietz and then his semifinal heat against Joel Parkinson – the reigning World Champ and last year’s Pipe Master. Meanwhile, Mick is eliminated by John John Florence in his semifinal heat, which allows John John to secure his second Vans Triple Crown title.
The Finals: Kelly vs. John John
Kelly once said that he dreamed of surfing the Pipe Masters final against John John Florence and he got his wish. The first 25 minutes of their final was uneventful with minimal waves rolling through. Then, with 10 minutes to go, the ocean started to heat up. Basically, the winner would be decided in those 10 minutes.
They both get some big rides. With six and a half minutes left, John John needed a 7.88 in order to win. His last wave was close but only a 7 point ride. Kelly won his record setting 7th Pipe Master.
The one thing about Mick winning the title means that Kelly just might be back next year to compete on the Tour again. As he said in the post-contest interview, losing the title this year might have just pissed him off enough that he will be back.
I admit that I have a soft spot for Kelly Slater and I hope he’s back next year.
You can watch replays of all the heats on the Billabong Pipe Masters Heat Analyzer.
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