Spent my birthday weekend watching the last event of the Van’s Triple Crown of Surfing–the famed, the dreaded Pipe Masters. The waves on Friday and Saturday were some of the best I have seen for this contest. It was fairly light winds with some beautiful 10-foot sets coming through. As always, the waves could be a bit shifty (as evidenced by many reef cuts, stitches and Josh Kerr’s grade one concussion) and many heats seemed to come down to just choosing the perfect one.
John John Florence’s Perfect 10
Nineteen-year-old John John Florence is one of my favorite surfers to watch. He, along with Jamie O’brien, grew up on the North Shore and definitely seemed to be crowd favorites. Wildcard entry Evan Valiere also holds a special place in my heart as a fellow Kaua’i native. He made it to the quarter finals where he lost to Michel Bourez. Recently crowned 11-time world champion Kelly Slater seemed to have a bit of a rough start. (I think I saw him go over the falls on at least three of his waves?) He made up for it later in the day with a no grab rail backside barrel that the judges always seem to love.
You can watch live streaming of the contest here. Today is the final day, with the contest probably ending around noon, so get on it!
Here is where the results will be posted: http://vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com/billabongpipemasters2011/results
**UPDATE** Congratulations to Australia’s Keiren Perrow on winning the 41st Billabong Pipeline Masters. Perrow’s win is sort of the Cinderella story of surfing. He had to get fifth in this event to even re-qualify to be on tour next year.
“There was so much pressure on me just to stay on the tour,” said Perrow during the live broadcast. “This could have been the last event of my life. I bought my wife, my brother, my daughter and son here in case it was goodbye to professional surfing.”
Watching the last 10 seconds of the heat brought tears to my eyes–seeing Perrow’s smile get wider and wider, then in the last five seconds Joel Parkinson paddled over and gave him a big hug. It was a beautiful moment and gives me goosebumps even reflecting on it now. It is in moments like those that I really love the sport of surfing and I’m glad it hasn’t lost that purity of spirit among all the money and sponsorships.
“I nearly cried out in the water when I reached the quarters so to be standing here now as the winner, to say it’s a dream would be an understatement.
“It’s been the greatest few days of my life. I know I’ve re-qualified for next year but I feel like retiring on the spot.”