Banzai Pipeline, O`ahu, Hawai`i (Dec.20, 1996) |
Four time world surfing champion Kelly Slater is unstoppable. Before starting out in the Chiemsee Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters contest in Hawai`i this week, Slater, 24, said he wanted a fourth Pipe crown to match his fourth world title.
Today he earned it, taking out Hawaiian favorite Sunny Garcia, 26, to win $20,000, 1000 ratings points and his seventh event title of the season on the last stop of the 1996 Coca-Cola/ASP world Championship Tour.
Under gray skies and on glassy smooth waters, Slater streaked at breakneck speeds through clean six foot waves to leave Garcia in need of a two wave combination by the conclusion of the 35 minute heat. For each year Slater has won a world title, he has also won the Pipe Masters -- the final event of Hawaii's Red Dog Triple Crown of Surfing. Slater won in 1992, '94, '95, and '96, posting more wins at Pipeline than any other surfer in the 26 year-old event.
The start of the final was tight, Slater opened with a near perfect 9.50 ride with a late drop on a pitching right hinder and a three second tube ride. But Garcia wasn't about to let him get away with it. Picking off the biggest and cleanest tube of the day, Garcia scored a four second, perfect 10 point tube ride.
Slater wasted no time. Keeping the screws tight on Garcia, he established priority and picked off a perfect wave, got deep in the tube then emerged for a final explosive close-out reentry.
Garcia's waves started to close in on him, not allowing him to exit from the barrel. Slater stretched his lead from one wave to the next with ten minutes remaining the Hawaiian faced the harsh reality that he needed two excellent rides for first place. The final score was 27.75 Slater, and 15.75 for Garcia.
"We were having a good time," Slater said. "We were pretty lenient on each other actually, we talked and had fun," Slater said.
The real highlight of the heat came in the last minute when Slater had wave priority and Garcia knew he couldn't win. One last set closed in from the horizon and both surfers took off, Garcia the deepest and Slater just to his right at Backdoor Pipeline. As the wave cranked up on the shallow reef, both surfers disappeared behind the curtain of breaking water and scored a double tube ride.
Garcia earned an interference for taking off on Slater's priority, but it was the thrill of being the first surfers ever to score a double tube ride in competition that mattered. The only other double tube ride ever witnessed was in Hawai`i in the early '80s between world champions Mark Richards (Australia) and Shaun Tomson (South Africa).
"There was no conversation before hand about getting a tube together, but I guess there was a silent understanding that we were going to do something like that. We're good friends," Slater said.
"I was really trying hard to beat Kelly, but Backdoor beat me today," Garcia said of the numerous tube rides which shut down on him. "I'm looking forward to kicking his butt next year."
The top heat score of the competition was actually posted by Slater in the semi finals in his clash with Brazilian Guilherme Herdy. Herdy was a standout in the early rounds. The morning's predominant left handers favored his goofy foot stance.
But while Herdy posted the first perfect 10 of the day, Slater bounced back with a combination of high-scoring, back hand barrels to steal the victory. The result for Herdy was equal third -- the highest a Brazilian has ever gone in the Pipe Masters since Pepe Lopez made a six-man final in the mid 70s.
"I can't even describe how beautiful the world looks from that deep inside the barrel. The water was crystal clear, a beautiful green, and the view from inside is like a dream," Herdy said. "Since I was a little kid, surfing Pipeline in this contest has been a dream of mine. Today it became a reality and the result is better than I imagined."
"Now that I've got the Triple Crown award under my belt, I want to go
The top Australian finishers were Richie Lovett (Manly) and Todd Prestage (Gerrigong), who lost to Slater and Garcia respectively in the quarter finals. Also equal fifth were Hawaiians John Shimooka and Derek Ho.
"I exceeded all my expectations here in Hawai`i this winter," Paul said. "It's a dream for any surfer just to come here and get to share in the perfect waves. To win an event and then an award like this is such a thrill."
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