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27th Annual Chiemsee
Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters

Pipeline, December 8-20, 1997

See: ASPLIVE Action
Live from Sunset during contest

The Final Jewel
of the 1997 G-Shock Triple Crown of Surfing, the $120,600 Chiemsee Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters (Chiemsee is pronounced kim-say and is a popular German clothing company) takes place Dec. 8-20 at the world-famous Banzai Pipeline. Now in its 27th year, the Pipeline Masters is the longest-running professional surf competition in the United States.
The event was first won by Hawaiian professional surfing great, Jeff Hakman, in 1971, and was won last year by Florida's Kelly Slater .

The Chiemsee Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters will once again serve as a bookend, marking the conclusion of the 1997 Coca-Cola/ASP World Championship Tour. As the final WCT event, it has the potential to see the crowning of a new world champion. However, as has been the case for the past few years, Slater appears to be in control and on his way to his fifth world championship, holding what appears to be an insurmountable ratings lead as the tour approaches Hawai`i.

But this in no way detracts from the gravity of the situation. Surfers will still be vying for year-end ratings points, the Triple Crown Championship and, most important, they will still have to face Pipeline.

Over the years, the Pipe Masters has evolved dramatically. Pipeline greats have come and gone, surfboard design has undergone radical changes, and the bearing on the world title has ebbed and flowed. But one thing has remained constant:
the waves are always the biggest stars.


The "Banzai" Pipeline is, in one word, breathtaking. Huge swells from North Pacific storms meet abruptly with an incredibly shallow, jagged coral reef, hurling tons of water shoreward. Most of the time a tube--or pipe--forms as the wave breaks. Upon reaching the bottom or trough of a wave, the rider is faced with surfing's ultimate challenge and thrill: the tube ride.

Ducking under the cascading waterfall, the surfer rides inside the tube for as long as possible, often disappearing from view entirely and, hopefully, emerging a few seconds later. Surfers who ride these behemoths are not only highly skilled, but also a little nuts.

What's more, Pipeline breaks so close to the beach that the tons of water pounding the reef can be both felt and seen by spectators. Just think of it as several Olympic-size swimming pools being dumped from 20 feet up into a shallow pool.

Legendary names grace the coveted Pipeline Masters list, past and present. Pipeline pioneers like Hakman, Gerry Lopez and Rory Russell mix with door busters like Mark Richards and Shaun Tomson. Unprecedented early '80s backside performances by Michael Ho, Dane Kealoha, and Simon Anderson are accented by more recent approaches by Gary Elkerton and four-time winner Kelly Slater. And small-statured, big-hearted goofyfoots like Derek Ho and Tom Carroll have given spectators some of the most spectacular moments in pro surfing history.

To watch the Pipeline Masters from
The Beach is an amazing experience. With every set comes a collective murmur of anticipation. With every wipeout comes a collective gasp. And, with every successful tube ride comes a collective cheer. It's a show where morbid curiosity makes disaster every bit as fun to watch as success.
-- Blair Thorndike


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