By Jesse Faen
Pipeline, O`ahu, Hawai`i (Friday, December 17, 2000) -- Rob Machado (USA) today defeated Michael Lowe (Aus) in the final of the 30th anniversary Mountain Dew Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters. Absolutely perfect 8-12 foot (3-4m) conditions at Pipeline treated thousands of spectators, both on the beach and those watching live via the internet, to an almost unbelievable day of surfing by the worlds' best.
Marking the final World Championship Tour (WCT) event of 2000 and largely deciding the fate of many top-rated surfers for 2001, the pressure was evident and atmosphere electric. Competition commenced this morning with round three, ran all the way through the quarter and semifinals, showcased an expression session of Pipe Masters from the 1980's, and then climaxed with the showdown between the two finalists.
Machado, 27, was second off the mark during the 40-minute decider, but soon generated a commanding lead with consistently better waves and a stylish approach to riding them. To seal his Pipe Master fate, the American dropped into a huge barrel, emerged from the deep chambers momentarily before pulling into another clean tube to be rewarded a perfect score of 10 - the second today, and only one-of-four during the entire tournament.
His third WCT victory of 2000, the result pushed Machado from eighth on the ratings up into third - his second best finish in nine years touring (2nd in 1995). Drained and elated from contesting four heats, posting the highest total heat score of the event (27.60 out-of-a possible 30-points against Hawaiian Andy Irons in the quarters), being carried up the beach by close friends, and most important - winning the Mountain Dew Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters - the champion tried to vocalize the moment.
"It's a dream...." began an emotional Machado. "I couldn't have asked for a better day. The waves were as good as they get and to come out on top is unbelievable.
"I was just trying to stay focused and get the good waves - that's the key," he explained of the final. "I was fighting off emotions at the end and I knew Mick could get a 7.11 (what was needed before his 10) and I wanted to get one more good one. Then I got that wave at the end that was just a blessing. The best wave I caught all day. I just overloaded right there, you know? I caught every wave that I could ever want today.
"I hope that it (Pipe) is a WCT again," Machado added, since the Masters is not scheduled as a WCT in 2001. "It's one of my favorite waves and to finish the year... It feels great to win the last event. Oh my God, I just won the Pipeline Masters and that's been a goal of my life. Watching Tom Carroll (Aus) and Derek and Michael Ho (Haw) surf today... Derek was sitting out there in the channel during our final, too. I was like, 'that's it!' Those are the guys I learned how to surf out here from. It meant a lot."
Lowe, 23, was equally amazed with how the day panned out. His journey to the final was highlighted by a perfect 10-point ride to eliminate Shane Dorian (Haw) in the quarters. He then ended Bruce Irons' (Haw) dream run in semifinal two, and though he put on a courageous attempt in the grand finale, he ultimately needed a combination of rides totaling 10.86 when the show was over.
"I'm really happy and I'm happy for Rob," said Lowe afterward. "He put it together in the final and I didn't. I opened with a really good wave and then just couldn't find another one. I took a couple of wipeouts and out Pipe when you wipeout on a 10-foot wave it really takes its toll. But I'm happy. A 2nd at Pipe is still unbelievable. I could have scripted it a bit better, but it's been one of the places I've always wanted to do well at, and Rob's a great surfer and one of my heroes.
"I couldn't believe I made that," he added, when asked about his amazing wave during the quarterfinals. "It was definitely up there with one of the best barrels I've ever had. When I was paddling into it I couldn't see there was just so much wind and I was a little bit late off the top. I just free fell and then came off the bottom and there it was - a huge tube. I was inside just hoping to make it to the end and I eventually did. Pipeline - how good is it!"
Finishing equal third today was Irons and Renan Rocha (Brz). The Brazilian etched his name into the history books with some fantastic surfing at Pipe before Machado stopped him in the semis on his final ride.
"I was praying that wave wouldn't come to Rob, but it did right at the end," admitted Rocha. "Bad luck for me, good luck for him. I've wanted to do well at Pipe since my career started, so now finally I did. Semifinals are a pretty good result and I've had unbelievable waves. Just to be out there for 30-minutes was been like a dream."
Irons, 21, who finished runner-up in the Mountain Dew Pipe Masters two years ago (1998), once again showed his remarkable tube-riding skills today. He posted the third-highest total of the event against Kalani Robb (Haw) in the quarters, but was unable to find much the following round and had to settle with equal third.
"The waves were good, but there weren't a lot of them out there then," said Irons after the semis. "They just weren't coming to me. I'm pissed about that heat, but I'm stoked I made it this far," he continued. "Eventually one day I'll hopefully win it. It's all about patience."
Equal fifth were Andy Irons (Haw), Guilherme Herdy (Brz), Robb, and Dorian. All competitors today, however, including those eliminated in round three deserve mention, as the surfing displayed made the judges' job extremely difficult.
Defending five-time event and six-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA) was an early casualty, losing to Andy Irons in the second heat of the morning when his opponent scored a 9.90 right at the end.
"I've got to hand it to Andy," said Slater. "He knows the wave well and he just dominated out there. I felt like I was in it and had a chance, but I was definitely trailing him the whole time.
"It was fun to watch and I was really stoked for Rob to win," said Slater after watching the final. "In a way I wanted Andy to win because he beat me, but I'm stoked Rob had the heat of the contest and took Andy out. He peaked there, but he didn't use it all up. He was able to make it through to the final and keep his head together."
Three-time Pipe Master (1987, '90 & '91) Tom Carroll (Aus) was fortunate to keep his head together after a couple of horrendous wipeouts during the 'Champions of the 80's' Expression Session that preceded the 2000 final. Hugely respected for his gun-ho approach at Pipe, the two-time world champ (1983 & '84) displayed no less commitment today when in the water with fellow Masters Simon Anderson (Aus-1981), Michael Ho (Haw-1982) and brother Derek (1986 & '93), as well as Rob Page (Aus-88). His late-drops and deep tubes, together with Michael Ho's amazing switch-foot barrel-ride had the crowd hooting.
"What a great chance to surf Pipeline with no-one out," said Carroll after the session. "Michael (Ho) is a classic. He's all-time. I missed the wave he switch-footed, but Derek (Ho) just broke-up laughing when they announced what he had done.
"I just got cracked at the last moment," he continued, in reference to one particularly nasty wipeout. "I was loving life as I paddled into the wave, it looked awesome. I just love putting it on the line like that. I made all of my drops, which is key out there.
"The guys now are doing so well out at Pipeline," he said in praise of today's competitors. "I'm really proud of some of the young guys on tour that did really well out here. They charged during the event and it's heartening to see those guys get into it."
For more information: Jesse Faen
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