Mecca. The Banzai. The Proving Grounds: The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons

By Napua Heen
Andy Irons.  Photo:  Billabong Pipe Masters.

Andy Irons. Photo: Billabong Pipe Masters.

Some of the world’s best surfers battled to become the next Pipe Master at the legendary Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore this week.

The Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons kicked off on Monday and continued Wednesday and Saturday and wraped-up today, Monday. The four-day surfing competition window opened on Dec. 8 and closes on Dec. 20, as event coordinators determined the best swells of the period. It’s the final stop of the 2016 Samsung Galaxy World Surf League Championship Tour as well as the final event in the annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

With the Billabong Pipe Masters being the final venue for earning points to qualify for the 2017 world tour, upsets are bound to a happen. And the event has sent home a couple of dozen of the world’s best surfers. The surfers themselves are friendly and maintain good sportsmanship. The competition, however, is intense with a win sometimes coming down to less than 1/10 of a point.

2016 Surfing Stand Outs

Kelly Slater after his 2013 win.  Photo:  Billabong Pipe Masters.

Kelly Slater after his 2013 win. Photo: Billabong Pipe Masters.

Making waves at the competition with his stunning alley-oop is world champion surfer John John Florence, who won the Eddie Aikau in February 2016, is the current world champion and the 2016 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing winner. He continues to be a crowd favorite, showcasing his progressive style and aerial maneuvers.

Surfing legacy Kelly Slater, who barely registered for the event in time but is still at the forefront of tube riding, is back with a vengeance and has announced that he will be gunning for the world title next year. He seems to be spurred on by the new energy and techniques the younger riders are bringing to the world surfing scene.

An underlying objective for the Quiksilver riders has been to double qualify for the 2017 world tour to open up a space for Quiksilver teammate Ezekiel “Zeke” Lau.  Kanoa Igarashi got a near perfect 10 over Vans World Cup champion Jordy Smith to double qualify and make a space for his teammate, Zeke Lau, to join the 2017 tour.

Tahitian Michel Bourez is the 2016 Billabong Pipe Master!

After beating out world champion John John Florence in the quarterfinals, Tahitian Michel Bourez went on to face standout rookie Kanoa Igarashi in the finals. Wave conditions were small, leaving both competitors having to choose their waves very carefully. Bourez pulled into a barrel just as time wound down on the clock, giving the crowd a final show and taking the title of 2017 Billabong Pipe Master.

Winning the 2017 Billabong Pipe Master title puts Bourez on a short list with surfing icons such as Derek Ho and Andy Irons, for whom the competition is named. These three surfers are the only ones to have ever won at all three Vans Triple Crown of Surfing venues: Haleiwa, Sunset and Pipeline.

After having a tumultuous year and still hurting from a neck injury, Bourez accepts his trophy and Gerry Lopez surfboard with gratitude. He jokes that he lost the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing twice because of John John Florence, so today was a little bit of payback. World Champion John John Florence breaks into a huge grin in the crowd. Congratulations to both champions!

Exclusive Interview with Aussie Ryan Callinan

Ryan Callinan.  Photo:  Billabong Pipe Masters.

Ryan Callinan. Photo: Billabong Pipe Masters. caught up with young Australian standout, Ryan Callinan, who beat out the 2014 World Champion Brazilian Gabriel Medina in Round 3 Heat 7. Taking the heat by less than 1 point, Callinan will be heading to the world tour.

Callinan who first competed in the Pipe Master in 2013 as a wildcard says, “It means a lot for me to be competing among the world’s best surfers.

“I feel good, I’ve had a few really good performances, and some not so good ones but I’m happy with how the year’s played out and I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to compete against the best guys in the world I think, and how to better my surfing and just understanding the whole competition process from the top level.”

Callinan has been hoping for, “really good waves, to win the competition, but mostly for really good waves with a really good crowd on the beach.” Unfortunately, this year’s Pipe Master competition hasn’t seen the Banzai Pipeline in all its glory. Surfers have had to adjust to the conditions and really search out a “high point wave.” The result is that more aerials have come into play and those surfers being able to get deep in a tube have caught the judges’ attention.

When asked how the Hawaiʻi waves compare to those back home in Australia, Callinan shares, “It’s really different, it’s much more powerful. It has its moments where they’re quite similar but obviously the winter here is known for its big waves and we don’t have as big waves at home. Hawaii is an amazing place and if you ever get the chance it’s definitely worth coming over to watch a comp or just hang out and see the scenery. I think it’s a wonderful place.”

Mythology of Pipeline

Mecca. The Banzai. The Proving Grounds… Call it what you will, Pipeline is the most significant, most photogenic, most legendary and dangerous wave on planet Earth. It’s also the only wave that can make, break, jumpstart or tear apart a pro surfer’s career because points-wise, you could be the best surfer in the world, but if you don’t excel out at Pipeline…you’re just simply not the full package.

Best on a west or northwest swell and rideable from October through March, Pipeline specifically refers to the left-breaking wave, but also includes Backdoor, the slabby righthander attached to the peak that opens up when the swell comes in from the north/northwest.

Pipeline is made up of a series of reefs. First Reef, a flat lava plateau broken up by a few narrow crevasses is the main break, and Second Reef Pipe is 75 yards out from that, and comes alive when the surf hits 10-12 foot.

Unpredictable, deadly and detonating right off the shoreline, it’s no question why every year at the Pipe Masters, the wave decides champions of the world and legends of our sport. Thus, no wave on earth continually tells more stories, dictates more drama, and perpetuates more lore. The battles between the likes of Kelly Slater and Andy Irons are just as vivid in our collective surf memory today as they were 15 years ago.

Remembering Andy Irons

Andy Irons was, and remains, one of the greatest talents surfing has ever known. Watch the video and take a look inside the 3x World Champ’s garage, which over the course of his life became a storage place for his prized possessions and memorabilia. Trophies, personal photos and, of course, countless iconic boards are just a few of the items inside that Andy’s close friend Joel Parkinson, wife Lyndie Irons and brother Bruce Irons discover and share with us as they tell stories from Andy’s legendary life and career.

Where to Watch, Past Winners, and “Pipe Moments”

The competition can be watched live here every year:

Click here for past winners:

Click here to watch past “Pipe Moments”:

Results of the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters Surf Competition

Billabong Pipe Masters Final Results:
1: Michel Bourez (PYF) 7.53
2: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 6.17

Billabong Pipe Masters Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.37 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.93
SF 2: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 15.50 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 15.00

Billabong Pipe Masters Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.87 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.67
QF 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 17.20 def. John John Florence (HAW) 14.00
QF 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 11.50 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 10.24
QF 4: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 18.03 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.74

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.17 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 4.53
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 16.80 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.50
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.34 def. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 10.17
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 18.10 def. Nat Young (USA) 16.17

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.66, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.16, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 5.00
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 11.00, Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.17, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.83
Heat 3: Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.24, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 2.77, Nat Young (USA) 1.57
Heat 4: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 12.00, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.34, Kelly Slater (USA) 2.24

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 3 Results:
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.34 def. Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 1.93

Top 5 on the WSL Jeep Leaderboard (after Billabong Pipe Masters):
1. John John Florence (HAW) 59,850 pts
2. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 46,400 pts
3. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 45,450 pts
4. Kolohe Andino (USA) 44,150 pts
5. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 39,500 pts

*Results according to the World Surf League 12/19/2016.

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