PIPELINE, Hawaii (Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006) – In what was arguably the best finale ever seen at the 36-year-old Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters, Andy Irons (HAW) has claimed a well-deserved victory over long-time rival Kelly Slater (USA), Cory Lopez (USA) and Rob Machado (USA).
Putting on a totally courageous show in the two metre (six foot) plus conditions, the former three-time Foster's ASP World Tour champion and defending event champion, put his body on the line and showed the world that when he puts his mind and his heart into his surfing he is a truly inspirational athlete.
The final began with all surfers scoring some serious tube time but as per the classic event script, Slater had the early upper hand.
By the eight-minute mark of the 35-minute extravaganza, Slater had a 9.00 and a 7.40 in his score line, after disappearing and reappearing from a Pipeline left and then a Backdoor right.
He then surged further forward, locking in an 8.53 for a crazy Backdoor barrel where he willed himself through a mammoth section of water.
And while the massive crowd were roaring their appreciation at the newly-crowned eight-time world champ, who looked like he would romp on home with his sixth Pipe Master crown, none would have fathomed what was about to unfold.
Irons' passion for surfing, and especially winning, constantly burns deep within, and while the masses were about to slap the back of Slater, Irons was in no way about to lay down and let him walk away with the final prize of the year without a spirited tussle.
After notching up some rides that were mind boggling to say the least, Irons was back in the race but still looked to be huge outside chance as he needed a 9.10 to reign in his foe.
And then it happened… A solid set wave lurched through the infamous break and Irons grabbed the inside, took off deep, freefalling a full two metres down the face.
At the bottom of the wave he grabbed the edge off his board, digging his body into the wave to stall. He then raced through and under an unbelievable cascade of water and emerged to a deafening crowd roar.
It was a 9.87 and Irons had pulled the unthinkable and taken the lead.
Slater lashed back… another amazing Backdoor barrel and an 8.73. So close but yet so far… Irons was leading but it wasn't over yet.
The two then jockeyed for position in the lineup and Irons had the inside. He dropped into Backdoor yet again, freefalling, just edging in his rail then lining up the barrel on which many mere mortals would have floundered, fallen and been eaten by the ocean.
Irons shot out at light speed and with the judges holding up scorecards of perfect 10.0s across the board, Irons pumped his fists hard as the action lusting crowd leapt to their feet and shrilled a glass shattering cheer.
"I just never count myself out," said Irons. "I know Kelly is an amazing surfer, but he's out at the same spot I am. It's hard to put it in words [how I feel]. It worked out perfect. I fought back and then that last wave at the end the 10.0… Kelly [Slater] almost got it, and if he had he would have had me. He would have won. I'm glad that I didn't back down at all."
For Irons it was an amazing end to a year where outside of Slater, the rest of the tour front-runners were finding it difficult to string together results.
And after taking today's illustrious victor's trophy Irons sent out a message that he would in no way back away from reclaiming the world crown, which Slater stole from him in 2005.
"He knows that I'm not going away quietly and I'm in no way disappearing," said Irons. "I'm still here and I still want to fight back. Hopefully next year, things will go my way instead of them going against me like they did this year."
Another highlight to what was an extraordinary day for the explosive 28-year-old, was his claiming of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title – his fourth such series win in five years.
His impressive run included a win at Haleiwa, a second at Sunset and the win here at Pipeline today.
"Wow! I just love winning!" said Irons "I love to come here to the North Shore and do well in the Triple Crown. It's such an honour."
Slater, who would have loved to finish his year with a final event win, was full of praise for Irons, and he admitted that while he had amassed a solid lead early he never felt like he was home and hosed.
"I have to give it to him," said Slater. "He ended up with that last one and finished up on the sand. You couldn't finish the contest any better way!"
"You have to think if you're sitting on 18 points, a guy can come back and get two 9.0s pretty easy out at Backdoor," said Slater. "I honestly never felt comfortable with the lead I had as Backdoor is such a high scoring wave."
For the remaining two competitors, Lopez and Machado, while they didn't find the waves that Irons and Slater were fortunate enough to have caught, they witnessed one of the greatest Banzai Pipe sessions ever.
"That was incredible!" said former tourer Machado. "It pretty much got to the point where I was just spectating out there. I broke a board and wasn't in a rhythm. That's the way it goes sometimes. But I was just really stoked to be in the final and to see those guys ripping and going at it on the rights... It was really fun to watch."
Lopez heartily agreed.
"The Backdoor waves that those guys were getting werd really sick," said Lopez. "I had fun and I was psyched to be in the final. I would have loved to win, but Andy and Kelly are just great competitors and they had some really good rights. Andy had that one unbelievable left… It was a great heat!"
With the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters in the bag, it signifies an end to what has been another epic Foster's ASP World Tour season.
With ground breaking events such as the Rip Curl Pro Search in Mexico, mixed in with the regular "Dream Tour" stops such as the Quiksilver Pro on Australia's Gold Coast, the Billabong Pro Tahiti, The Globe WCT in Fiji and the Boost Mobile Pro in California (just to name a few), the 2006 season has been another landmark year, the 30th year in fact, in pro surfing's colorful history.
And while the focus is aimed mainly at the front runners on surfing's elite tour, it should be acknowledged that the 2007 season will have a completely different complexion as many long time competitors have been forced out of contention for next year's world title race.
Those exiting the ranks will include:
Peterson Rosa (BRA)
Darren O'Rafferty (AUS)
Jake Paterson (AUS)
Nathan Hedge (AUS)
Roy Powers (HAW)
Paulo Moura (BRA)
Mikael Picon (FRA)
Jarrad Howse (AUS)
Pedro Henrique (BRA)
Toby Martin (AUS)
David Weare (ZAF
Yuri Sodre (BRA)
A release outlining the 2007 tour contenders will be sent within the next 24 hours.
Heat by heat rundowns, athlete quotes and video highlight packages are available.
Results Round Three:
Heat 1: 1. Rob Machado (USA) 14.00; 2. Damien Hobgood (USA) 11.50; 3. Tory Baron (HAW) 10.66; 4. Peterson Rosa (BRA) 4.03
Heat 2: 1. Ian Walsh (HAW) 12.93; 2. Mick Lowe (AUS) 12.87; 3. Kalani Chapman (HAW) 11.67; 4. Taj Burrow (AUS) 4.07
Heat 3: 1. Bruce Irons (HAW) 13.50; 2. Dustin Barca (HAW) 13.23; 3. CJ Hobgood (USA) 6.13; 4. Hank Gaskell (HAW) 5.10
Heat 4: 1. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.00; 2. Luke Stedman (AUS) 11.67; 3. Reef McIntosh (HAW) 7.53; Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 6.16
Heat 5: 1. Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.37; 2. Chris Ward (USA) 9.40; 3. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 5.70; Jamie Sterling (HAW) 5.40
Heat 6: 1. Bruno Santos (BRA) 15.34; 2. Cory Lopez (USA) 11.87; 3. Tom Whitaker (USA) 9.53; Makua Rothman (HAW) 5.76
Heat 7: 1. Andy Irons (HAW) 14.83; 2. Roy Powers (HAW) 9.47; 3. Tamayo Perry (HAW) 9.17; 4. Jake Paterson (AUS) 6.50
Heat 8: 1. Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 14.50; 2. Evan Valiere (HAW) 12.30; 3. Bobby Martinez (USA) 9.31; 4. Travis Logie (USA) 4.10
Quarterfinal 1: 1.Damien Hobgood (USA) 18.00; 2. Rob Machado (USA) 13.50; 3. Mick Lowe (AUS) 8.43; Ian Walsh (HAW) 5.97
Quarterfinal 2: 1. Kelly Slater (USA) 13.56; 2. Luke Stedman (AUS) 7.83; 3. Bruce Irons (HAW) 5.60; 4. Dustin Barca (HAW) 4.74
Quarterfinal 3: 1. Chris Ward (USA) 15.70; 2. Cory Lopez (USA) 14.23; 3. Mick Fanning (USA) 13.53; 4. Bruno Santos (BRA) 13.10
Quarterfinal 4: 1. Andy Irons (HAW) 17.96; 2. Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 14.34; 3. Roy Powers (HAW) 9.56; Evan Valiere (HAW) 5.77
Semifinal 1: 1. Kelly Slater (USA) 17.70; 2. Rob Machado (USA) 13.43; 3. Damien Hobgood (USA) 8.34; 4. Luke Stedman (AUS) 2.07
Semifinal 2: 1. Andy Irons (HAW) 13.07; 2. Cory Lopez (USA) 12.34; 3. Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 11.50; 4. Chris Ward (USA) 9.43
1. Andy Irons (HAW) 19.87; 2. Kelly Slater (USA) 17.73; 3. Cory Lopez (USA) 12.50; Rob Machado (USA) 8.96
2006 Foster's ASP World Tour Final Ratings
1.Kelly Slater (USA) 8124 points
2.Andy Irons (HAW) 6948 points
3.Mick Fanning (AUS) 6828 points
4.Taj Burrow (AUS) 6480 points
5.Bobby Martinez (USA) 6350 points
6.Joel Parkinson (AUS) 6240 points
7.Damien Hobgood (USA) 6096 points
8.Tom Whitaker (AUS) 5138 points
9.Taylor Knox (USA) 4880 points
10.Dean Morrison (AUS) 4856 points
11.Tim Reyes (USA) 4770 points
12.Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 4696 points
13.Cory Lopez (USA) 4696 points
14.Bruce Irons (HAW) 4684 points
15.Bede Durbidge (AUS) 4539 points
16.C.J. Hobgood (USA) 4448 points
17.Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 4320 points
18.Daniel Wills (AUS) 4230 points
19.Greg Emslie (ZAF) 4172 points
20.Adriano de Souza (BRA) 4073 points
21.Chris Ward (USA) 4048 points
22.Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 4044 points
23.Travis Logie (ZAF) 4040 points
23. Michael Lowe (AUS) 4040 points
25. Luke Stedman (AUS) 4007 points
26. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 3941 points
27. Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 3855 points
28. Trent Munro (AUS) 3850 points
29. Victor Ribas (BRA) 3792 points
29. Peterson Rosa (BRA) 3792 points
31. Darren O'Rafferty (AUS) 3617 points
32. Jake Paterson (AUS) 3602 points
33. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 3290 points
34. Roy Powers (HAW) 3237 points
35. Troy Brooks (AUS) 3105 points
37. Paulo Moura (BRA) 2915 points
38. Mikael Picon (FRA) 2910 points
39. Raoini Monteiro (BRA) 2862 points
40. Jarrad Howse (AUS) 2725 points
41. Pedro Henrique (BRA) 2545 points
42. Toby Martin (AUS) 2540 points
42. David Weare (ZAF) 2540 points
44. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 2355 points
44. Yuri Sodre (BRA) 2355 points
46. Richard Lovett (AUS) 1800 points
47. Jihad Khodr (BRA) 1045 points
2006 Vans Triple Crown Final 10
1. Andy Irons (HAW) 4325 points
2. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 4025 points
3. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 3200 points
4. Taj Burrow (AUS) 2829 points
5. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 2829 points
6. Mick Fanning (AUS) 2776 points
7. Joel Centeio (HAW) 2504 points
8. David Weare (ZAF) 2375 points
9. Mikael Picon (FRA) 2354 points
10. Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 2338 points