Kieren Perrow just won the most coveted surfing event in the world – the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons – over fellow countryman Joel Parkinson in tricky double-overhead surf. The result came after three consecutive days of competition in some of the biggest, deadliest and best Pipe conditions in history. The event also set a record for the most online viewers in ASP history.
Hawaii teenager John John Florence, 19, who finished 5th after losing to world champ Kelly Slater (USA) today, also found his way to the podium as the overall winner of the 2011 Vans Triple Crown series presented by Rockstar Energy Drink. There was no question he was the man to beat on the famed North Shore of Oahu this year.
Perrow, who finished runner-up to Jeremy Flores in last year’s Billabong Pipe Masters, returned to form again this year and charged the massive Pipeline conditions on the opening two days of competition to solidify his position on the 2012 ASP World Tour. The Australian was equally deadly in the smaller conditions on the final day and commanded the Final against Parkinson in a backdoor shootout to secure his maiden ASP World Tour victory.
“It took me up until now to get over getting second to Jeremy last year” Perrow said. “It’s so good to get back here. I just felt so comfortable the whole time. I’ve had such a great event anyway and coming in to today, it was just amazing. The waves have been phenomenal. I haven’t surfed Pipe like that in my entire career. This is pretty much the pinnacle for me.
“Hawaii is the place to be in professional surfing, and I’m stoked to be standing here in first, not second.”
For Florence, it wasn’t the perfect fairytale ending he had hoped for, but he has only just begun. Winning the Triple Crown today earned him a $10,000 bonus, and a custom, one-of-a-kind, jewel-encrusted Nixon watch valued at more than $10,000.
“A fifth at Haleiwa, a win at Sunset, a fifth here and the Vans Triple Crown title, it’s pretty much been the best winter of my life,” said Florence. “There are some incredible names on this trophy. I’m so stoked to be here and to have won this. I’ve been surfing these waves my entire life and watching everyone over the years. To have my name with the great surfers who has won the Triple Crown, it’s incredible. I just want to say thanks to my mum and Pancho Sullivan and John Pyzel and all my sponsors. Thanks to everyone.”
Nat Young (USA), an outside contender for the Vans Triple Crown, was today awarded 250,000 Hawaiian Miles from Hawaiian Airlines for the greatest aerial of the Vans Triple Crown. His win actually included two aerials on one wave during the first event at Haleiwa.
Parkinson, a multiple Vans Triple Crown Winner, came close to clinching his first Billabong Pipe Masters Title, but was unable to find a rhythm in the Final against Perrow.
“It’s a hard one to lose because you’ve only got one guy to beat and you’ve beaten so many, but it’s the hardest one to win,” Parkinson said. “I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving than Kieren (Perrow). He’s a true Pipe Master and one of the best guys out there and I’m so glad he won.”
Parkinson battled his way into the Final with a hard fought victory over Kelly Slater (USA), 39, in their Semifinals clash. After a series of exciting exchanges, the Australian was in need of an 8.21 with just minutes remaining and Parkinson drove through a barrel on his backhand to secure an 8.60 and his Final berth.
“I knew my work was cut out for me,” Parkinson said. “Surfing against Kelly (Slater) is the biggest thing you can do. After he got that 9, I thought, ‘here we go.’ I thought he peaked against John John and he was just at it again. That wave just came to me. It was one of those situations where you forget about everything else, am I in the right position, am I doing anything right. Conditions are not perfect at all, but there are some really good waves.”
Kelly Slater was magical today, even though he finished third. He took an amazing come-from-behind heat win in his Quarterfinals matchup against Florence. Slater was in need of a combination of 16.70 to overtake Florence with just four minutes remaining on the clock. He threaded the needle on two back-to-back Backdoor barrels for a 9.70 and a 7.83 to win in the closing seconds, making for a frustrated exit for Florence.
With 2011 behind him, Slater is now preparing for a lifestyle change that will involve picking and choosing his competitive moments.
“I’m in somewhat of a transition period where I’m going to be re-evaluating my life – whatever is left on tour and what is going to be off tour,” said Slater. “It’s probably a little bit scary because you get so used to one thing but it’s also exciting because you have a whole different life open up to you and a whole different opportunity to experience things. I’ve had a lot of focus for a lot of years on competition and I’m definitely welcoming a different direction.”
On his heat with Florence today:
“I was just going to try and have some fun because I didn’t want to run and I thought we’d find another day,” Slater said. “I figured I’d try and get in that head space and I’d ride a short board and I actually got a really good left and my board was wrong for it. I thought it was going to cost me the heat. It just came to me in last three-or-four minutes. I’m just trying to hold John John (Florence) at bay because he’s going to rule Pipe for the next 20 years. I just want to get a couple before I’m done. He’s been the man to beat out here. He’s had two 10s and a couple of high 9’s.”
Slater put on another strong effort in his Semifinals clash against Parkinson, but was unable to surpass the Gold Coast native and finished equal 3rd overall.
“Joel controlled it from the beginning with a 7 to start,” Slater said. “He was holding position from there. I got the 5 and we were in the cycle where he had priority besides that one that I got that 9 on. I’m super surprised that he got both of his good scores on the lefts because we’re usually looking at the right on days like today. He was just in sync with it and there’s not much you can do about that.”
Michel Bourez (PYF), 25, who was rated 3rd on the Vans Triple Crown ratings entering the Billabong Pipe Masters, needed to advance to the Final to surpass Florence on the ratings, but finished painfully close when he lost to Perrow in the Semifinals. Despite falling short of the Vans Triple Crown Title, the equal 3rd place finish marks the Tahitian’s best result of the year.
1st – Kieren Perrow (AUS) 13.17pts – $75,000
2nd – Joel Parkinson (AUS) 7.00pts – $30,000
Heat 1 : Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.23pts ; Kelly Slater (USA) 16.83pts
Heat 2 : Kieren Perrow (AUS) 12.00pts ; Michel Bourez (BRA) 4.07pts
Heat 1 : Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.00pts ; Jamie O’Brien (HAW) 9.43pts
Heat 2 : Kelly Slater (USA)17.53pts ; John John Florence (HAW) 16.70pts
Heat 3 : Michele Bourez (PYF) 7.70pts ; Evan Valiere (HAW) 3.66pts
Heat 4 : Kieren Perrow (AUS) 17.23pts ; Gabriel Medina (BRA) 9.26pts