Why Can’t Goofyfooters Win At Pipe?

Brian BielmannDerek Ho. A goofy who did, in fact, win at Pipe. Photo: Brian Bielmann

Our world is full of anomalies, particularly in sport, and it turns out that professional surfing is in the midst of a statistical aberration.

Let’s examine:

Fact 1: No goofy has won a Pipeline Masters in the last 15 years.
Fact 2: Only two (Rob Machado and Carlos Cabrero) have won an ASP/WSL sanctioned event at Pipeline in this millennium.

Let that sink in for a second.

zeke lau-brent bielmann 2Zeke Lau. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Now, it hasn’t always been that way. The 70s and 80s were owned by goofies. Gerry Lopez, Rory Russell, Larry Blair, Derek Ho and Tom Carroll are a few that come to mind. Then the 90s came around, and Kelly Slater used a newish technique called the “pigdog” to help claim five Pipe Masters. He was backed up by victories by Johnny Boy Gomes and Jake Patterson and collectively, the three of them pretty much owned the decade.

For the goofies, things got worse form there.

Moving into this millennium, Rob Machado won twice (the Pipe Masters in 2000, the Monster Energy Pro in 2006) and Carlos Cabrero won once (The Monster Energy Pro in 2000). Other than that, regulars have won 28 ASP/WSL sanctioned events at Pipe during the past 16 years.

To find out why, I enlisted the knowledge and expertise of Pipeline Masters Jamie O’Brien, Rob Machado and Kelly Slater.

The first point brought up was Backdoor. So how does the right at Pipe play into regular foot domination?

Rob BrownKelly Slater. Photo: Rob Brown

Kelly explained: “Although it’s called the Pipe Masters, the contest is usually held in smaller conditions, which are better suited to Backdoor. And Backdoor is a tricky wave backside, so regulars have the advantage.”

Jamie didn’t sympathize quite as much, claiming instead that, “The goofies have a lot more excuses. They’ll say: ‘Surfing Backdoor is sooo hard backside.’ But, like, it’s pretty hard to flip on a 10- to 12 footer at Pipe on your backside too, ya know?”

While I don’t know, I can certainly imagine.

Jamie continues: “When it comes down to it, pigdogging is crucial. I think we have more control in the barrel as we’re stalling and slowing down. Guys who have that on lockdown are pretty much just sliding in the wave.” And since Pipeline moves slower than Backdoor, this makes a lot of sense. While goofies have to pump and weave through the right (which is extremely difficult backside) the regulars can just stick their bum in the wall.

JamieObrien_winter2014-15_brentbielmann792 2Jamie O’Brien. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Kelly agrees: “The takeoff angle on the left can be better backside, because you can use your arms and body to hug the wall and slow down. Also, with how much Pipe breathes and spits, holding your rail stops you from getting taken out so easily in the barrel.” Basically, the extra point of contact is an integral aspect of the pigdoggers success. Waves that would engulf a goofy can be subdued by simply holding on for dear life. Mason Ho’s 10 pointer at the Pipe Masters is a noteworthy example.

Rob Machado had this to say: “If you take off frontside, most of the time you’re letting go of your rails — you’re dropping straight in and going to the bottom. In doing that, you gain a ton of speed. You’re most likely on a big board if it’s solid Pipe, so how do you control the speed? You have to position yourself behind the peak. With the regulars, they can take off on the shoulder, but they slide down the face, so they have this crazy ability to slow down in critical situations, and then when they need to, they can let go of the rail or stop dragging body parts, and they can gain speed again. The stuff these guys are doing backside is crazy. It definitely looks easier than frontside, but I can’t really say based off of experience considering I’ve never surfed Pipe backside [laughs].”

So, is Pipe merely setup better for regulars, or are they actually superior tuberiders? Hard to answer objectively, but let’s look to other contests for answers.

Rob BrownKelly Slater. Photo: Rob Brown

There are two events on the CT that rival Pipe: Tavarua and Tahiti. Since 2000, Teahupo’o has been won by eight goofies and eight regulars. Meanwhile Tavi, having been held only five times, has had three regular foot champs (well, technically only one, Kelly) and two goofy foot champs, a much more equal result, which would lead you to believe that Pipe is simply setup better for regulars.

Now, that’s not to say that goofies don’t perform at Pipe. After all, Gabriel Medina nearly won the Pipe Masters the past two years and is bound to break the cold streak and win a Pipe comp in the next few years.

If he doesn’t, Jamie gave the goofies this piece of advice:

“Just switch stance, bro!” —Michael Ciaramella