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), and rounded out the 2006 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing season by winning a fourth Triple Crown title.

Putting on a totally courageous show in the six feet 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, eight-time world champ 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. Slater had his three rivals in need of two-wave combinations to overtake him.

But while the massive crowd were roaring their appreciation for the newly-crowned 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.

Then it happened… A solid set wave lurched through the infamous break and Irons grabbed the inside, took off deep, freefalling a full six feet down the face. At the bottom of the wave he grabbed the edge of 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 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. 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. His win today saw him end the year ranked #2 in the world.

“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 third 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 safely.

“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, who won a wildcard slot into this event having won the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro at the beginning of 2006. “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 were 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. 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)

Head to www.aspworldtour.com and www.ripcurl.com for the rundown of this amazing day.

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

Semifinals:

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

Final:

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