What a day, what a contest, what a final. The 2006 Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters will go down in history as the most dramatic, most intense final day of competition in ASP history.
It had everything, every heat was drama charged, it wasn’t even hall of fame Pipe, just a good solid day of Pipe and Backdoor, but from heat to heat you could cut the tension in the air with a knife as WCT surfers fought it out with local Pipe specialists and wildcards for Pipe bragging rights, Top 10 world rankings and in many cases, careers.
The days opening heat brought the curtain down on Brazilian Peterson Rosa’s extensive WCT career. With one journeyman dispatched to the competitive wilderness before the opening of normal business hours, it became an ominous portend of things to come.
Mick Lowe was fighting for his life next heat. Hawaii’s Ian Walsh had the heat by the throat and Lowey parried with last years Finalist Kalani Chapman. He only required a small score and uncharacteristically caught a rail on a guaranteed 5 pointer. With 2 minutes to go he looked shot, then pulled deep into a warbling section. The crowd was hushed, aware of the drama, and when the keg burst out he’d secured his CT ticket.
Pipe is a mystical priestess; she turns on even her chosen ones. So it was with CJ Hobgood and Pancho Sullivan. Pipe just beat on them. They took two or three early close-outs then descended into chaos. Pipe’s savagery was unrelenting; by the ninth bashing these glorious matadors were reduced to rubble.
A groan went up when Pancho pulled into one particularly thick little mother and wore it. Thick lip vs. thick shoulders. Pipe one nil. Wardo and Hedgey were on the wrong side of the bubble all friggin year. One last shot at redemption, but with Mick Fanning in dominant mode, only one could survive.
Wardo pulled out the big guns, Hedgey seemed to be keeping his gunpowder dry for anther cardiac kid moment, but there were to be no last second heroics, Hedgey relegated to Q School for 07. The last episode of survivor would play out in Heat 7, with Jake Paterson and Roy Powers up against Andy Irons and Tamayo Perry.
Gnarly encounter, Andy warming for the fight, Roy and Tamayo threatening to explode, former Pipe Masters Champion Jake Patterson throwing caution to the wind and getting clobbered, nearly killing himself on one beastly take-off, then getting pinched on one that would have got him right back into it.
The Pipe specialists were mixing it good and proper with the established CT guys, particularly in the early rounds. Going into Rd 3 there were 13 wildcards alive out of a field of 32, pretty impressive stats. Six made the final 16 but the WCT guns stepped up in the Quarters, and of the wildcards it was former Pipe Champions Rob Machado and Jamie O’Brien who reached the Top 8.
Cut to the Final. Kelly opened in blistering form, like a cannon exploding out of barrels, racking up a 9 and 7.4 for a commanding lead. Great to see Cory back in the Finals, the Teahupoo hell man was due for a Pipe Final and did not disappoint. Rob Machado has a fantastic record at Pipe, winning last February’s Monster Energy Pro to qualify then slinking into the final in a sublime performance.
With 23 minutes of the 35 minute final gone, Andy was out of it, then he nailed an 8.67 to pry open the window. He jagged an insane Pipe left, got pitted in deep throat style, then came flashing out and dropped a ridiculously difficult close-out floater for a 9.83.
With the lead suddenly changing hands Andy steamed toward Kelly’s position. Everyone sensed that the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters was not done, and with a minute remaining, as though Moses himself had come down from the mountain with the scripture, Andy played his master chess move, jagging a hot looking right from under the great mans grasp.
Andy was so gone, yet everybody expected him, willed him, out the exit hatch. Andy emerged, appealed to the gods, nailed a 10, in doing so securing his 4th Pipe Title, 4th Vans Triple Crown and secured World #2. Wow, what a screamer, real chicken skin stuff. All time, congrats to Rip Curl, fantastic job Randy, Bernie, Sean, Doug from Vans, and of course all the Pipe gladiators.